Chat with environmental lawyer Angelique Pouponneau |24 January 2022
‘It is another opportunity for Seychelles to continue its influence and leadership on ocean matters internationally’
Recently we learnt that our very own environmental lawyer Angelique Pouponneau is one of 15 experts who have been selected to sit on the Decade Advisory Board to assist Unesco's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in coordinating the UN's Ocean Decade 2021-2030. A young professional, she has contributed a lot towards the development of Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and now Ms Pouponneau is also planning to pursue her PhD.
Seychelles NATION had a chat with her about her contribution towards SeyCCAT and her contribution on the advisory board.
Seychelles NATION: Please tell us what are you up to now?
Ms Pouponneau: As you know it was recently announced that I will be leaving the role of CEO of SeyCCAT to pursue my PhD.
Seychelles NATION: You have been the CEO of SEYCCAT for quite some years, what have been your main achievements?
Ms Pouponneau: My main achievements as the CEO of SeyCCAT have been:
v Increasing the accessibility of grants of SeyCCAT to the local communities and small-scale fishers. In the 3 years of my tenure, 94% of projects have been community-led. We took several steps including capacity-building initiatives and providing people the opportunity to submit their applications in Creole. Accessibility and inclusion have always been priorities to any work that I undertake. It has also meant that a lot more people know about our work and the impact we are having.
v Another achievement is the fundraising component. SeyCCAT was dependent on two main sources of income when I joined – money from the debt-for-nature swap and blue bonds. In three years, I have successfully mobilised over US $6 million and we are currently negotiating another deal to manage a US $7-10 million fund. The negotiations will not be complete before I leave but we are well on our way to introducing another substantial source of funding to support the resilience of the coral ecosystems in Seychelles.
v The opportunity to build and grow an organisation. When I started, SeyCCAT was a team of 3 people, including me and one person was on secondment so internally really 2 people. We were managing a multi-million-dollar trust fund with two people. I am very proud to have been given the opportunity to grow the organisation through fundraising, partnership building, increasing its international reputation and now our team has increased to 11 people, including long-term consultants. The team has grown in numbers and expertise. We are often a go-to organisation for many subject matters because of the capacities we host in-house.
Seychelles NATION: What have been your main challenges?
Ms Pouponneau: The challenges were many and on different levels. I still think there is more work to be done on demystifying SeyCCAT. There is a need for everyone to understand the role of SeyCCAT and this is both at government and community level. We also have had capacity constraints, both in human resources and financial resources. Much of the money we raise goes back to the environment and the community, so we have to rely on partnerships, interns and people who genuinely believe in our mission to help us. As I mentioned, when I first joined, we were two people running a multi-million-dollar trust fund – I look back and wonder how Vania and I were managing – other than losing a lot of sleep.
Further, it may seem unlikely but having US $700,000 to invest in sound and good initiatives is not always easy. We have found that despite a lot of applications coming in there is still a lot of work to do to improve their quality and the Blue Grants Fund team is using these lessons learned to improve our efforts.
Seychelles NATION: What is your wish for SeyCCAT?
Ms Pouponneau: My wish is that people realise they all have a stake and in many ways ownership of the work that SeyCCAT does. As an independent body with representatives of all sections and sectors of society on our Board means it has an opportunity to do its work reflecting everyone’s aspirations for our country.
My wish is for SeyCCAT to continue to be seen as critical to the Blue Economy and to support the mobilisation of resources to support our marine spatial plan – we have 1.4 million km2 of ocean to take care of!
Seychelles NATION: What does it mean for Seychelles to have you as an eco lawyer to 'Ocean Decade' advisory board?
Ms Pouponneau: It is another opportunity for Seychelles to continue its influence and leadership on ocean matters internationally and also, advocating for the much-needed science required by small island developing states (Sids), like Seychelles. I see my role on the Advisory Board as multi-faceted including being a voice for Sids and Seychelles, for the younger generation and certainly looking at how we best use science to influence laws and policies. I’m looking forward to it!
Seychelles NATION: Will you be in Seychelles as a young professional and activist? We are going through our third year of the pandemic, what is the message to our community?
Ms Pouponneau: I will be in between different countries this year with my different responsibilities.
My message to the community: The pandemic has taught all of us a lot and given us time to self-reflect. It has been challenging times for different people in different ways so I’m not sure about one message but I’d say, we have shown ourselves to be resilient, we have learned to adapt quickly and we have changed from business as usual – let’s use these lessons going forward and apply them to other everyday challenges.