Early career internships in climate finance support generational inclusion: Twin youth internships with Green Climate Fund’s end-to-end Readiness Support to Direct Access Entities
By: Blaise Dobson and Xoliswa Ndeleni
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the world’s largest dedicated fund set up under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The GCF is a massive force for youth action in response to the climate change challenges we face. Although there is little literature focused on youth participation in GCF activities, there are many materials that highlight the value of youth participation in climate action in general. The “Youth Constituency” of the UNFCCC strives to involve young people in the climate change process and has produced a number of resources on the subject. Indeed, COP27 saw the involvement of youth albeit with mixed reviews of some observers.
Historically, the GCF has run competitions to recognise youth champions in the past but has, arguably, had a significant opportunity to foreground the importance of inspiring, mobilizing and resourcing the youth to take on climate change challenges. That is not to say that some of the GCF’s accredited entities aren’t taking the matter of engaging the youth seriously. A good example of that is UNICEF who have compiled the Children’s Climate Risk Index and in 2022 announced that they would be launching a Children’s Climate Finance Facility.
Meanwhile, as part of the GCF’s establishment and roll-out has been the inclusion of capacity and capability strengthening activities under the Readiness and Preparatory Support Programme, “the Readiness Programme”. The GCF Secretariat regularly reports on the implementation of the Readiness and Preparatory Support Programme. During 2023, the GCF is looking to discuss and agree on a revised strategy to direct these resources based on the experiences of the beneficiaries to date.
The primary beneficiaries of the Readiness Programme have been Direct Access Entities (DAEs). These are subnational, national or regional organizations that need to be nominated by developing country National Designated Authorities or focal points, tasked to programme GCF resources in their particular country. The Readiness Programme allows for “end-to-end Direct Access Entities readiness for GCF programming through support for meeting fiduciary, environmental and social safeguards and gender standards, climate project development and implementation capacity”. This includes to “support the development of entity work programmes aligned with national priorities”. The underlying assumption is that the capacity and capability strengthening of organizations happens and is also retained within local organizations that are at the vanguard of addressing climate change through GCF resources.
The Southern Africa Climate Finance Partnership (SACFP) has had the privilege of working alongside a number of emerging and established DAEs within the partnership community of practice. Within some of these entities, there has been a commitment to involve the youth and early-career professionals in their endeavors of climate finance programming. In a particular example, SACFP has seen a concerted effort by the organization to grow, nurture and expand opportunities for early-career climate finance professionals with the expressed view that this is within the national interest. An example of this is the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) of Namibia which has been a DAE since 2015. Karl Aribeb, Chief Operating Officer of the EIF spoke about their efforts, reflecting on their role as a DAE:
I found his perspectives on the involvement of the youth particularly interesting and had the opportunity to ask him for further details. He noted that:
“In Namibia, there is a mismatch between the available pool of human resources in relation to climate change practitioners and the needs on the ground. This is particularly when it comes to climate finance programming. When a capacity gap is identified, there are two primary options available to the EIF; the first is to resource the gap in the open market where there is a scarcity of readily available local skills and alternatively relatively expensive international consultants are called upon. The second is to recruit high-performing graduates from local universities (sometimes for first-career opportunities) and twin them with experienced practitioners to deliver on the tasks.
The latter mechanism has worked very well for the EIF in that it has started to address the root issue of an underserved employment sub-sectors (i.e. the climate change services sector) which is fast becoming an area of national interest and importance. Indeed, the organization has a track record of training and mentoring Namibian youth. For the EIF to serve its organizational objectives and meet the mandate set out by the Namibian Government whilst delivering excellence as a GCF DAE, the strategy to grow the pool of local youth climate professionals is fully aligned.
When you look at this you have two options; go out on the market and hire experienced environmental practitioners who can take on climate change tasks (expensive and they are in short supply in Namibia). This leaves the other option; identifying high performing graduates from the universities and affording them the opportunities to work on projects under mentoring arrangements. Through these mechanisms, the EIF has managed to work with project managers, lawyers, economists, – attract them at a young age, train them, learn and study whilst working to build up the components and gradually build up the pool. This is more sustainable as this builds up a long lasting pool of human resources”.
A good example of this is Philadelphia Buys. In the coming years, she aspires to be a pre-eminent voice of environmental economics in the southern Africa region and will be at the vanguard of integrating the value of ecosystems into our understanding of the possible impacts of climate change in our societies. She is an example of a southern Africa youth working to drive change within the climate change sector. Youthful exuberance tackling one of the most wicked, pervasive and all encompassing challenges of their generation. Whilst this is not their problem to solve alone, the ownership of issues by those most affected is surely part of the solution.
The SACFP would argue that more opportunities for youth to be exposed to first-career opportunities within climate change are essential to drive a diverse human resource base for the region to effectively respond to climate change. Practically, one recommendation which has been tabled is creating an optional Key Performance Indicator (KPI) related to the early-career opportunities within DAEs when they make use of the Readiness Programme’s resources.
Through a youth professional grant, the SACFP has been supporting the EIF to create first career opportunities for Namibian youth within the climate finance sector. During the past year, the programme has been supporting two positions within the organization and has marveled at the diversity and complexity of exposure offered by these internships. Incentivising the EIF to continue to take on and nurture the talents of the likes of Kgomotso Mokgatle and McNell Shaningwa to deepen their career paths in climate change is arguable an increasingly important necessity for empowering the youth to play an active role in responding to climate change. Indeed, Philadelphia, Kgomotso and McNell are the faces of the climate leaders and practitioners who will be grappling with responding to the ravages of climate change’s impacts in the coming years.
By doing so, what would be the impact of creating the headroom for DAE’s to nurture youth professionals into the climate profession? What if there was a way whereby one could shift an existing allocation of resources towards areas like solving climate change, increasing opportunities for leadership in youth, providing capacity building early-career opportunities for climate practitioners and/ or assisting with the capability building of DAE at the vanguard of locally-led action? The Readiness Programme offers one practical way for early-career youth interested in driving climate action to start building experience whilst serving to bolster the capacity base of a country.
“The Board has allocated an additional amount of up to USD 12.4 million under the Readiness Programme as a new dedicated support component to be provided directly to Direct Access Entities (including regional ones) to support the implementation of the integrated results management framework. It would be highly strategic for the GCF Secretariat to allow for a small allocation of Readiness and Preparatory Support resources.