Today’s leaders need to trust young people
MaryJane Enchill is Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the HATOF Foundation, a community of young professionals focused on creating a better world for current and future generations. She is also the Coordinator of the Climate Action Network-Ghana and a Director and Board Member of the Global Youth Climate Action Fund.
In an interview before the Seventh GEF Assembly, she shared lessons from her efforts to bring the opinions of young people to the fore in climate-related decision-making processes in her home country and international processes.
How did you get into this line of work?
My interest in environmental issues began in 2011 while working with TV3 Network Ghana as a journalist, when I attended media training about environmental issues and became aware of the urgency of raising awareness about environmental degradation and its related negative socio-economic impacts. I made the extent of environmental reporting in Ghana the focus of my dissertation for my first degree and found the coverage to be very limited. I then began volunteering at the HATOF Foundation to help address this; I was eventually hired and promoted, and I am now Deputy CEO of the organization. I continue to believe strongly in the need for the media to redefine their role in environmental reporting.
What are you currently focused on?
I still work as a freelance journalist and manage environmental projects in Ghana while contributing to international environmental negotiations and processes, including the UN biodiversity, climate change, and desertification conventions.
Since 2014, I have managed several GEF Small Grants Programme and Green Climate Fund-funded projects related to climate change, biodiversity conservation, and capacity building for communities, civil society, and youth groups in Ghana.
I coordinated the establishment of the Youth Climate Council in Ghana from 2021–2022, bringing the opinions of the youth climate movement into climate-related decision-making processes and supporting the development of national climate change-related policies, including Ghana's Nationally Determined Contributions, Third and Fourth National Communications, and Biennial Update Reports. I have also been a member of the Youth Constituency to the UNFCCC's finance and adaptation working groups for the past eight years, leading the climate finance reporting sub-task force and contributing to the youth submissions on the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance and Multilateral Development Bank Reforms.
In addition, I served as the first youth honorary jury member of the Green Climate Fund Green Champions Awards, co-facilitated a fireside chat for youth and business leaders, and facilitated Ghanaian youth input into the Global Commission on Adaptation's flagship Report on Adaptation in 2019. I am a member of the Global Youth Caucus of UNCCD, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, and am the founder and national coordinator of the Ghana Youth Biodiversity Network.
What message do you have for today’s political and business leaders?
Politicians have the moral responsibility to honor their financial obligations, create an enabling environment for youth consultation and leadership, and demonstrate trust in young people so they can advance and scale up innovative solutions and transformational change to global problems.
What are you looking forward to at the GEF Assembly?
I am excited to see the Seventh GEF Assembly prioritize making finance available to youth projects and make space for youth consultation and engagement related to the environment.
I also want the Assembly to prioritize inclusive and transparent stakeholder engagement in all national dialogues and other consultations, building on the national portfolio formulation exercise to a much wider scale of collaboration.
Finally, I would ask the Assembly to consider measures to ensure developing countries can access more funding to address environmental concerns without added burdens or conditions. Developing countries’ contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are minimal, and assistance to enable them to address climate change and other crises should be increased and simplified.