Empowering the Next Generation to Succeed in High Stakes Negotiations 

Fletcher Executive Education partners with the Global Environment Facility to support a worldwide mission
A field of solar panels in front of a rosy background.

Over the course of 2023, one question formed in the minds of the leadership team at the Global Environment Facility (GEF): How could they help the incoming generation of environmental stakeholders develop the confidence and agility to make their voices heard at major events like COP28?  

As an international partnership and a family of funds dedicated to confronting biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and strains on land and ocean health, the GEF was accustomed to working with diverse groups of stakeholders to share knowledge and facilitate learning globally, both in person and online, but they had not yet tackled the challenge of training large youth groups. 

To address this need, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Echandi, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, approached Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and former colleague, to initiate a solution with the Fletcher Executive Education team. Together, they envisioned a program that would give young professionals the tools necessary to be effective environmental advocates in the international arena.   

“The GEF is committed to involving young people in environmental diplomacy and negotiation, and we were happy to join forces with Fletcher toward this aim,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez. “Younger generations have an important role to play in decision-making about issues that will affect them for many years to come. This training is an investment in the future, and it is very much in line with the GEF’s youth focus.”  

“The most important outcome was for participants to take the tools gained from this course out into the world and make a difference for the future of all of humanity and the planet,” Quesada added.  

“There was a spark when they spoke about joining forces in providing training to younger generations about environmental diplomacy and negotiation,” said Yasemin Biro Kirtman, Senior Environmental Specialist, Policy, Partnerships and Operations at the GEF. “This inspired the GEF and Fletcher teams to design an online course that would help build capacity and support effective youth participation in country delegations to multilateral environmental conventions and related meetings.” 

Learning Beyond Boundaries  

Within weeks, members of the GEF community, including GEF focal points in recipient countries as well as youth groups globally, nominated hundreds of participants. The cohort represented learners between the ages of 21 to 35 from 92 GEF recipient countries, with a diverse cross-section of genders and professional backgrounds. Half of the participants completed the course by January 2024, demonstrating engagement four to 10 times the typical completion rate of courses offered in similar, nomination-based formats.  

“My understanding of the complexity and interconnectedness of environmental issues has deepened significantly,” said one participant upon completing the course. 

The diversity of perspectives and interests among stakeholders in environmental negotiations was far broader than participants initially anticipated, and many of those who completed the course noted that it was an invaluable learning experience that equipped them with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives necessary to contribute effectively to environmental negotiations and decision-making processes.   

Creating Widespread Impact   

For this unique project, it was essential to design an environment that would foster individualized learning and a sense of transnational community.  

“The resulting course deploys a variety of instructional design tools, including features for non-native English speakers, which allow participants to learn at their own pace while also building networks and relationships with like-minded environmental advocates from around the world,” said Jenny Strakovsky, Associate Director of Program Design and Curriculum for Fletcher Executive Education.  

Climate change creates challenges in numerous evolving and intersecting ways, including policy, technology, education, finance, community engagement, and psychology. Using real-world case studies provided by the GEF, participants examined the major international agreements related to “30x30,” the global commitment to protect 30 percent of Earth’s ecosystems by 2030.   

“This empowered the GEF’s young partners to more effectively engage and negotiate on behalf of their constituents to address the different aspects of climate change, be it at the local, national, or international level,” explained Mieke van der Wansem, Program Director at the Fletcher Climate Policy Lab.  

“To help the next generation of environmental leaders understand that managing and governing natural resources requires cooperation and conflict resolution, we built skills and empowered this cohort to resolve conflicts and manage our shared natural resources,” added Melissa McCracken, Assistant Professor of International Environmental Policy.  

Lasting Lessons for Long-Term Change  

“We were thrilled to see the enthusiastic response from participants,” Strakovsky said. “It was so gratifying to collaborate with the GEF to provide an environment for people to come together to work toward the shared goal of protecting our planet.”  

“The GEF values and actively facilitates learning and knowledge sharing within its investments as well as across its partners. This course has been a wonderful addition to our existing learning programs,” Biro Kirtman added. “Our hope is that this young professional community will influence the larger GEF community and beyond. Through this partnership, we hope to empower them to be able to voice their opinions and represent their constituencies in larger international negotiations.”  

About The Global Environment Facility:  
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an international partnership and a family of funds dedicated to confronting biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and strains on land and ocean health. Its grants, blended financing, and policy support help developing countries address their biggest environmental priorities and adhere to international environmental conventions. As the financial mechanism for several multilateral environmental agreements, including the UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD, the GEF has provided more than $24 billion and mobilized $139 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 national and regional projects over the past three decades.  

About Fletcher Executive Education: 

Fletcher Executive Education delivers industry-leading training to organizations through highly customized programs designed to elevate its partners’ potential and help leaders turn challenges into measurable growth. Through hands-on practice and timely, informed insights from expert faculty of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, leaders will develop the analytical problem-solving skills and essential competencies required to navigate international contexts and pivot in response to the demands of our complex and fast-changing world. Executive Education program participants emerge with a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing their industries, and the agility to strategize across sectors and borders to address today's most critical issues. 

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