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Small Island States and Climate Justice: Looking Ahead to COP26

Jump to Guests
Asad Rehman
Ambassador Dessima Williams
Hon. Ralph Regenvanu
Richard Kozul-Wright
Angelique Pouponneau
Date & Time
12:00pm, 14 September 2021 - 1:30pm, 14 September 2021
About the event

As the world enters a critical decade for our climate, Commonwealth Member States and institutions must come together: demonstrating a united front and decisive leadership at the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November (COP26).

The Commonwealth has an irreplaceable role to play. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) make up almost half of its total membership. Citizens of these vulnerable countries are literally on the frontlines of the fight against global warming. Nowhere else does the climate crisis feel more urgent or more real: rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns are already posing serious threats to the livelihoods of small island populations throughout the Commonwealth.

The small island experience serves as a demonstration, and a warning, for what lies in store for the world—unless we act now.

The political and technical challenges ahead are formidable. To turn the tide on spiralling global temperatures States must loudly affirm commitments already made under the Paris Agreement. Collaboration on both adaptation and mitigation must be accelerated. And the international community must rally to deliver urgent support to the small island states that are being forced to carry a disproportionate, unfair burden. This group of countries has played a leading role in raising awareness of the climate emergency on the international stage and advocating for strong climate action. They have succeeded in building a common diplomatic discourse and influencing strategy. They need and deserve whole-of-Commonwealth support.

This Critical Conversation is a call to arms. It will bring together activists, thought leaders and policymakers to confront the challenges—and take advantage of the opportunities—that lie ahead, most especially in relation to small islands states. It will interrogate the role that the Commonwealth could play – should play – in placing the needs of this group of States front and centre in international negotiations.

This event has taken place. You can watch it here:

Asad Rehman Moderator
Ambassador Dessima Williams Panellist
Hon. Ralph Regenvanu Panellist
Richard Kozul-Wright Panellist
Angelique Pouponneau Panellist
Asad Rehman

Asad Rehman is the Executive Director of anti-poverty and social justice charity War on Want. Prior, he was the Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth. A lifelong activist of anti-racist, anti-war, human rights, and global justice movements, Asad has over 25 years of experience in the non-government and charity sector. He has served on boards of Amnesty International UK, Friends of the Earth International, Global Justice Now, and Newham Monitoring Project.

Asad is a climate justice campaigner and has been at the forefront of the climate justice movement both in the UK and globally, working with movements and frontline communities in the global South. He has been one of the most prominent spokespersons of civil society at the UNFCCC negotiations on climate change. Asad is co-convenor of the Global Green New Deal Project which works to connect the climate crisis, neoliberal inequality, Covid-19 and historical exploitation of the global South.

Ambassador Dessima Williams

Dessima Williams is a Grenadian diplomat and scholar, and the founder and director of the Grenada Education and Development Programme (GRENED) as well as the co-founder of HAITIwomen. She has been an advocate for children and women’s rights and works in her own country to highlight the challenges of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for the education of rural boys and girls.

Dessima has served as Ambassador to the United Nations from Grenada and was reappointed to the ambassadorship in 2008. While she was Ambassador to Grenada, she simultaneously served as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) during COP15 in Copenhagen (2009-2011).

Prior to her appointment as UN Ambassador, she was a professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Brandeis University. 

In the 1980s, Dessima served as Grenada’s Ambassador to both the Organisation of American States and UNESCO, Deputy Governor to the World Bank and Deputy Permanent Representative to the Inter-American Commission of Women.

Dessima was also the Special Adviser for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Office of the President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, 2016-2017. She has participated in numerous sustainable development and political meetings, including Rio+20 and the first and third United Nations Conferences on Small Island Developing States.

Hon. Ralph Regenvanu

Hon. Ralph Regenvanu is the current Leader of the Opposition in the 12th Legislature of the Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu.

He has been a member of Parliament for the constituency of Port Vila since September 2008 and has been re-elected three times into the Parliament. He was appointed as Minister of Ni Vanuatu Business in 2010; as Minister of Lands, Geology, Mines and Rural Water Supply three times in 2011, 2013 and 2016; as Minister of Justice and Social Welfare in 2011; and as Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade in 2017. From 2013, Ralph was Co-Chair of the National Sustainable Development Plan Core Group which was responsible for developing Vanuatu’s National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2030. Since April 2020, he has been Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

Ralph is also an acclaimed artist and an anthropologist. He is a leading figure in Vanuatu’s cultural world and has served as the Director of the Vanuatu National Cultural Council from 1995 to 2010. He was also a founding Board Member of the Pacific Islands Museum Association in 1997 and has represented Vanuatu in the international sphere through his association with UNESCO where he worked on several projects, including the development of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Richard Kozul-Wright

Richard Kozul-Wright is Director of the Globalisation and Development Strategies Division in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

He has worked at the UN in both New York and Geneva and is responsible for the UNCTAD flagship publication The Trade and Development Report, which is centred around the idea of rebuilding multilateralism around a Global Green New Deal to meet the financing demands of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Richard has published widely on economic issues in academic journals, including in the Economic Journal and the Cambridge Journal of Economics, and has co-written books such as The Resistible Rise of Market Fundamentalism with Paul Rayment. He has also co-edited volumes of Transnational Corporations and the Global Economy, Economic Insecurity and Development, Securing Peace, Climate Protection and Development and Industrial Policy. He is a frequent contributor to newspapers worldwide on economic issues, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, and Project Syndicate.

He holds a PhD degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge in the UK.

Angelique Pouponneau

Angelique Pouponneau is a Seychellois lawyer and environmentalist. She holds an LLM in Environmental Law, specialising in the law of the sea and natural resources law. She has also served as a legal expert of the African Group of Sixth Committee in works of oceans and Law of the Sea at the United Nations.
A former Vice-Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council and 2016 Queen’s Young Leader, Angelique became the CEO of Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCaT) in 2018. She co-founded the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub- Seychelles, a youth-led NGO which focuses on climate change and sustainable development at the grassroots level. She has also been a Board member of several environmental NGOs in Seychelles and around the world.
Angelique is a trained climate change negotiator under the AOSIS Climate Change Fellowship Programme at the United Nations. She has worked in different countries in the Caribbean, Pacific, and the Indian Ocean on a wide range of projects relating to sustainable fisheries, sustainable management of marine biodiversity within and beyond national jurisdiction, and climate change, in particular, climate adaptation and climate finance.

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