Photos: S.Kilungu (CCAFS)

Building continental capacity for African climate leadership

The Climate Governance, Diplomacy And Negotiations Leadership Program is designed by the African Group of Negotiators Experts Support (AGNES) with the support of AICCRA. 

It strengthens African climate leadership by deepening the knowledge of Africa's climate policymakers on critical issues, while strengthening their capacity and improving their negotiation skills. 

Climate change presents one of the biggest threats to sustainable development worldwide. Its widespread and unprecedented impacts disproportionately burden the poorest and most vulnerable majority­—a significant number of whom live in Africa.

The most prominent global policy response to climate change is currently covered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the Paris Agreement (PA). The Conference of the Parties (COP), the Conference of the Meeting of Parties (CMP) and the Conference of the Meeting of the Agreement (CMA) which convene every year are the supreme decision-making bodies of the Convention, KP and PA.

A key task for these policy organs is to ensure effective implementation of the Convention and its KP and the PA.

Parties to these three treaties designate delegates to attend the COP/CMP and CMA as well the Subsidiary Bodies sessions.

Also, non-state actors attend these meetings as observers with no voting rights since it is an these are intergovernmental processes.  

Negotiations under the UNFCCC are carried out by delegations of representatives from Parties (individual countries).

Whereas national delegations negotiate from a country position (national interest), Africa negotiates as a block under the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN) to ensure that the continent has a common position that amplifies Africa’s voice.

For negotiators to be effective in advancing Africa’s common voice in the UNFCCC negotiations, it is imperative that they are equipped with a wide skill set (both technical, leadership and negotiation skill) and experience on climate change issues and the continental development agenda.

The increased year-on-year impact of climate change, the need for increased funding for adaptation, and setting clear targets for mitigation and a just and fair transition for African countries requires a deep understanding of these topics.

There is clear evidence that Africa is constrained by its limited capacity to effectively participate in the international climate change policy discourse to foster climate actions at regional, national and sub national levels.

Climate change diplomacy and negotiations are often technical, complex and expensive processes. It is difficult for new negotiators to fully grasp the nuances of the proceedings even over a period of many years.

The African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES), a group of technical experts that assists the AGN in developing continental positions and offers technical support through the convening of thematic regional meetings, has designed a unique training program on climate governance, diplomacy and negotiations leadership for two reasons:

Address this important continental challenge of a lack of capacity in the negotiation process; and

Build a critical mass of climate change negotiators who benefit from the current experts and are trained in time to replace those who are retiring. 

The overall objective of the Climate Leadership Program is to build and strengthen climate leadership skills and to improve knowledge and negotiation capacities among African climate leaders to enable them to engage effectively in international climate change policy discourse as well as contribute to the successful implementation of climate actions at regional and national levels.

The Leadership program also serves to build on the existing African expertise by offering a platform for African climate experts to tell the African stories themselves.

“After the course, I got a job opportunity as a Carbon Project Developer (with Ecosecurities- a carbon offsets development company) which I greatly attribute to the knowledge I acquired from AGNES. In particular, my familiarity with the COP processes, Paris Agreement (specifically Article 6), MRV, etc., and the pan-African nature of the course gave me a competitive advantage.”

Caroline W. Kimani, Kenya

The virtual training covers topics such as climate science, leadership, governance, climate justice, climate-resilient development, finance, technology, gender and monitoring and evaluation.

Process skills are also emphasized, including evidence-based decision making, future-thinking capacities, and the importance of cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches to solutions.

The curriculum is flexible and accommodates new and emerging topics that may be requested by the participants or experts, offering a chance for expansion to relevant topics and new ideas.

The course content is delivered through a diverse network of faculty and visiting experts.

These include practitioners, scientists and policy experts from across the continent.

Under the leadership of Dr. George Wamukoya, the program and network of faculty delivering key content is adaptive and dynamic to reflect emerging areas, such as the Global Stocktake on adaptation in 2023, and critical global policy frameworks such as the Long-Term Low Emission and Climate Resilient Strategies (LTSs).

“Thank you for linking me with AGNES, that certificate is key that made me an intern at REMA (Rwanda Environment Management Authority). Now I have officially started the journey of my career. I hope we’ll have more connection between us and many opportunities from you!! I want to grow in this career.”

Norbert Ndahimana, Rwanda

The climate leadership program just completed its 8th cohort. More than 400 participants from 49 out of 55 countries have have benefitted from the program.

The course has built capacity and allowed participants to engage in key ministries and technical units, with private sector actors as well as across practitioners and grassroots efforts. Forming a continent-wide network is a valuable aspect of the course, as it brings down the barriers between countries typically divided by language issues.

“The quality of the modules taught at the Climate Leadership Program has helped me tremendously in structuring how to better educate the people at the grassroots in understanding climate change issues, policies being formulated and how their local solutions can help them in adapting to these changes.”

Rashidah Omotola AbdulQuadri, Nigeria

The Climate Leadership Program has been supported both financially and technically by AICCRA from the beginning. Partnering with AGNES has been a win-win relationship. For AICCRA, it has meant not only achieving our capacity-building targets but also sharing key evidence, policy learnings and tools from our research with negotiators and climate action implementers. For AGNES, the course has been offered free of charge to participants, allowing the numbers to reach into the hundreds and across 90.7% of the entire continent.

“The Long-Term Strategies are a key policy instrument under the UNFCCC architecture, and the climate leadership program provides a unique continent-wide opportunity for cross-learning between countries, and provides a platform and opportunity for ensuring dialogue and exchange between policy and technical focal points across the continent.”

Sabrina Chesterman, AICCRA Policy Specialist

The Climate Leadership Program continues to receive large volumes of applications from a wide range of people interested in broadening their leadership and negotiation skills. AGNES and AICCRA will continue working together to improve the content and make the course more dynamic. All of this work is paying off in tangible ways among African negotiators.

“Our partnership with AICCRA has made it possible for the AGN to tap into the best available science to support Africa’s negotiation position. This has made Africa the most organized negotiating group in the UNFCCC on matters of agriculture.”

George Wamukoya, AGNES Leadership Program Leader


Sabrina Chesterman, International Development Consultant, AICCRA Innovation

Laura Cramer, Theme Lead, AICCRA Innovation

Lili Szilagyi, Communications Specialist, AICCRA Innovation

George Wamukoya, Team Lead, AGNES

Michael Khaduyu, Research Associate, AGNES


Graphics made by Debra Jean Harte.