Mentoring women to become climate leaders through a joint initiative

Article, 31 July 2020

To help address the gender gap at the UN climate negotiations, the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi) developed a mentorship programme that supports women negotiators to engage in high-level decision-making.

Smiling women gathering at COP25

IIED senior researcher Brianna Craft, third left, with women negotiators mentored at COP25: from left, Tha Zin, of Myanmar; Daovinh, of Laos; Danise, of Liberia; Grace Ineza, of Rwanda; and Sonia Audrey, of Burkina Faso (Photo: Brianna Craft, IIED)

The UN climate negotiations are where global decisions on climate action are made. However, more men than women continue to represent their countries in this space, and men do most of the speaking and the deal-making.

The climate negotiations need more women, but achieving equal numbers isn’t enough. Women negotiators must also be supported so they can influence decisions at these high-level meetings.  

At the UN climate negotiations in Madrid, Spain, in 2019 (COP25), we piloted a mentoring scheme that pairs junior women negotiators with experienced delegates from developed and developing countries – furthering our efforts to train effective United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators and climate leaders. These efforts were made together with ecbi’s newest strategic partner, the Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO)

Mentoring by climate experts 

WEDO and ecbi have a shared history of training and capacity building with women in this space; last year, we joined forces at COP25 to put nine junior negotiators from our respective programmes in direct contact with senior negotiators from a range of countries.

These senior negotiators had previously engaged in ecbi networking and training events. In connecting them with junior negotiators, we facilitated relationships that could help them make connections, provide advice and introduce them to new ways of thinking and working.

I think launching the ecbi mentorship programme for junior negotiators has set a foundation for empowerment; an action that needs applause. I see this will challenge every young negotiator to press for action in their home country. I look forward to mentors maintaining relationships with their mentees and sharing opportunities that will expose mentees to things outside of COP as well. – junior negotiator Danise Love Dennis, December 2019

Mentorship can provide contextualised and individualised skills-building, learning and support that endures beyond scheduled training sessions, and improves the abilities, confidence and network of junior negotiators.

This programme also provided a positive outlet for senior negotiators to consider and articulate their key insights, as well as identify ways to demonstrate their commitment to developing the next generation of climate leaders. 

Two women stand in front of a television screen speaking to a crowd

Stella Gama, left, ecbi gender advisor and rapporteur for the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, at the launch of a climate negotiators’ mentoring initiative at COP25 (Photo: copyright Jandira Narciso)

We were thrilled that our efforts were furthered by the COP presidency, who formally launched a climate negotiators’ mentoring initiative as well as a senior women’s leadership network in Madrid in December 2019. We will continue to work closely with the relevant UNFCCC entities to ensure our efforts complement one another.

Over the next few months, we will continue to work with WEDO to understand more about how we can increase support to women negotiators. We will combine lessons learned from the mentoring scheme and from our respective training programmes. We will also jointly develop new, more rigorous indicators for monitoring and evaluating the support we provide. 

Expanding and strengthening our joint mentoring initiative is the next step forward in supporting the development of women as effective UNFCCC negotiators and climate leaders.

Together under ecbi, we can continue pairing junior negotiators with climate experts and foster their interactions through guidance to both mentees and mentors and create spaces for connection and collaboration.


Brianna Craft (, senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group

Tara Daniel (, programme manager at WEDO

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