Marie-Josée Houenou

2018 Fellowship Alumna, Cote d’Ivoire

Building a Comprehensive Approach to Climate Change

Marie-Josée Houenou (right) at a climate demonstration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As a climate advocate and lawyer, Marie-Josée Houenou understands the critical need for concrete action plans to combat the adverse effects of climate change.  Through her work, the 2018 Fellowship Alumna from Cote d’Ivoire is applying the lessons she learned in the United States to her role within C40. Previously, Marie-Josée was an Adviser supporting the Autonomous District of Abidjan, where she collaborated with diverse stakeholders and the community to build a comprehensive, science-based framework that touches every industry from transportation to public works. She is now the C40 Senior Public Affairs Manager supporting C40 African mayors and governors.

“We do not only aim to define climate change action, we aim to have an impact on the community.  We are working with cities but also with ministers, mayors, communes, youth, and NGOs. What is important here is to be inclusive… Climate change issues require [us] to have this multidisciplinary vision and collaboration between all the actors of the local community.”

Marie-Josée Houenou, 2018 Fellowship Alumna, Cote d’Ivoire

Building Leadership Capacity During Her Fellowship

During her Leadership in Public Management Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marie-Josée strengthened her capacity to approach climate change issues from a public affairs perspective.  “While in University of Wisconsin-Madison, I developed my public management skills in topics such as health, environment, corruption, journalism, law, education and even disabilities,” she says.  “This public management exposure helps me navigate at both the political and technical level, which is quite helpful for my current position.”

Following her Institute, Marie-Josée participated in a Professional Development Experience (PDE) at the World Resources Institute (WRI). During this experience, Marie-Josée learned more about why countries across the globe need to create approaches to climate change that are based on their own context and capacities. 

Prior to her Fellowship, Marie-Josée was selected to support the implementation of the National Determined Contribution (NDC) of Cote d’Ivoire, working on the first climate change legal framework in the country.  Upon returning home, Marie-Josée applied this perspective to the legal framework for Cote d’Ivoire.

Helping Cote d’Ivoire Build a Greener Future

Marie-Josée’s Fellowship also inspired her to continue working with specific communities in her capacity at C40, taking a local, adaptable, and inclusive approach – an approach that is particularly critical while facing the challenges of COVID-19. Marie-Josée notes that it will be important to build a “green and fair” strategy for recovery by “developing greener infrastructure and green opportunities” to address struggling economies, mourning communities, and strained health infrastructures.

Marie-Josée Houenou gives a lecture on climate change.

Marie-Josée remains in close touch with U.S. professionals she connected with during her Fellowship and collaborates on long-term projects and scholarly works with them.  She credits her many successes since the Fellowship to the leadership skills she honed in the United States, particularly how to refocus her expectations and vision to align with the goals of her current work. The climate change legislation she helped craft is under review, and she continues to make progress designing the city-wide climate change action plan for Abidjan. 

Most importantly for Marie-Josee, her experience on the Fellowship accelerated the development of her own organization, Wesisah, which funds youth conferences on climate change. In 2018 and 2019, she implemented local conferences of youth on climate change recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), working with youth on climate change action, international negotiation, and green opportunities. 

Marie-Josee says, “[I am] still driven by this idea that development can only be reached through sustainability, [and] the Fellowship gave me the desire to continue to support [my] community.”

Written by Adrienne Jacobs.

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