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Speech delivered by Angelique Pouponneau on the occasion of SeyCCAT’s 5th Anniversary

It has been five years! The Act of Parliament to establish SeyCCAT was signed on the 10th November 2015; it is, for this reason, we have selected this week to commemorate a week-long of activities to share what SeyCCAT has achieved in these last five years. It has been an amazing week – our team put up a 6-day exhibition which was heart-wrenching to dismantle today. We successfully had more than 400 people visit our exhibition; lunchtime talks and movie screening. Friday was particularly overwhelming with 137 people all in one day.

Today I’d like to dedicate my speech to the people of SeyCCAT.

Our pioneers – They knew they were going into unchartered waters – with the first-ever debt-for-nature swap for ocean conservation and the first sovereign blue bond. To many, I am sure they thought it was risky business but still the promise of ecological and economic prosperity, and passion for our marine environment drove the ambition. I’d like to thank the founding members of SeyCCAT, the people who worked tirelessly to its creation, to ensure those lengthy legal documents made sense, our Act was robust and the framework for a grants-making organisation was established. Although it took time, the building blocks were properly laid. Many of these godfathers and godmothers of SeyCCAT, subsequently became the founding Board members of SeyCCAT.  Board members have come and gone but still, they stick around to provide advice. Few know of the commitment, dedication, and advice that our Board members voluntarily commit to SeyCCAT and not to mention those 4-hour board meetings. Tonight, I say: thank you!

Our experts – Making sound investments is no easy feat. Is it the right project? Do they have the right experience? Feasible? Too ambitious? All questions that the grants committee need to ask when deciding who will get the grants from the Blue Grants Fund. Many of you signed up to support a Fund able to distribute US$ 200, 000 and today this same fund, has more than tripled in size and now your task is not enviable as SeyCCAT aims to disburse US$ 700,000! The time, expertise and knowledge that you share to ensure SeyCCAT makes the best investments are invaluable! I know this year, we received 75 applications requesting SCR 53 million – it was record-breaking but the amount of work in reviewing many of these was also, back-breaking. Still, we persevered! The finance committee – another committee, critical to the organization with the difficult task of mobilizing resources to support SeyCCAT and its objectives, from creative collaborations, structuring deals and staying awake to negotiate the final details. The finance committee, another great group of volunteers dedicating their time to SeyCCAT.  Again, I say thank you!

Our changemakers – SeyCCAT is merely a body with funds without the people who have the confidence to approach the Trust, to pitch their idea, to share their innovation, and to enable us to also, be part of their journey. We have seen NGOs, government departments and agencies, individuals and businesses approach us. Through your projects, together we have managed to make a difference, be it for the ocean, supporting local communities, small scale fishers, youth and women. Your hard work continues to inspire us. It is your success that inspires others to continue investing in us, and in turn, for us to invest in you.

Our Collaborators:  You are never alone when you are fighting for the ocean! SeyCCAT is far from alone in this journey. We have more than 10 partners varying from the Government of Seychelles, The Nature Conservancy, Pew Charitable Trusts, World Bank, Nekton, WIOMSA and although many are abroad – with this digital world – a bit of piece advice is only an email away. We are also, thankful for our growing network of local partners who pop by our office to share the next great idea, to help some of the heavy liftings – reviewing those scientific papers [looks at the University of Seychelles] – and of course, if we are short on some monies – we knock on your door [looks at Swiofish3 project coordinator] and if there is a will, there is a way! Today we are also, very proud as SeyCCAT evolves that a local business has approached us to donate to the Blue Grants Fund. We continue to be grateful for your support.

Finally, the engine – With a small but ambitious secretariat, SeyCCAT strives to set the bar high, to innovate, and to deliver on our mandate. Today I was interviewed and once again I was asked about my all-female team and again, I said yes – I am very proud, and yes we are all women in the secretariat! We strive to empower and support each other, ensure that the organisation shines but more importantly, that the ocean recovers its strength so it can continue to support humanity. It is this teamwork, setting high standards and integrity that continues to characterize SeyCCAT’s reputation. To my team, I know sometimes I push, I get those crazy ideas and you must be thinking there she goes again, but I have to say they never fail to deliver! Once again, SeyCCAT is just four walls without you.

What is next for SeyCCAT? It’s an important question. We were started before the 30% MPAs were established but now with the network of protected areas in place, SeyCCAT becomes even more critical, in particular, during these COVID-19 times to mobilise resources to ensure effective management. Nevertheless, we cannot do this alone, we will need everyone on board to make this a reality and we hope to continue to position SeyCCAT a financing partner that can ensure impact and effective marine protection and climate adaptation.

The New Faces – There is a lot of work ahead, so to the new faces of SeyCCAT, and here I am looking at our new board member, Minister Hassan, thank you in advance for all the work that you are going to be doing for SeyCCAT.

Thank you, everyone, for being part of our journey!

Redacted for sharing on the seyccat.org website.