10 February 2017 - (Seychelles News Agency (SNA) - The former president of the Seychelles, James Michel, launched his foundation earlier this week.
The James Michel Foundation aims to promote and fund projects that are related to the blue economy, climate change and the sustainable development of small island states.
Michel, who has always been a defender of the environment, intends to share his experience in the protection of environment with Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, and the international community.
The SNA met with James Michel to talk to him about his reasons for setting up his own foundation.
SNA: How did you come up with the idea of creating a foundation focusing on the blue economy?
JM: In many countries when heads of state end their mandates, they create either a foundation or an association to continue their contribution to society. When a president spends several years in power, he acquires a great deal of experience he can share with his country or the international community.
I still have a lot of courage, strength and energy. I want to share these with my people, but also at a global level; where I have a lot of respect; where I am recognized as a champion of the blue economy, in the fight against climate change, and the protection of the environment, and I have the resolve to continue with my involvement in these areas.
In Seychelles, the state does not fund this kind of foundation for former presidents, and so I have to organise it myself, and at the moment I don't have any funds, but I do it with passion and with ideas and a willingness to keep on contributing. I will use the contacts I have overseas, to set up a network to work and implement projects for the well-being of the Seychellois.
SNA: How will you get funding to implement the projects of the foundation?
JM: We are going to explore all avenues of funding. Since we launched our website, many people have written asking for information. We will start to build a network and write to several organizations.
When I was president, I established several contacts, so it's just a matter of reactivating them. There are several non-governmental organisations that have the same vocation and they have the funds. Our foundation will allow these organizations to come to the Seychelles to assist in the development of the country.
SNA: When we talk about blue economy, it includes the ocean, climate change and small island states. Isn’t the subject too vast?
JM: It is important because it is vast. Take, for example, Seychelles -- it has an exclusive economic zone of 1.2 million square kilometres. In this oceanic expanse the government started a project[marine spatial planning] which I initiated and president Danny Faure is continuing this, because we have the same commitment to the development of the blue economy, which must be managed in a sustainable way.
It is important for Seychelles to develop ways to manage its maritime space in partnership with other organisations.
SNA: How will Seychelles benefit?
JM: This foundation will continue to do what we call "blue diplomacy." In Seychelles, the government is already doing this work and my foundation will contribute by raising awareness in other countries about the management of the blue economy. The funding we receive will help local businesses and the scholarships we obtain will be made available to young Seychellois. This will allow us to develop future scientists.
The foundation also plans to hold conferences in the Seychelles where scientists will be able to share their ideas.
SNA: How did you choose the members of the James Michel Foundation?
JM: We have brought together members who are scientists in the field of marine biology, the businessmen involved in tourism and those who have fishing boats, and people who are passionate about the blue economy.
We have also chosen people who will work to promote the foundation, which needs to grow.
SNA: Do you like the ocean?
JM: I am a child of the ocean! The islands are the sentinels of the ocean. I was born on an island surrounded by the ocean, and of course I love the sea, which is a source of inspiration