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GEF reaches out communities

Thursday, July 26, 2012
Cleaning up the Mess
Dr Marcia de Castro

This week in Guardian Media’s environmental space, The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, presents the second of an exclusive series for Cleaning Up The Mess entitled helping  civil society groups make a difference in their environment.


Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
The GEF is the largest public funder of projects designed to address global environmental priorities at the national level. Projects funded by the programme fall within five focus areas: biodiversity conservation, protection of international waters, prevention of land degradation, climate change (mitigation and adaption) and reduction of persistent organic pollutants.


A unique component of the GEF initiative has been its Small Grants Programme (SGP), launched in 1992- the year of the first Rio Earth Summit. Rooted in the belief that global environmental problems are best addressed when local communities take ownership, the SGP funds and provides technical support to civil society organisations for community-based environmental projects.



Grants up to US$50,000 can be awarded to groups whose project proposals: fall within the GEF’s five focal areas; satisfy the GEF SGP evaluation criteria; and demonstrate a clear consideration for and inclusion of sustainable livelihoods and gender equality factors.



Examples of civil society organisations eligible to apply including charities community-based organisations, youth groups, faith-based organisations, village councils, academia, professional associations and non-governmental organisations. To date, the GEF SGP has invested over US$450 million in over 12,000 community projects in 122 countries.


From Charlotteville to Caroni - GEF SGP gains traction in T&T. For countries like Trinidad and Tobago where Government’s development focus has traditionally centred on policy formulation, the SGP’s community-centred approach to environmental sustainability is critical to the implementation of environmental and natural resource management policies on the ground.


According to UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative to Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten, Dr Marcia de Castro, this participatory approach to environmental management and sustainable development is the heart and soul of the UNDP.


Commenting on the growing trend of civil society organisations in Trinidad and Tobago taking action to address environmental issues within communities, De Castro notes, “There are a lot of people out there who are interested in doing a lot of good things for their communities. At the same time, getting them organised, getting people to volunteer their time, getting the expertise to put together a project proposal on a voluntary basis is the challenge. Unless we invest in building the capacity of CBOs and NGOs, it will become harder and harder to see State-led development policy have an impact.”


Building this capacity, she believes, is the work of the UNDP in collaboration of other key stakeholders. “We cannot lose sight that when working with community based groups we also have to help them develop skills -the leadership, the managerial, the operational skills required to move from a good idea to good results.  This is where all players -state, private sector and international donor and development agencies like the UNDP - need to come together”.


The SGP’s popularity and track record of success has shown steady improvement since its introduction to the twin island 17 years ago. Eighty-five projects, implemented by 55 CBOs and NGOs in over 36 communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago, at a total cost of US$1.5 million are impressive numbers by any standard.


This article appears courtesy the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) public education series. The GEF SGP provides grants of up to US$50,000 to civil society groups for projects in Biodiversity, Climate Change, International Waters, Persistent Organic Pollutants and Land Degradation. For further information on applying for GEF SGP grants please visit:



If your company or professional association is interested in partnering with the UNDP to mentor or coach grantees of the GEF SGP, please call 623 7056 ext. 252


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