Highlights and images for 14 December 2022

Montreal, Canada


This side event recognized the key role of civil society and community-based organizations—including Indigenous Peoples, women’s groups, youth organizations, and persons with disabilities—in protecting the global environment and considered ways to scale up the related work through the SGP and other initiatives. 

Thirtieth Anniversary of the GEF Small Grants Programme: Local Action, Global Impact

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been engaging with civil society organizations (CSOs) and local communities over the past three decades, particularly through the Small Grants Programme (SGP), which is the GEF's largest and longest standing corporate programme. Supporting civil society and community-based initiatives since 1992, the SGP provides financial and technical support to civil society and community-based organizations on innovative community-driven initiatives that address global environmental issues. This event, which celebrated the SGP’s 30th anniversary, highlighted and recognized the important role of civil society and community-based organizations, including Indigenous Peoples, women’s groups, youth organizations, and persons with disabilities, in protecting the global environment, and emphasized the need to scale up and expand local action through the SGP.

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Yoko Watanabe, SGP, UNDP

The event was moderated by Yoko Watanabe, SGP Global Manager. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson, welcoming the SGP’s 30th anniversary, noted that, in the mid-1990s, the SGP supported a small community in the mountains of Costa Rica to improve livelihoods and the management of protected areas. He underscored the role of local communities in solving problems around protected areas, sharing that some local communities in Costa Rica now receive USD 1 million annually to co-manage the protected areas alongside promoting and enhancing tourism. He underscored the influence of the SGP in the way governments manage their natural resources, and how this also influences the way the GEF operates, highlighting the role of local communities in implementation. He said the GEF must be ahead of the curve in providing financial solutions to support non-state actors with the ambition of increasing GEF funding to civil society and local communities.

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Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson

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Yoko Watanabe, SGP, UNDP, and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson

Attendees then watched a video, reflecting on SGP’s three decades of local action for people and planet.

Satyendra Prasad, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN, lauded the decades of SGP support, noting that biodiversity protection relies on numerous micro actions involving local communities. He welcomed the support for these communities through the SGP throughout the Pacific, and celebrated the partnership with the SGP. He said the SGP is a financial instrument that takes into account youth and non-state actors and welcomed the goal of increasing funding to SGP.

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Satyendra Prasad, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN

Laura Bermúdez, Ministry of Environment, Colombia, congratulated the SGP on its work, and shared that the national SGP team was launched in 2015 and has become crucial to supporting local communities in her country. She said Colombia has invested USD 8.6 million in 363 projects on the ground, working with women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples to ensure their work contributes to sustainable development. She said the country works with the private sector to promote businesses involved in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. She shared that the small-grants model also translates into large projects, delivering benefits to communities. She said the last seven years has been an important step in working with local level actors, especially as the country works towards supporting post-conflict communities.

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Laura Bermúdez, Colombia

Lucy Mulenkei, Chair of the GEF Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group, underscored that the SGP has been instrumental in assisting women, and highlighted the SGP Indigenous Peoples Fellowship Programme. She underscored that scaling up SGP funding would be even more beneficial to local communities, noting the need for further funding at the local level to implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

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Lucy Mulenkei, GEF Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group

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A view of the panel

Samba Thiam, UNDP, shared his journey in working with communities through the SGP, saying that 30 years “feels just like yesterday.” He said the programme has supported over 27,000 projects in 136 countries. He welcomed the partnership with Indigenous Peoples' and Community Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs) to conserve biodiversity and cultural knowledge. He thanked the GEF and other donors, as well as the communities, for “making the SGP what it is today.”



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Samba Thiam, UNDP

Watanabe also shared her experience, starting as an intern 30 years ago, and looked forward to working with a range of partners to expand the SGP’s scope and scale.


Participants listen to the proceedings.

Written and edited by Tallash Kantai, Vijay Kolinjivadi, PhD, and Deborah Davenport, PhD.

All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For this event, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Natalia Mroz

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