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GEF Consultation with Civil Society on the Role of CSOs in Building Sustainable, Resilient, and Inclusive Cities

2 February 2024 | Online

Global Environment Facility - GEF

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GEF held its semiannual thematic consultation with civil society organizations, with a dialogue focused ont he role of CSOs in building sustainable, resilient, and inclusive cities, with examples of best practice and lessons learned to strengthen CSO engagement in future GEF urban investments.

Opening

Opening the meeting, Master of Ceremonies, Gabriella Richardson Temm, Global Environment Facility (GEF) Secretariat, noted the tradition of thematic consultations held since 2018.

Gabriella Richardson Temm, GEF Secretariat

Gabriella Richardson Temm, Interim Head of Partnership Division, GEF Secretariat

Claude Gascon, Director, Strategy and Operations, GEF Secretariat, said that the GEF has a long history of promoting engagement with civil society and is working hard to enhance its ambition in this regard. He stressed the GEF’s belief that civil society organizations (CSOs), Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth groups play critical roles in delivering the global environmental benefits the GEF seeks.

Claude Gascon, GEF Secretariat

Claude Gascon, Director of Strategy and Operations, GEF Secretariat

Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, emphasized that if governments want to implement environmental actions, they need the involvement of local communities and CSOs. He discussed ICLEI's work with 2500 cities worldwide in areas such as climate adaptation, biodiversity, and waste management.

Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability

Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

Session 1: Civil Society Organizations’ Roles in Sustainable Urban Transformation and Delivering Environmental Benefits

Charles Dixon, GEF Secretariat, moderated this session. Tommy Garnett, Executive Director, Environmental Foundation for Africa, Sierra Leone, discussed his group’s FreetowntheTreeTown Campaign to restore water catchment areas around the city through planting 550,000 trees, shrubs, and grasses.

Charles Dixon, GEF Secretariat

Session Moderator Charles Dixon, GEF Secretariat

Tommy Garnet, Executive Director, Environment Foundation for Africa, Sierra Leone

Tommy Garnett, Executive Director, Environmental Foundation for Africa, Sierra Leone

Lorenza Cordeiro, Nakau, Solomon Islands, presented an urban water supply and sanitation sector project where CSO involvement and co-design helped project developers to better understand the social context, traditional systems, and customary rights.

Lorenza Cordeiro, PES Project Manager, Nakau, Solomon Islands

Lorenza Cordeiro, PES Project Manager, Nakau, Solomon Islands

Maribel Gómez, Asociación de Desarrollo La Guápil, Costa Rica, talked about her community work with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to convert an open-air waste dump place into a safe, inclusive, and green space. She stressed the importance of providing means for implementation alongside the community’s willingness to make changes.

Maribel Gómez, Asociación de Desarrollo La Guápil, Alajuelita, Costa Rica

Maribel Gómez, Asociación de Desarrollo La Guápil, Alajuelita, Costa Rica

Ram Charitra Sah, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED), Nepal, shared how CEPHED, working with multiple stakeholders and the government, achieved the adoption of a mercury-free policy in health care and dentistry services in Nepal.

Ram Charitra Sah, GEF Small Grants Program Grantee, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED), Nepal

Ram Charitra Sah, GEF Small Grants Program Grantee, CEPHED, Nepal

Session 2: Good Practices of Civil Society in Engaging with Communities and City Governments for Sustainability Solutions

Ana Di Pangracio, Environment and Natural Resources Foundation, Argentina, moderated this session.

Ana Di Pangracio, Deputy Director, Fundación Environment and Natural Resources

Session Moderator Ana Di Pangracio, Deputy Director, Environment and Natural Resources Foundation, Argentina

Alcides Ramírez, Former President, Association of Urban Cyclists of Paraguay, discussed how, working with the UNDP, his organization sought to create a network of bike paths linked to parks and other urban green spaces in the capital city of Asunción.

Alcides Ramírez, Former President of the Association of Urban Cyclists of Paraguay

Alcides Ramírez, Former President of the Association of Urban Cyclists of Paraguay

Verónica Ocaña Domínguez, motorcycle taxi cooperative Guerreras Fénix de Umán, Mexico, discussed how her cooperative, working with UNDP and local governments, empowered women to earn an income through providing moto-taxi service in the Yucatán on motorbikes converted to electric motors.

Verónica Ocaña Domínguez, Motorcycle Taxi Cooperative Guerreras Fenix de Uman, Mexico

Verónica Ocaña Domínguez, GEF SGP Grantee, and motorcycle taxi cooperative Guerreras Fénix de Umán, Mexico

Ronny Mbaisa, Zimbabwe Sunshine Group, discussed how his group sought to use simple technologies and strategies to tackle urban waste management issues, including urban cleanup, recyclables collection, composting stations, converting waste plastic into usable products, and biochar. He reported that the strategies are now being replicated in Zambia, Eswatini, and Malawi.

Ronny Mbaisa, Zimbabwe Sunshine Group, GEF CSO Network member, Zimbabwe

Ronny Mbaisa, Zimbabwe Sunshine Group, and GEF CSO Network member, Zimbabwe

Session 3: Reflections from GEF Program Partners on the Importance of CSO Engagement

Eillie Anzilotti, World Resources Institute (WRI) and UrbanShift, noted that UrbanShift offers CSOs a suite of capacity-building activities to improve their strategic urban planning skills, engage with the private sector, and exchange best practices with their peers.

Eillie Anzilotti, Communications Lead, UrbanShift (GEF’s Sustainable Cities Program), WRI

Eillie Anzilotti, Communications Lead, UrbanShift (GEF’s Sustainable Cities Program), and WRI

Angelica Shamerina, GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), UNDP, observed that without a whole-of-society approach, the benefits cannot be sustained, emphasizing that communities must be at the center of everything. She mention the launch of a new SGP publication, “Sustainable cities: for people and planet.”

Angelica Shamerina, GEF Small Grants Program, UNDP

Angelica Shamerina, GEF SGP, UNDP

Session 3: Reflections from GEF Program Partners on the Importance of CSO Engagement

Faizal Parish, Chair, GEF CSO Network, identified key points for the GEF to consider while developing the sustainable cities impact program in GEF-8, including: supporting the development of public civic partnerships, empowering women and youth as change makers, and focusing on rural revitalization in the zones around the cities. He called for reimagining the role of CSOs from support to full co-equal partners in defining, designing, and engaging in urban development and transformation.

Faizal Parish, Global Environment Centre, Malaysia, Chair, GEF CSO Network

Faizal Parish, Global Environment Centre, Malaysia, and Chair, GEF CSO Network

Aloke Barnwal, Coordinator, Sustainable Cities, GEF Secretariat, emphasized the whole-of-society approach as central across the GEF-8 strategy. He pointed out the need to produce or develop innovative ideas and mechanisms for direct engagement with CSOs. He highlighted that the GEF remains committed to evolving and strengthening its engagement, looking for opportunities, and encouraging the partners to work and engage with CSOs even further.

Aloke Barnwal, GEF Secretariat

Aloke Barnwal, Senior Climate Change Specialist and Coordinator, Sustainable Cities, GEF Secretariat

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