ET at the GEF ECW

ECW attendees visit Asa Wright Nature Centre
ECW Attendees on field trip to GEF Small Grant recipient - the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Arima Valley

Environment Tobago is just back from the Global Environmental Fund’s Expanded Constituency Workshop for Civil Society Organisations which took place in Port of Spain during the week March 1st-4th. It provided a forum for members of the GEF-Civil Society Network to interact with counterparts, renew and form new ties with the various Political and Operational Focal Points (PFPs and OFPs) from Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Zones. Also and importantly, the ECW was intended to strengthen the Network’s relationship with GEF Secretariat itself.
The GEF-CSO Network is overseen by a Coordination Committee composed of focal points from different geographic regions and includes representative of Heads of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Indigenous People’s Organizations (IPOs). The focal point position usually defaults to the incumbent Chairs or President though it could be any person who has capability to work on their organisation’s behalf. The Network came about as a result of a GEF Council decision to establish a formal dialogue and partnership between NGOs worldwide and the GEF Secretariat, the GEF Council, the GEF Assembly and its various partner agencies. The GEF-CSO Network comprises GEF-accredited organizations whose work in environment and sustainable development is aligned with the GEF mandate and was formalised in May 1995. GEF funded projects of the Network are supervised by a global Coordinating Committee led by an elected Chair and Vice Chair and supported by a Secretariat.

Was presence at this year’s Caribbean ECW worth it for civil society in general and for ET in particular? Indeed. As luck would have it, Environment Tobago currently occupies the post of Civil Society Liaison for the Mesoamerica Caribbean Network. While the title is largely decorative, it provides formal access to the GEF Secretariat through the liaison construct for discussion matters relating to the regions needs. This year Environment Tobago led the argument that GEF SGP aside from the usual, may want to consider project funding for NGO’s implementing a common project under a single disbursement to the group - as opposed to providing means solely for home-soil projects or only funding regional projects for those considered too big to fail (like the FAO). The underlying thinking to this suggestion was drawn from two considerations: A - Civil Society in the Caribbean and the wider region are notorious for their inability to communicate meaningfully on cross-cutting issues and B – they need to work together with a common and achievable short-term goal to solve same. CARICOM was used as the example of the region not getting its act together.

With that in mind the idea was discussed during the first morning of the ECW. At session’s end it was resolved that a small project be deployed regionally among the Meso Caribbean Network objectifying: One - collaboration on a common goal, Two – Solution, even in part, of a regional problem. The idea proved prescient when the 1st joint session of the CSOs, PFPs and OFPs convened later on as even the Secretariat conceded that uniting the region (zone) has always been problematic when addressing cross-boundary issues.

Sustainable development goals to transform our world
The Sustainable Development Goals

In sum the Port of Spain ECW was a useful mechanism for CSO’s needing clarity on the GEF’s path through Operational Phase 6 (2014-2018). In it the Small Grants Program (GEF-SGP) recommitted to support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by way of funding projects and programs tackling the "root-causes" of environmental degradation. These fall under the headings
1. Biodiversity
2. Climate Change
3. International Waters
4. Land Degradation
5. Ozone Depletion
6. Persistent Organic Pollutants
.. and match the output of the various Conventions that catalysed the GEF. Solutions to the above are known to be critical, difficult to achieve but essential to the reversing environmentally unfriendly trends. Keep an eye on this page. ET shall post the ideas thrown out by Caribbean and Central American civil society groups as we all seek a First project that will get us talking – working together.