Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the GEF

The history of the relationship between the GEF and civil society organizations (CSOs) goes back to the inception of the GEF. NGOs have been involved in a broad range of GEF activities from general policy discussions to project development at the local level.

A more formal role for CSOs was established with the creation of the GEF NGO Network in 1995. Since then, the Network has been the main mechanism for involvement with CSOs. In 2005 an independent review of the Network was undertaken and some recommendations were made. The GEF Secretariat implemented some of those recommendations and there has been an improvement in the functioning of the network. 

Effective involvement of civil society at all levels of endeavor, from local to national to global, is a key in achieving the GEF's mission and objectives of the projects it funds. CSOs have a pivotal role to play in advocating within their respective national and regional governments on behalf of determined action to protect and enhance the environment. And the grass-roots experience they have gained in actually implementing these programs has proven extremely beneficial in guiding negotiations over future programs.

Negotiations leading up to the GEF-5 Replenishment emphasized the positive and influential role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in GEF programs. Accordingly, the GEF Council approved a strategy for enhancing CSO engagement, and the Secretariat has taken significant steps in implementing the strategy and extending outreach to CSOs at local and regional levels.

How can Civil Society participate in the GEF?

Reforms being implemented now under GEF-5 seek to increase country ownership, an effort that gives civil society organizations an important role to play. They help set priorities for GEF resources in the recipient countries through their participation in the National Portfolio Formulation Exercises. They exchange valuable information at the Extended Constituency Workshops, where one representative of CSOs per country is sponsored by the GEF to participate.

Through the Pilot Project on Broadening the GEF Partnership approved by Council, NGOs are given the opportunity to be accredited as the GEF Project Agencies to fulfill most of the roles of the current 10 GEF Agencies.

The GEF has also fostered increased interaction between CSOs and the Operational Focal Points (OFPs). This makes the project identification and monitoring process more transparent and inclusive. As a result of this effort, OFPs are required to convene at least one annual meeting with members of the GEF Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Network in their country, which includes civil society organizations. The Secretariat works to ensure that these meetings are an integral part of the GEF-funded country support programs.

At a policy level, the Secretariat engages actively with civil society organizations, particularly in connection with Council Consultations. This semiannual and ad hoc consultative meetings and discussions are organized and held between civil society representatives and provide opportunities for constructive dialogue that often result in significant and positive contributions into the development process of global environmental policies and projects.
During twenty years, the GEF Small Grants Program has significantly supported CSOs and local and regional communities by providing financing for innovative projects. For more information see: http://sgp.undp.org

 GEF NGO Network
The organizations comprising the GEF NGO Network work in the fields of environment and sustainable development in a manner that is aligned with the GEF mandate. The role of the Network, in general, is seen as the embodiment of an active partnership for developing policy documents, disseminating information about the GEF mission, objectives and activities to, and receiving information about issues and concerns from, civil society organizations at the grassroots, regional, national and international levels. Those issues and concerns are then transmitted to the governing bodies of the GEF. For more info please visit www.gefngo.org.


Guiding documents 

Policy and guiding documents referring to public involvement and civil society participation in the GEF. 



Moving forward, the GEF remains committed to further enhancing its engagement with CSOs in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its operations.

For all questions related to GEF relations with CSOs please write to: 

Last update August 2012