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GEF announces new investment in Central America's blue economy

October 23, 2019

A purple gorgonian exists on a shallow coral reef on Turneffe Atoll in Belize.
The new Central American project, to be implemented by the UN Development Program (UNDP), is designed to help assess the socioeconomic and ecological opportunities and challenges related to the blue economy, which stretch beyond national borders. Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock.

At the Our Ocean conference in Oslo, the head of the Global Environment Facility announced a $6.8 million contribution from the GEF Trust Fund to help seven countries across Central America jointly assess opportunities and challenges from the blue economy along their Pacific coasts.

The financing will help Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama analyze and develop action plans to work together on coastal and marine ecosystems, along the lines of transboundary initiatives the GEF has supported elsewhere in Latin America through its International Waters work program.

“We strongly support this science-based effort to identify threats and opportunities for Central America’s Pacific coastal areas, and see it as a model that can be replicated in other regions,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson. “It is essential that we jointly sustain healthy coastal and marine ecosystems in support of economic and environmental goals including the preservation of biodiversity. We are pleased to support this effort to inform policy priority-setting and encourage collaboration where it is urgently needed.”

The GEF’s International Waters work program brings together 156 developing countries and 24 donor countries to jointly manage transboundary water resources and support a sustainable blue economy. GEF-supported projects in this area aim to increase coordination between sectors such as tourism, renewable energy production, fisheries, aquaculture, and coastal development in pursuit of economic and environmental goals.

The new Central American project, to be implemented by the UN Development Program (UNDP), is designed to help assess the socioeconomic and ecological opportunities and challenges related to the blue economy, which stretch beyond national borders. It will include scientific analysis of pollution, degradation of coastal and marine habitats, fisheries activity, and climate change in the area, and set out strategies to jointly address these challenges.

The GEF has previously supported similar collaborative efforts in 23 large marine ecosystems worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the Humboldt Current. Lessons from those projects, as well as GEF initiatives in East Asia and other coastal areas, inform the design of the new venture.

In addition to the blue economy, GEF International Waters financing also supports conservation and sustainability on the high seas and enhancing security of freshwater ecosystems such as shared groundwater and lakes and river basins. Countries participating in GEF projects have negotiated and agreed on numerous regional cooperation frameworks, treaties, and protocols.

Panel from Our Oceans 2019 conference

The Our Ocean 2019 conference is bringing together leaders from governments, businesses, civil society and research institutions to share their experience, identify solutions and commit to action for a clean, healthy and productive ocean.