Revising stakeholder engagement in the GEF

November 29, 2017

Stakeholders include local communities and indigenous peoples living in the project area, local governments, women and men who depend on natural resources affected by the project, and private sector companies using those same resources, among others.

The GEF Council has approved an updated Policy on Stakeholder Engagement. The new policy, presented at the 53rd council meeting taking place in Washington DC, is the result of a two-year collaborative and consultative process involving civil society, indigenous peoples, recipient country governments, GEF agencies and other stakeholders.

The policy sets out the core principles and mandatory requirements for GEF agencies to meaningfully engage stakeholders in GEF programs and projects to build on a broad base of local knowledge and expertise, and foster local engagement and ownership in support of positive global environmental outcomes.

Most GEF Agencies already have policies and procedures in place to ensure meaningful stakeholder engagement. The updated GEF Policy aims at contributing to greater harmonization across the GEF Partnership, and clarifying GEF’s mandatory requirements for stakeholder engagement throughout the program and project cycles, including monitoring and reporting.

On adoption of the updated stakeholder policy, Victor Kawanga, Chair of the GEF CSO Network, said “When executed effectively, stakeholder engagement can result in greater impact and sustainability of GEF projects, by improving communications, obtaining wider support, gathering useful data and ideas and providing for more sustainable and inclusive decision making. The GEF CSO Network welcomes the updated GEF Policy on Stakeholder Engagement as a positive step towards promoting transparency, inclusion, participation and accountability in GEF governance and operations. The Network is proud to have been an important driving force behind the need for an updated, stronger Policy that reflects the evolution of the GEF and the recent developments in terms of stakeholder engagement policies and guidelines of international institutions, including GEF Agencies. The Network looks forward to continuing its cooperation with the GEF Partnership in the process of formulation of the Guidelines to support the implementation of the Updated Policy on Stakeholder Engagement.”

It is well documented that open and transparent stakeholder engagement is a necessary element of any successful project. Individuals or groups that have a stake in the outcome of a project - particularly those who may be affected by it - bring about valuable opinions and expertise that can shape the design, implementation and monitoring of a project and support its long-term sustainability. These stakeholders include local communities and indigenous peoples living in the project area, local governments, women and men who depend on natural resources affected by the project, and private sector companies, among others.

Such engagement must start early in the process of program and project design, conducted in good faith and in a manner that is responsive to the needs of affected people throughout project cycles.

For example, stakeholder engagement is a key element for success in the design, planning and ongoing management of marine protected areas. Adequate and early engagement with communities living in and around an area, or with users of the natural resources found there, may build support, stem a sense of ownership, or spur the creation of partnerships. All the above will contribute to the successful management and governance of that area.

The GEF’s new stakeholder policy is seen as a welcome addition by GEF’s partners. Adriana Dinu, Executive Director of Global Environmental Finance at UNDP, commented “UNDP believes that effective stakeholder engagement is a cornerstone to achieving sustainable development; is fundamental to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals; and central to applying the principle of ‘leave no one behind’. Stakeholder engagement is both a goal - to uphold the rights of citizens and others to participate in decisions that may affect them - and an effective means for achieving project outcomes and ensuring the long-term sustainability and replication of project results. As a GEF Agency, UNDP is fully supportive of this new GEF policy and strongly committed to meaningful, effective and informed stakeholder engagement in the design and implementation of all UNDP projects.”

Full and effective participation of stakeholders is one of the principles upon which Conservation International's work is founded. We believe that through this engagement, there will be greater conservation success, transparency and accountability, as well as respect for and promotion of human rights” said Ian Kissoon, Environmental and Social Safeguards Specialist, CI-GEF Project Agency at Conservation International. “Since becoming a GEF Project Agency, we have been advancing our work to not only include stakeholder engagement in all phases of the project cycle but to also improve monitoring which aligns well with the updated policy. The CI-GEF Agency therefore welcomes the approval of the GEF's updated policy on Stakeholder Engagement, and remains committed to ensuring that the GEF requirements are fully achieved.”

Following the adoption of the GEF Policy on Stakeholder Engagement, the GEF Secretariat will develop Guidelines for the implementation of the Policy in a consultative manner, with the participation of civil society, indigenous peoples, governments, agencies and other stakeholders.

Project examples

Honduras: The national marine park Islas de Bahia in Honduras was created as a protected area in 2010. The decree which created the protected area establishes the participation of civil society as a key tool in the management and conservation of biodiversity. The project, Consolidation of Ecosystem Management and Biodiversity Conservation under the Environmental Management Program of the Bay Islands I (PMAIB I) presented a highly participatory approach to the management of the protected area. During the whole duration of the project and particularly during the last phase, socialization of the project's outputs, such as the management plans, was emphasized, thus achieving a sense of ownership by the surrounding communities.

El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras:  A project titled Integrated Management of the Montecristo Trinational Protected Area in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras had a highly participatory approach from design to implementation. It comprised the establishment of a social platform where representatives of various stakeholders, including civil society, engaged in strategic alliances for the management of the protected area. The Trinational Association of Private Reserves comprised of several NGOs from the three countries supported the consolidation of biological corridors, their connection with the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC), and the interconnections between protected area. Civil society had a larger role in the last phase of the project, particularly during the formulation of the management plan for the area.

India: In India, a GEF project entitled “SLEM/CPP: Reversing Environmental Degradation and Rural Poverty through Adaptation to Climate Change in Drought Stricken Areas” implemented by FAO in 9 Hydrological Units, spread over 143 habitations of the extent of about 134,442 ha, covering a population of over 204,567. This project is fully executed by a national NGO: Bharathi Integrated Rural Development Society (BIRDS), in partnership with other CSOs. The project has engaged communities to create a platform for community management of groundwater systems, through what is now popularly known as the Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) Project. CSOs had a key role in Participatory Ground Water Management and this has brought a paradigm shift, as the planning commission has identified in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) the need for increased attention to the management of water resources. Consequently, the Ministry of Water Resources has been advised to scale up the so-called APFAMGS approach to participatory ground water management. The BIRDS network embarked upon a mission to build the adaptive capacities of the rural communities to cope with consequences of climate change and variability. Building on the experience of APFAMGS, the BIRDS network aims to minimize impacts of climate change and variability through capacity building and provision of location-specific technologies and methods of climate-smart agriculture and water management. In terms of policymaking, the  SLEM/CPP project coordinates with multiple stakeholders, as well as governmental, non-governmental, and community based institutions. Further, through coordination with institutions at varied levels, the project bridges the gap between grassroots organizations and policymakers at national and international levels.