Scarlet macaw birds flying over tree canopy and ocean coastline
Photo credit: Photo_Traveller/Shutterstock

Earlier this month, the Global Environment Facility announced a record-setting $5.25 billion in pledges to support conservation and environmental protection programs worldwide over the next four years.

The 30% budget increase for one of the world’s largest and most influential environmental funders is accompanied by a shift in the GEF’s approach to grant-making, according to Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, its CEO and Chairperson.

Rodriguez told Mongabay that he is pushing to increase the flexibility and cross-cutting nature of the GEF’s grant programs. This includes new mechanisms for non-government entities to secure direct support from the GEF, rather than having to go through official government channels. If that approach bears out in practice it could enable Indigenous Peoples and local communities to secure more funds for conservation projects and environmental initiatives.

“GEF resources are for countries, not just the governments of those countries,” Rodriguez said. “Countries are more than governments: among the various stakeholders are the private sector, NGOs, and communities.” 

“We are now planting a seed by which the GEF can provide direct access to non-state actors,” he continued, explaining that the approach - aside from the GEF Small Grants Programme - has historically required NGOs to get approval from the national government to secure funds. 

“That limits who can receive GEF support since in some countries civil society can have adversarial relationships with governments. We want to change that.”

The GEF’s success in securing a record replenishment has come despite the pandemic and growing geopolitical turbulence. 

“At the end of the day, the GEF is a political animal,” Rodriguez told Mongabay. “But what makes it different and able to generate progress is that the GEF is a mature organization. There’s a lot of written political agreements on how it should operate and that gives us the specific circumstances to keep on providing solutions and generating progress.”

“We’re really threatened by global challenges, but the GEF has proven to be kind of a bubble space, politically speaking, which gives us hope.”

Click here to read the interview

This article was first published by Mongabay, whose environmental solutions and pandemic response coverage is supported by the Global Environment Facility among other funders. Mongabay’s stories are editorially independent of the GEF.

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