Civil Society: A Key Partner

Since its inception, the GEF has recognized the role that civil society plays in safeguarding the global environment. The diversity of organizations which have been steadily and increasingly participating in GEF activities include non-state actors, including not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmers, women, the scientific and technological community, youth, and children, indigenous peoples and their communities, business and industry, workers and trade unions (GEF Policy on Stakeholder Engagement).

From identification, execution and monitoring of GEF programs and projects, to influencing its governance and decision-making process, to liaising with communities, and advocating with governments, civil society has become one of the GEF key partners.

An Updated Vision for Civil Society Engagement

In November 2017, the GEF Council approved an Updated Vision to Enhance Civil Society Engagement with the GEF. This updated vision is designed to complement and reinforce key dimensions of civil society engagement with the GEF, particularly in the design and implementation of GEF projects and programs. These are addressed in more detail in the updated Policy on Stakeholder EngagementPolicy on Gender Equality, Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards and Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples.


The GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provides financial and technical support to communities and CSOs to meet the overall objective of "global environmental benefits secured through community-based initiatives and actions". Taking “local action, global impact” as its core mission, the GEF SGP has been supporting local and regional communities and CSOs, by financing innovative projects through a long-term commitment to community-based sustainable development.

GEF CSO Network

The GEF CSO Network is an independent global alliance of Civil Society Organizations working to address global environmental challenges in areas linked to the six GEF focal areas. The Network dates back to 1995 when the then GEF Network of Non-Governmental Organizations was formed as a voluntary structure of environmental CSOs working in at least one of the GEF focal areas.

For more information, please contact the following people:

Selection Criteria

Selection Criteria for Council

As per the decision approved by Council in November 2017 contained in the Updated Vision, the GEF Secretariat will be responsible for the selection of sponsored CSOs for Council consultations and meetings to ensure that CSO representatives are sharing the voices of CSOs from the field, while maintaining robust engagement on policy issues. This selection will be done in a transparent manner, based on clear criteria and in consultation with the CSO NetworkOperational Focal Points (OFPs), the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group (IPAG) and the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) to establish a comprehensive list of CSOs from which to draw those to be sponsored to attend the Council Meetings. Please find the approved criteria here.

Selection Criteria for Civil Society Participants in the Expanded Constituency Workshops

The Expanded Constituency Workshops (ECW) are organized by the GEF Secretariat to keep the GEF Focal Points, convention focal points and other key stakeholders, including civil society, abreast of GEF strategies, policies, and procedures. In addition, they (are) meant to provide a space to analyze, in depth, the various aspects of GEF work, to provide an opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience, and to encourage collaboration.

In GEF-7 two representatives of CSOs per country will be invited and sponsored to each workshop the following procedure will be applied to identify the CSO that will participate at each workshop. The identification of a pool of suitable CSOs to attend ECW will be carried out by the GEF Secretariat through a review of the applications. The selection criteria can be found here.


The GEF remains committed to further enhancing its engagement with CSOs to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Civil society stakeholders are encouraged to engage with the GEF by:

  1. Commenting on project proposals: Since GEF Agencies are required to consult CSOs for project approval, these may comment on project proposals, or be involved in project consultations, by contacting the GEF Agency project officer for a particular project and/or the operational focal point at the government level. The GEF Project Identification Form (PIF) for each project also indicates the project contact person, and are available in the GEF project database.
  2. Commenting on policies: GEF policy proposals are published in advance of GEF Council meetings on the Council documents webpage. Stakeholders can contribute by providing inputs, feedback, suggestions and recommendations through their regional CSO representative in the GEF CSO Network, through GEF Council Members, or by directly sending their comments on the GEF website ongoing consultations tab.
  3. Supporting project implementation, monitoring and evaluation: Civil society organizations play an important role in monitoring project and program activities along with GEF Agencies and GEF Focal Points, as well as in providing feedback as beneficiaries or as representatives of community groups, including through the GEF Independent Evaluation Office.
  4. Participating in GEF events: GEF Council meetings are webcasted live and their recordings uploaded onto the GEF YouTube channel. Civil society stakeholders may also apply and be selected to attend these Council meetings, as indicated in the Updated Vision. Also, the GEF Country Support Programme (CSP) provides opportunities for stakeholder engagement and learning about the GEF’s work and activities, including through Expanded Constituency Workshops (ECWs).
  5. Making a formal complaint or grievance relating to GEF projects and operations, including concerns about possible corruption or fraud: The GEF Conflict Resolution system provides stakeholders with an avenue to submit complaints or concerns about GEF-supported projects and operations.  These may be submitted to the responsible GEF Agencies and/or the GEF Conflict Resolution Commissioner.  In addition to the above, the World Bank staff rules on matters of ethics, integrity, fraud and corruption apply to staff of the GEF Secretariat, while the GEF’s Policy on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Council Members, Alternates, and Advisers applies for these individuals. Any concerns on these matters may be raised through the World Bank hotline.


For reference, GEF policy and guiding documents on public involvement and civil society engagement are made available through weblinks below:

  1. Updated Vision to Enhance Civil Society Engagement with the GEF (GEF/C.53/10/Rev.01)
  2. Policy on Stakeholder Engagement (GEF/C.53/05/Rev.01)
  3. Guidelines to Implement the Policy on Stakeholder Engagement (SD/GN/01)
  4. Evaluation of the GEF CSO Network (GEF/ME/C.50/02)
  5. Management Response to the Evaluation of the GEF CSO Network (GEF/ME/C.50/03)
  6. Policy on Gender Equality (GEF/C.53/04)
  7. Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards (GEF/C.55/07/Rev.01)

For more information, please contact