Despite adopting the Seventh Replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-7) in the amount of $4.1 billion at its recently held 54th meeting in Da Nang, Viet Nam, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council will maintain the GEF-6 funding level for its Small Grants Programme (SGP). The sum of $4.43 billion was earmarked to GEF-6.
This decision was reached in Da Nang, against the backdrop of dwindling funds available for the SGP which, despite its numerous high points, appears to raise some questions.
Following a proposal by GEF CEO and Chairperson, Naoko Ishii, members agreed to maintain the GEF-6 ceilings and seek closer alignment of projects with the overall GEF-7 targets.
While taking note of the implementation arrangements, GEF approved the proposed financing structure for the GEF-7 SGP.
It also requested the Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to keep under review the criteria for eligibility to core funds and propose any changes with a view to ensuring an equitable deployment of SGP support over time.
The UNDP was also asked to prepare a paper for the 55th Council meeting describing the approach and criteria for the retained allocation of core funds to countries, and the results framework for the GEF-7 SGP and associated targets for global environmental benefits aligned with the overall GEF-7 results architecture.
The UNDP is one of the 18 agencies through which the GEF channels funds to recipient countries.
Earlier, a Council Member queried the double-payments when accessing funds through the SGP via an Implementing Agency, while others questioned SGP’s reporting requirements. Another Member requested clarification on the link between UNDP’s Equator Prize and the SGP.
Several others expressed concern over the 10% ceiling to System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR) country allocations to participate in the SGP, with the Secretariat proposing to remove the percentage cap (of 10%) and keep the absolute cap (of $2 million).
Nonetheless, several Council Members lauded the SGP for enabling activities at the local level, even as they lamented the decrease in funds available for the SGP.
The 25-year-old SGP provides small grants of up to $50,000 and has funded more than 21,000 projects since 1992.
Adriana Dinu, Executive Coordinator, UNDP Global Environmental Finance Unit, described the SGP as an incubator of innovation that provides thousands of examples of local solutions to global challenges that can be scaled up.
Trần Hồng Hà, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam, thanked the SGP for effectively funding programmes that support civil society in implementing activities related to environmental protection and sustainable livelihoods. He expressed hope for continued cooperation between the SGP and Viet Nam.
While urging the SGP to create systemic change, Andrew Steer, President, World Resources Institute (WRI), praised the SGP for being transformative and hugely successful at the project level and looked forward to the next 25 years.
Lucy Mulenkei, Chair, Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group of the GEF, said that largest number of beneficiaries of the SGP are Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs), and that the SGP should be scaled up to ensure additional project funding.
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan, said that the SGP demonstrates there can be a balance between human needs and environmental imperatives.
Ishii said that the GEF Council strongly supports the SGP, highlighting the importance of recognising the power of the local commons to transform the global commons.