More than 30 representatives from the World Bank, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), local civil society groups and governments across Latin America recently met to explore how to improve linkages between the CEPF initiative and Bank operations.
The two-day workshop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was the first in a series of regional meetings designed by the Bank’s Global Programs and Partnerships Group (GPP) to help increase synergies between CEPF and the Bank’s country programs.
In his opening statement, Vinod Thomas, the World Bank’s country director for Brazil, told participants, “the partnership we are building with civil society through the CEPF is big news and something we should take to heart.”
Thomas characterized CEPF as “path-breaking.” He said, “Biodiversity conservation is a challenging area in which to work, but one that can result in high social gains on the ground. Small steps can be precious in this tough area.”
Since its creation in late 2000 by the Bank, Conservation International and the Global Environment Facility, CEPF has supported more than 215 civil society groups in implementing projects in 13 of the world’s most threatened ecosystems. The innovative focus and early success also attracted two other partners: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2001 and the Government of Japan in 2002.
Grants are awarded under regional investment strategies known as ecosystem profiles that are designed together with local communities, nongovernmental and governmental representatives, and other stakeholders, and guided by a technical group of representatives from the five partner institutions and a council comprised of top leaders from those institutions.
At the regional and country levels, CEPF grant directors and local coordination teams have worked with Bank representatives in a number of instances, including sharing information on strategy and key projects.
Randall Purcell, GPP senior partnership specialist, said the meeting was an example of how the Bank’s country departments could take the lead in facilitating an open exchange on how to better integrate global initiatives with country operations.
“Such integration can help bring what are often boutique operations to a more meaningful scale, with significant and enduring impacts on poverty and the environment,” he said.
In Latin America, CEPF has supported 85 civil society groups with $18.8 million in grants. CEPF-supported projects range from helping governmental partners manage important biological areas in Costa Rica and Panama to assisting Peruvian Brazil nut farmers in demarcating their lands and hence securing their traditional livelihoods.
In the Brazilian part of the Atlantic Forest Hotspot, CEPF has also helped create three small grants programs that are directly managed by local NGOs and now support more than 150 additional local groups. The workshop included a field visit to a biological reserve administered by local group Associação Mico-Leão Dourado (AMLD), which also manages a CEPF-supported small grants program for institutional strengthening.
“It’s really important to keep this kind of program for the small NGOs because they don’t have any kind of alternatives and yet the results at the end can be so huge,” AMLD’s Denise Marçal Rambaldi said.
She also cautioned the participants that the challenges in forest conservation are just beginning: Only 7 percent of the Atlantic Forest’s original vegetation remains, yet 70 percent of Brazilians depend on natural resources from the forest.
The participants, who also included representatives from World Bank implementing agencies in the region, spent extensive time crafting recommendations on increasing linkages, particularly between CEPF and the Bank at the country level. The suggestions ranged from increasing knowledge sharing about both Bank and CEPF projects prior to approval to drawing on the partners’ respective strengths to leverage more funding for conservation.
To date, the CEPF global grant portfolio of $50 million has helped leverage more than $80 million for governmental and civil society conservation efforts. Ultimately, CEPF aims to invest at least $150 million in civil society-led conservation efforts.
The next regional meeting is expected to take place in Cape Town, South Africa in April.
Learn more from the materials provided to the participants: