Boys watering flowers

GEF Small Grants Programme – Local Action, Global Impact: Reflecting on 30 years of community engagement

9 November 2022 | Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt


Emad Adly, Emad Adly, Small Grants Programme (SGP) Egypt National Coordinator; Yoko Watanabe, SGP Global Manager; Kristin Tilley, Ambassador for Climate Change, Australia; Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme (UNDP); Datakarran Goburdhun, Ambassador of Mauritius in Egypt; and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad

For 30 years, the UNDP has empowered civil society and local communities to address environmental challenges and sustainable development issues through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP). This event celebrated that milestone anniversary and highlighted the programme's delivery of more than USD 720 million in funding to over 27,000 community-based projects across 136 countries.
The event began with a networking session, during which partners and organizers mingled over hors d’oeuvres and with Frankie the Dinosaur, who found fame in a 2021 viral video, making the rounds in the Pavilion area wearing a sign around its neck that read “Don’t choose extinction."

After the unlikely guest trudged away, attendees gathered for brief remarks by invited speakers. In opening this portion of the event, Yoko Watanabe, SGP Global Manager, welcomed attendees to a milestone celebration of 30 years of engagement with local communities.

Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP

Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP


In his welcome remarks, Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, highlighted that the SGP has proved an invaluable link between the local and the global. “From day one, the SGP proved a way to connect a global instrument, the GEF, to an endless resource of ideas, people, initiatives, and institutions working in the real world making a difference in what happens tomorrow.”
Emad Adly, SGP Egypt National Coordinator, underscored how the SGP gives support in ways that create exponentially large benefits, saying that the programme enhances the capacity of communities to think about problems together in ways that can have a global impact. Evaluations of the programme show that small grants are “able to reach people to make a difference in daily lives.” He also noted that food served during the networking portion of the event was produced by a SGP-funded project in Egypt.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim and Yoko Watanabe

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad, and Yoko Watanabe, SGP

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad, stressed how the SGP has funded many projects, which have since scaled up. She highlighted the programme’s work to overcome discrimination, for example, by helping women attain more visibility. Ibrahim stressed the need to accelerate funding so that small grants become medium and large grants. Noting that Indigenous Peoples are the “CEO of nature,” Ibrahim called for more direct funding to these communities.
Kristin Tilley, Ambassador for Climate Change, Australia, emphasized the SGP’s impressive success and longevity, saying the programme stands as a reminder “of why we do what we do'' during complex climate negotiations.

Kristin Tilley, Ambassador for Climate Change, Australia

Kristin Tilley, Ambassador for Climate Change, Australia

Datakarran Goburdhun, Ambassador of Mauritius in Egypt, highlighted that nearly 200 SGP projects spanning biodiversity, conservation, and climate change have been successfully implemented in Mauritius. He emphasized the “catalyzing effect” of the programme, which “shows pragmatic solutions,” and stressed the need for continued funding as climate finance remains challenging “at all levels.”
Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Planning and Development, Trinidad and Tobago, offered her congratulations and pointed out, as an SGP success story, a project to prevent soil erosion that has had additional impacts by generating employment for women. She emphasized the need to continue to link SGP projects to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Planning and Development, Trinidad and Tobago

Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Planning and Development, Trinidad and Tobago

Offering final remarks, Filippo Berardi, GEF, noted how common it is that when you visit a country “you happen to bump into one of these banners announcing a GEF project, most of the time with the SGP logo.” With the programme’s recent increased replenishment of funds under GEF-8, “we are very excited about SGP 2.0,” he concluded.
Organizer: UNDP

Contact: Yoko Watanabe I [email protected]

For more information:

The SGP has delivered over USD 720 million to more than 27,000 community-led projects in 136 countries around the world,

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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For photos from this side event, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Matthew TenBruggencate.

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