The Global Environment Facility Civil Society Organization (GEF CSO) Network is a global network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations dedicated to environmental conservation and sustainable development.
Civil society has been a fundamental participant in the GEF partnership since its establishment. The significance of civil society to the GEF’s mission is a foundational element enshrined in the GEF Instrument and has been articulated in various GEF policies and guidelines that have been in effect for numerous years. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have been a highly-valued voice and advocate on a wide range of GEF issues, a source of knowledge and expertise for the work on the ground, and a valuable project executing partner.
History of the GEF Civil Society Organisation Network:
- 1991 – Establishment of the GEF: The Global Environment Facility was established in 1991 as a financial mechanism to address global environmental issues. It was created in response to growing concerns about environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change, and other pressing global challenges.
- Inclusion of Civil Society: The relation between the GEF and civil society organizations (CSOs) dates back to the establishment of the GEF itself. NGOs, in particular, were vocal advocates for the meaningful engagement of civil society within the GEF framework. This advocacy culminated in the initiation of the NGO-Participants Consultation, which took place one or two days prior to the formal Participants’ Meetings. The Participants’ Meeting later became the Council Meeting.
- 1993 – Formation of the GEF NGO Network: The consultations evolved into gatherings involving NGOs from diverse global regions, during which they collaboratively developed shared positions and presentations for Participants. In 1993, a Tripartite Task Force composed of Council Members, NGOs, and Agencies issued recommendations concerning the NGO Consultations. They underscored the need for these consultations to be systematically organized, featuring well-defined agendas and formal written statements from the participating NGOs.
- 1995 – Official Recognition: In 1995, the NGOs established their accredited NGO Network, and the Council endorsed criteria for the eligibility of NGOs to participate in or observe Council meetings and NGO consultations. This recognition allowed network members to participate in GEF meetings, policy discussions, and project evaluations, ensuring that the perspectives of civil society were taken into account in GEF-funded projects and programs.
- Mandate: The main objective that the GEF Council mandated from the CSO Network was: “to prepare for and report on the GEF Council meetings and NGO consultations to the wider CSO community at the national, regional and international levels.” Over the years, the Network has developed an independent orientation, setting its own objectives, as follows: a) enhancing the role of civil society to safeguard the global environment, b) to promote effective engagement of CSOs in GEF operations and c) to strengthen the capacity of CSO members to participate in GEF-related activities.
- 2008 – CSO Accreditation: In 2008, the GEF Council ratified the following decisions: a) The reinstatement of the Voluntary NGO Trust Fund, accompanied by an augmentation of financial support to facilitate the participation of eligible Network representatives in Council meetings; and b) The substitution of the NGO accreditation system, previously administered by the GEF Secretariat, with a membership system overseen by the Network. Under this new system, the Network assumed responsibility for accrediting and administering CSO memberships within the Network.
- Advocacy and Capacity Building: The GEF CSO Network has been actively involved in advocating for environmentally sustainable policies and practices. It has also focused on capacity building within civil society organizations to enable them to engage effectively with the GEF and other international environmental bodies.
- Global Impact: The GEF CSO Network has expanded its reach and engagement over the years, with members from many countries and regions. It has played a crucial role in advocating for environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development at both the global and local levels.
- Collaboration and Partnerships: The network has collaborated with other international environmental organizations, governments, and stakeholders to promote its goals and contribute to achieving global environmental objectives.
The GEF CSO Network continues to be active and engaged in advocating for environmental conservation and sustainability. It evolves to address new challenges and priorities in the field of global environmental governance, in close collaboration with the GEF, the GEF Agencies, governments, focal groups, communities and civil society organisations worldwide.