Think globally, act locally

November 21, 2018


Biodiversity and ecosystems contribute to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals; 17 goals designed to contribute directly to improving human well-being and attaining our collectively agreed upon development priorities. Biodiversity is at the centre of many economic activities, especially agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Almost half of the planet’s population are directly dependent on natural resources for livelihoods and basic subsistence needs.

This week, leaders from around the world are in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt at the UN Biodiversity Conference, which is the Fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Conference will review progress on the strategic plan and targets that were agreed to be achieved by 2020 among 196 countries about a decade ago.  Further, the Conference will also start discussing on the post-2020 global framework to realize a world that people living in harmony with nature.  

As governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders around the world meet and negotiate for the next two weeks in Egypt, it is important for all of us to stop and reflect on what the world may look like without valuable biodiversity that supports our lives – from the water we drink and the food we eat, to the diversity of genes that help us produce medicine and other products that are key for our survival on this planet. What can we do more to make sure that biodiversity and ecosystem are maintained to ensure survival of our own and other species?

The Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (SGP), implemented by UNDP, was established in 1992 soon after the Convention on Biological Diversity was established at the Rio Earth Summit. The programme was created with the pioneering goal of providing a global platform for civil society and local communities to come together to share ideas and take local actions to address global environmental issues.

At the core of SGP is the belief that communities and civil society organisations - and the networks and movements they create in their efforts to sustainably manage natural resources - are fundamental and necessary to shift the global development trajectory from biodiversity erosion and natural resource depletion, to one based on natural capital management and productive landscapes/seascapes. During the past four years only, communities and indigenous peoples have worked on many local actions, including 1388 protected areas that spans over 25 million hectares with support from the programme.

The Convention on Biological Diversity recognizes the important role of indigenous peoples and local communities in conserving and sustainably using biodiversity resources in and outside of protected areas. With support from the Government of Germany, SGP has been providing support to strengthen the Indigenous Peoples and Community-Conserved Territories and Areas, an effort to broaden the type of protected areas to reach the CBD target to bring 17% of global terrestrial areas under protected areas.  For areas outside of protected areas, SGP has been partnering with the Japan Biodiversity Fund to revive and promote traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities to manage natural resources in the broader production landscapes and seascapes, including sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.  These activities are not only strengthening biodiversity conservation, but also contributing to improve community livelihoods, and resilience to climate change and other risks. 

Indigenous peoples and local communities can be an agent for change, and we work hard to bring their voices and knowledge to the main stage, so they can be reflected in the decision making processes at these global conferences. In response to the needs of indigenous peoples, we are supporting new generation of indigenous peoples’ leaders to develop their leadership and technical skills to target environmental and sustainable development issues, while also advancing the work of their communities, organisations, and networks at the national, regional, and global levels.

As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, the Small Grants Programme is renewing our approach by building on our legacy, continue partnering with stakeholders at all levels to find novel, innovative solutions to global challenges, and to accelerate transformational change. We are excited to share our community-based experiences with the global community at the UN Biodiversity Conference.


Yoko Watanabe is the Global Manager of the GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP. Follow her on twitter @yokowatawata