Civil Society: A Key Partner

Civil Society comprises non-state actors, including not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmers, women, the scientific and technological community, youth, and children, indigenous peoples and their communities, business and industry, workers and trade unions (GEF Policy on Stakeholder Engagement).

Effective engagement of civil society at all levels of endeavor – from local to national and to global – is key in achieving the GEF’s mission of safeguarding the global environment. This engagement includes the design of programs and projects, direct partnerships in the execution or co-executing of projects, leveraging of in-kind and cash co-financing, linking the national and local levels and directly interacting with beneficiaries through outreach and consultations, contributing to policy discussions, and participating in monitoring of project impacts and outcomes.

In November 2017, the GEF Council approved an Updated Vision to Enhance Civil Society Engagement with the GEF This updated Vision is designed to complement and reinforce key dimensions of civil society engagement with the GEF, particularly in the design and implementation of GEF projects and programs. These are addressed in more detail in the updated Policy on Stakeholder EngagementPolicy on Gender Equality, and Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples.

An Updated Vision for Civil Society Engagement

  1. The overarching objective of engagement between the GEF and civil society is to achieve greater results and impact through improving its collaboration with civil society organizations (CSOs).
  2. In this context, the primary role of civil society within the GEF Partnership is to contribute to, as appropriate, the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of GEF programs and projects, through the (amongst others) engagement in projects on the ground, building awareness of the GEF in local communities, dissemination of information about the GEF to stakeholders, engagement with recipient country governments and participation with Council members.
  3. In addition, civil society plays an advisory role for the GEF Council on institutional policies and guidelines and helps formulate strategies effectively. To this end, the CSO Network plays a key role in advocacy and outreach to civil society at the global level, by supporting the dissemination of information about the GEF, as well as by contributing to policy and strategy development.


The GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provides financial and technical support to communities and CSOs to meet the overall objective of "global environmental benefits secured through community-based initiatives and actions". Taking “local action, global impact” as its core mission, the GEF SGP has been supporting local and regional communities and CSOs, by financing innovative projects through a long-term commitment to community-based sustainable development.

GEF CSO Network

The GEF CSO Network is an independent global alliance of Civil Society Organizations working to address global environmental challenges in areas linked to the six GEF focal areas. The Network dates back to 1995 when the then GEF Network of Non-Governmental Organizations was formed as a voluntary structure of environmental CSOs working in at least one of the GEF focal areas.


The GEF remains committed to further enhancing its engagement with CSOs to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Civil society stakeholders are encouraged to engage with the GEF by:

  1. Commenting on project proposals: Since GEF Agencies are required to consult CSOs for project approval, these may comment on project proposals, or be involved in project consultations, by contacting the GEF Agency project officer for a particular project and/or the operational focal point at the government level. The GEF Project Identification Form (PIF) for each project also indicates the project contact person, and are available in the GEF project database.
  2. Commenting on policies: GEF policy proposals are published in advance of GEF Council meetings on the Council documents webpage. Stakeholders can contribute by providing inputs, feedback, suggestions and recommendations through their regional CSO representative in the GEF CSO Network, through GEF Council Members, or by directly sending their comments on the GEF website ongoing consultations tab.
  3. Supporting project implementation, monitoring and evaluation: Civil society organizations play an important role in monitoring project and program activities along with GEF Agencies and GEF Focal Points, as well as in providing feedback as beneficiaries or as representatives of community groups, including through the GEF Independent Evaluation Office.
  4. Participating in GEF events: GEF Council meetings are webcasted live and their recordings uploaded onto the GEF YouTube channel. Civil society stakeholders may also apply and be selected to attend these Council meetings, as indicated in the Updated Vision. Also, the GEF Country Support Programme (CSP) provides opportunities for stakeholder engagement and learning about the GEF’s work and activities, including through Expanded Constituency Workshops (ECWs).
  5. Making a formal complaint or grievance relating to GEF projects and operations, including concerns about possible corruption or fraud: The GEF Conflict Resolution system provides stakeholders with an avenue to submit complaints or concerns about GEF-supported projects and operations.  These may be submitted to the responsible GEF Agencies and/or the GEF Conflict Resolution Commissioner.  In addition to the above, the World Bank staff rules on matters of ethics, integrity, fraud and corruption apply to staff of the GEF Secretariat, while the GEF’s Policy on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Council Members, Alternates, and Advisers applies for these individuals. Any concerns on these matters may be raised through the World Bank hotline.

Selection criteria for Council

As per the decision approved by Council in November 2017 contained in the Updated Vision, the GEF Secretariat will be responsible for the selection of sponsored CSOs for Council consultations and meetings to ensure that CSO representatives are sharing the voices of CSOs from the field, while maintaining robust engagement on policy issues. This selection will be done in a transparent manner, based on clear criteria and in consultation with the CSO Network, Operational Focal Points (OFPs), the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group (IPAG) and the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) to establish a comprehensive list of CSOs from which to draw those to be sponsored to attend the Council Meetings. Please find the approved criteria here.


For reference, GEF policy and guiding documents on public involvement and civil society engagement are made available through weblinks below:

  1. Updated Vision to Enhance Civil Society Engagement with the GEF (GEF/C.53/10/Rev.01)
  2. Policy on Stakeholder Engagement (GEF/C.53/05/Rev.01)
  3. Management Response to the Evaluation of the GEF CSO Network (GEF/ME/C.50/03)
  4. Evaluation of the GEF CSO Network (GEF/ME/C.50/02)
  5. GEF Guidelines for the Implementation of the Public Involvement Policy (GEF/C.47/Inf.06)

What's New


October 5, 2017

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