Formal Launch of the Saint Lucia GEF SGP Country Office
Valentine’s Day 2013, was not only a day of love in Saint Lucia, but was an auspicious day on which Saint Lucia formally launched its Global Environment Facility Small Grants Country Programme (GEF SGP). The launch took place at Pigeon Island National Landmark, Saint Lucia’s premier historic protected area. Present were the Minister of the Public Sector, Sustainable Development, Science and Technology, Senator James Fletcher, and the Minister of Social Transformation, Local Government and Community Empowerment, Hon. Harold Dalson. They were joined by UNDP’s Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, the French Ambassador to Barbados and the OECS, Ambassador Michel Prom, the Political Officer from the British High Commissioner, Ms. Debora Worrell, and Ambassador His Excellency James Chang from the Embassy of the Republic of China. In attendance also were the members of the GEF SGP UNDP National Steering Committee led by the Chairperson, Ms. Veronica Simon, as well as representatives from various Government Departments, grantees, friends of GEF SGP, and the media.
The ceremony was filled with expectations and optimism. Mr. Veronica Simon in her welcome remarks introduced the members of the NSC and stated that GEF SGP Saint Lucia will be focusing more and more on upscaling projects as it approached the end of the fifth Operational Programme Period and the commencement of GEF 6. UNDP’s Resident Representative in her remarks, expressed her enthusiasm and delight that the Saint Lucia programme was being formally launched, highlighted the focus on mentorship as a welcoming move on the part of the Saint Lucia programme to help build capacity within and among CSOs, and looked with expectation to the sharing of knowledge and the formation of a GEF SGP Sub-regional Technical Advisory Network. She also reconfirmed UNDP’s commitment to assisting the GEF SGP in Saint Lucia as well as in the OECS.
The Minister of Social Transformation in his remarks appealed to CSOs to take advantage of the fast delivery mechanism of the GEF SGP, identified capacity building of CSOs as a common priority of the GEF SGP and his Ministry, and looked forward to collaboration in that area. He also made special mention of the mentorship strategy of the GEF SGP in Saint Lucia. Delivering the Feature Address, Senator James Fletcher welcomed the formal launch of GEF SGP at a “. . . juncture when the world economy continued to languish in the quagmire of recession. . . “and at a point when there was wide scale realization that sustainable development was the responsibility of all persons at the community, as well as at the private and public sector levels. He noted that moving to a country programme would help to address the historically low grant absorptive capacity of CSOs in Saint Lucia and pointed to the mentorship strategy defined in the Country Programme Strategy as an effective way to address the critical capacity issues of CSOs. Senator Fletcher further noted that US$$2 million would be available to CSOs until December 2014 and he encouraged the local SGP team to access as much co-funding as is possible. He concluded by encouraging GEF SGP Saint Lucia to ensure that there was careful documentation of the entire process, to provide the empirical data for future development of the programme.
The programme was not only punctuated with speeches from officials, but the first five grantees of the Saint Lucia Country Programme were all given the opportunity to deliver an 8 minute talk on their project and to publicly receive their first cheque.
In addition, one grantee was able to publicly sign a contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services who was represented by the UNDP Resident Representative. There were a total of three Full Grants and two Planning Grants awarded, two of which were in the Biodiversity Focal Area, two in the Climate Change Focal Area and the final in the Chemicals Focal Area. The total GEF SGP contribution to the projects is US$139,260 (XCD$376,002) which had already attracted a total of US$$124,303 (XCD$335,618) in cash and in-kind co-funding.
The ceremony was also interspersed with vocal performances from Saint Lucia’s premier operatic singer, Mr. Blaise Pascal, a member of Act Now Generation which is one of the grantees. Mr. Blaise also presented a performance by a group of young children from Act Now Generation, who serenaded the audience with a love song selected from Saint Lucia’s diverse Kwéyὸl Heritage repertoire.
But why was the ceremony held on Valentine’s Day, people wanted to know. The explanation was simple according to Giles Romulus, the GEF SGP National Coordinator. It was accidental and at the same time providential he explained, as he made the connection between love of family, friends, community and country. Loving oneself and family without loving the environment he contended, is an inherent contradiction. The two he concluded are inextricably linked.
Aniya Emtage, 1 (246) 647 6007, firstname.lastname@example.org