Remarks by Michelle Gyles-McDonnough UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS
The Launch of the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme in Saint Lucia, Pigeon Island National Landmark
Honourable Harold Dalson, Minister of Social Transformation Local Government & Community Empowerment, Hon. James Fletcher Minister of the Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, His Excellency Michel Prom, Ambassador of France to the OECS,
His Excellency James Chang, Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Science and Technology and GEF Political Focal Point, Mr. Sylvester Clauzel,
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries and Rural Development, Mr. Hubert Emmanuel,
Ms. Veronica Simon, Chairperson of the GEF SGP National Steering Committee and Members of the National Steering Committee,
Members of the media,
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always a pleasure for me to be in St. Lucia. I had the good fortune of being here only a couple of weeks ago to discuss with Government and other key stakeholders the plans for Monday’s launch by the Honourable Prime Minister for the national consultation and dialogueprocess around the future we want and the development goals we will need to put in place to get us there; and also to spend two days of needed rest with my family.
I am delighted to be back again. Nothing will be better for this flu I have than a good Lucian fish broth.
My reason for being in St. Lucia this time - the launch of St. Lucia UNDP GEF Small Grants programme - is one that gives me personal satisfaction. So first, let me both thank and congratulate the GEF SGP Saint Lucia stakeholders for their stellar effort in putting together this formal launch of the national Small Grant Programme. And I say “national” proudly. As you all know, prior to this launch, the GEF SGP managed a regional programme for Barbados and the OECS Member States. As of the latter half of 2012, the Regional Small Grants Programme managed from the UNDP Subregional Office in Barbados has been decentralized, with seven new national Small Grants Programmes being established in each of the countries. There are now national GEF SGP Offices in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Lucia with St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Kitts and Nevis to come on line within the next few months.
St. Lucia is fortunate to have a very experienced and well respected National Coordinator, Mr. Giles Romulus, who also served as the Coordinator for the GEF SGP regional programme for some years. I know Giles is happy to be home, to focus on St. Lucia, doing work he is passionate about and loves. We are certainly pleased he remains an asset of the GEF SGP team.
This launch and presentation ceremony highlights the commitment of the GEF SGP and UNDP to empower local communities to access grants through this programme to address specific environmental and social issues toward a more sustainable future.
It also presents us an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the already very hard work of the National Coordinator and the volunteer members of the GEF SGP National Steering Committee in successfully coordinating today’s ceremony during which we can appreciate five (5) worthy grantees for their support and collaboration, namely:
- Mille Fleur Honey Producers Cooperative
- Labowi Promotions
- Act Now Inc.
- Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association
- Rotary Club of Gros Islet
All five have presents exciting projects which will have positive impact on communities, livelihoods, and the environment in St. Lucia.
UNDP’s work speaks to enhancing the resilience of Caribbean economies and societies, and empowering lives. As such, UNDP remains focused on the sustainable development agenda as expressed in Agenda 21 and the Barbados Programme of Action and the recent Rio+20 Summit. Small island developing states face a number of complex and interrelated challenges as they strive to accomplish national development objectives within a constrained resource environment, among which dealing with the impacts of climate change is top priority. The work of grantees, like the five we appreciate today helps us, together with many other actors, to advance the sustainable development agenda for St. Lucia, ultimately improving people’s lives. We each have to play our parts in nation building, individuals, communities, and institutions alike, working in our respective spheres of influence.
Saint Lucia joined the SGP programme in 1994 as part of the Barbados and the OECS GEF SGP UNDP sub-regional programme. From 1994 to 2004 the investment of GEF SGP in Saint Lucia was gradual and incremental with less than five projects being approved. Between 2004 and 2010 there was an increase to 9 projects with a total investment directly at community level of US$353,502, which was made up of US$176,679 from GEF SGP, US$121,096 in cash co-funding and US$52,728 in in-kind co-funding. The total investment represented a mere 8.9% of the total investment in the sub-region during that period.
There were a number of reasons for this comparatively small investment including but not limited to (i) the low capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), (ii) the absence of sustained in situ assistance to CSOs, and (iii) the heavy dependence of the programme on volunteers. It is hoped that with a nationally focussed programme we can address some of these challenges and see increased uptake by grantees of available resources.
The projects in St Lucia demonstrated several important lessons:
- the importance of participatory decision making in natural resource management processes;
- how to upscale from a community based project to a national and sub-regional project. The Praslin Protected Landscape Project, funded by GEF SGP, was the genesis of the OECS OPAAL Project, which began as a Saint Lucia project and was then regionalised with the consensus of Saint Lucia;
- the importance of establishing environmental monitoring systems, particularly water quality testing in marine protected areas;
- the critical importance of collaborative planning and management in middle income small island developing states like ours in the Caribbean where inequality is high by objective measures and power differentials between classes are acute;
- the indispensable requirement of understanding the politics of environmental management as a variable in natural resource management; and
- the critical need for sustained environmental education programmes based on research.
Building on this modest performance, and with the lessons learned, GEF SGP Saint Lucia as a national programme is now poised to contribute to a significant improvement in natural resource management in Saint Lucia. It will also enable the country to meet many of its objectives under MEAs, contribute to the achievement of the MDGs, and reduce poverty through the introduction of alternative livelihoods, particularly in rural areas.
One of the key elements in the work plan for 2013 is the establishment of a national mentorship programme targeted at helping the various CSOs to develop their capacity to design, write and manage projects submitted to the Small Grants Programme, skills transferable in working also with other agencies. A regional study completed by GEF SGP and UNDP in 2008 which compared Latin American and Caribbean NGOs and their performance in the GEF, convinced us that this is the most effective way to increase the absorptive capacity of Saint Lucian and by extension Eastern Caribbean NGOs. Especially in times of scarce resources, effective planning, management, and implementation of resources with clear achievement of planned objectives is what inspires development partners to continue to provide support. Donors want effective counterparts or they can look elsewhere. UNDP’s goal here as a development partner of course is, through GEF SGP and other programmes, to focus attention on the pressing needs of St. Lucia, and show concrete results that matter for the daily lives of St. Lucians. GEF SGP is a good vehicle for making some of the change we need.
It should be recognized that the National Coordinator for Saint Lucia (Giles Romulus) is a wealth of knowledge and has been an asset to the SGP during this transition phase and has been particularly helpful with the new National Coordinators coming onboard in the other OECS member states and Barbados. So whereas we miss his physical presence in the UNDP office in Barbados, he still has a virtual presence with all the National Coordinators.
In essence this type of interaction is what we at UNOPS and UNDP are hoping for as the SGP needs to find ways to share knowledge and experiences across the region and the drive and push for this approach that must come through each country programme. In this regard, I am taking the opportunity to mention that soon GEF SGP will be launching a subregional advisory panel that will provide a pool of additional technical resources that the seven countries will be able to access.
Saint Lucia has already had the experience of upscaling a community project to something larger as I mentioned earlier. I therefore expect to see more innovative and leadership activity from the Saint Lucia GEF SGP in this area. However, a word of caution in this regard: though we expect an upscaling of projects to maximize use of the resources being made available to Saint Lucia, it should not be at the cost of new grantees coming forward. The National Steering Committee, under the capable leadership of its Chairperson, Mrs. Veronica Simon, should accomplish this balancing act so that we keep expanding the platform for development and broadening the skills base and base of contribution, and such that our main stakeholders are satisfied.
I understand that the National Steering Committee has set itself the ambitious target of having at least 15 projects at different stages of approval in 2013 and making a significant dent in the allocation of US$ 500,000.00. I am excited by this target; and if the current approval rate despite the lack of a permanent office at present is any indication, I am sure that with the new office space and the eventual hiring of a Project Assistant within the next few months this target will be reached.
Let me assure all present that the UNDP Subregional Office is ready and prepared to use its available resources to ensure that the GEF SGP, not only in Saint Lucia but also in the rest of the OECS, is a success as it transitions from a regional to nationally implemented programmes.
I would like to wish all of the grantees the best in their various projects and I look forward to reading about your successes.