Press release | 02 Dec, 2022

IUCN to lead flagship GEF forest conservation program in Mesoamerica

Washington DC, USA, 2 December 2022 (IUCN) – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been selected by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to lead the Mesoamerican Forest Integrated Program (IP). This flagship GEF program is the first of its kind in the region dedicated to supporting countries in conserving and protecting their remaining primary forests for both people and planet.

“Mesoamerica’s primary forests provide a habitat for countless threatened species, store immense amounts of carbon and provide essential services for millions of people. With our vast experience and our diverse network of members, experts and partners, IUCN is in a unique position to implement this vital GEF initiative to conserve this natural treasure”, says Ursula Parrilla, IUCN Regional Director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Stretching from Central Mexico to the eastern Panamanian frontier, the forests of Mesoamerica are vital and irreplaceable. The region includes five remaining large intact forests covering over 12 million hectares from what was once a much larger, continuous expanse of tropical forest. Spectacular wildlife that reside here include the jaguar, tapir, howler monkey, quetzal and scarlet macaw, and these forests also provide essential wintering grounds for numerous migratory birds. They also hold half of the region’s carbon stocks and provide water and other essential services to 5 million people.

Mesoamerican forests are also among the world’s most threatened – nearly half of the region’s natural habitats have been converted to agriculture or urban areas, and out of the 5 remaining intact forests, 3 have lost nearly 25% of their area in just the past 15 years.

To help conserve and protect these remaining forests for present and future generations, the GEF-8 cycle of funding (2022-2026) includes a dedicated Mesoamerican Forest Integrated Program that builds upon successful experiences in the Amazon and Congo Basin and elsewhere. Interventions will include expansion and improved management of protected areas, eliminating perverse incentives and creating an enabling policy environment, incentives to mobilize additional finance and investment in conservation and sustainable use of forests, knowledge sharing and capacity building, and communications to raise awareness of the important contributions these forests make to both local and global communities.

IUCN was selected by the GEF to lead the Mesoamerican Forest Integrated Program based upon the strengths of its global network and demonstrated leadership in forests, protection of threatened species and ecosystems, Nature-based Solutions, and track record of success launching innovative public-private partnerships to achieve nature-positive economies.

IUCN serves as one of 18 accredited Implementing Agencies for the GEF – the world’s largest funder of biodiversity protection, nature restoration, pollution reduction, and climate change response in developing countries. The GEF partnership connects 184 member governments with civil society, Indigenous Peoples, and the private sector, and has to date provided more than $22 billion in grants and blended finance through 5,000+ national and regional projects.

Relevant links:

IUCN and the Global Environment Facility