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GFCR Approves First Round of Programming

Fiji Reef. Photo credit: Warren Baverstock / coral reef image bank

First Executive Board Decisions Demonstrate Blended Financing Principles

[New York, March 10th 2021] – The first round of funding approved by the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR)  covers proposals from six countries including a USD $4.7M proposal led by the UN Fiji Country Office, “Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy.”  The Fiji joint programme will receive an initial 2021 disbursement of US$1M along with UN Joint SDG Fund co-financing of US$5.3M awarded in February of this year. The programme leverages philanthropic and development finance to mobilize commercial investments and promote the financial sustainability of coral reef conservation and reef-positive livelihoods.

“Building reef resilience protects a sustainable source of food and livelihoods for the Fijian people and a vibrant hub of biodiversity for the world,” said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorning General and Minister for Economy, Fiji.  “We hope this innovative financing initiative offers a scalable model that can support the conservation of marine ecosystems across our globally connected blue economy.”

Principal transactions of the programme establish a locally managed Technical Assistance Facility to incubate a pipeline of reef-positive business models and institute Special Purpose Entities (SPEs) with revenue streams to manage Fijian Locally Managed Marine Area networks. The joint programme will also support a new initiative to source sugar cane plantations with a non-synthetic fertiliser and paired with educational programmes to reduce agricultural run-off and erosion harmful to nearby coral reefs.

Additionally, the GFCR is supporting the development of a new sanitary landfill with a network of transfer stations to improve waste collection and prevent leaching of harmful pollutants that are detrimental to Fijian mangroves and coral reef ecosystems.  This joint programme is a collaboration with partners that include UN agencies (UNDP, UNCDF, UNEP), the WWF-Pacific, Matanataki, Blue Finance, Fijian local actors and the Government of Fiji and aims to leverage US$50M in investment capital by 2030.

“The pilot investments of the Global Fund for Coral Reefs and Joint SDG Fund in Fiji will bring positive impacts not only to reef systems but to the people who depend on them,” said Jodi Smith, Partner at Matanataki. “During a time of extreme economic and climatic uncertainty, this investment will pave the way for world class solutions and new manufacturing and income opportunities, while at the same time enabling active stewardship of the environment.” 

Sombrero Island Reef, Philippines. Photo Credit: Jett Britnell / Coral Reef Image Bank

The GFCR Executive Board also approved initial grant funding of US$350k for a blended finance programme led by Blue Finance in the Philippines. “Development Facility for Blue Economy Projects for Coral Reef Marine Protected Areas in the Philippines” targets three coral reef focal areas: (1) Verde Island Passage; (2) Calamian Islands; (3) Tañon Strait. Revenue generating activities will include ecotourism, a visitor facility, blue carbon, sustainable fisheries and mud-crab aquaculture. The grant will also be used to develop a proposal focused on highly scalable and sustainable financing for effective management of over 200 Philippine marine protected areas and leverage US$50M in investment capital by 2030.

The GFCR has also approved four preparatory grants to develop full programme proposals to be considered at the next GFCR Executive Board meetings.

“Blended finance is not just about pooling funds to catalyze private investment, it’s about the power of governmental, inter-governmental, philanthropic, private sector and non-governmental organizations working together to achieve impact in a way that wouldn’t be possible on our own,” said Chuck Cooper, Chair of the GFCR Executive Board on behalf of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “This first round of Global Fund investments demonstrates the types of projects we believe can change the trajectory of the coral reef crisis.”

The GFCR executive board is pleased to be working with Conservation International in Indonesia, The Nature Conservancy in The Bahamas, Wildlife Conservation Society in the Kenya-Tanzania Transboundary Conservation Area and UNDP in the Maldives on these grants that will demonstrate the blended finance platform to catalyse private sector investments.  

The six priority countries and proposals were recommended by Conservation Finance Alliance (CFA) who is leading the development of the GFCR’s Investment Plan. With contributions and engagement from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Government of Germany, BNP Paribas and with technical support from SYSTEMIQ, the GFCR is showcasing the power of partnerships and innovative financing.

The Global Fund for Coral Reefs is the first UN impact Fund dedicated to SDG 14. The GFCR is creating a new paradigm for protection of an ecosystem on the brink of extinction with a myriad of implications. Through blended finance and innovative public-private partnerships, the GFCR is catalysing a sustainable financial ecosystem for conservation of coral reef ecosystems and development of the communities that depend on them.

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