By Andy Bilich
Heading south from the calm, colorful harbor in Apia, Samoa, there is a two-lane road that gently climbs the lush forested slopes of Mt. Fiamoe. Just past the market with the homemade palusami and the slightly out-of-place pizza shop, there is a gravel turnout leading into a picturesque botanical garden at the edge of the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. Nestled amongst the palms and birds-of-paradise is an unassuming cluster of buildings that is home to the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Focusing on the four main operational areas of (i) Climate Change Resilience, (ii) Islands and Ocean Ecosystems, (iii) Waste Management and Pollution Control, and (iv) Environmental Governance, SPREP is an inter-governmental organization that works with small island developing states across the South Pacific to achieve their vision of a resilient Pacific environment that sustains livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with culture.
Nataij was contracted by SPREP in late 2015 to assist the organization in meeting fiduciary and environmental and social standards for GEF Agencies under the Global Environment Facility (GEF). To accomplish this, Nataij assembled a global and interdisciplinary team of experts to conduct gap analyses; establish operational processes for risk mitigation, financial planning, and project management; and develop procedures and guidelines for managing and mitigating project risks. For the next year, the team collaborated with SPREP both remotely and over the course of three extended in-country visits to design, develop, and implement policies and trainings in line with the GEF Standards.
The first in-country visit took place in February 2016, when Nataij spent three weeks on island interfacing with operational staff to build a better understanding of SPREP. Specifically, Nataij worked to identify SPREP’s policy and capacity gaps against the GEF fiduciary and environmental/social standards. Over the next five months, the Nataij team leveraged its expertise and knowledge of international best practices to develop a variety of institutional policies and management systems, including a project cycle framework, social/environmental risk management system, grant mechanism, and procurement and cost recovery policies—just to name a few. All policies and systems were carefully designed to both align with the GEF Standards and fit within the SPREP organizational structure.
In August 2016, Nataij returned to Samoa to conduct trainings on the intricacies of the new processes, policies, and system. When completed, the frameworks were integrated into a professional e-training platform designed to facilitate further training and to provide an online system SPREP staff can readily access for future reference. This e-training platform was piloted and deployed during Nataij’s final in-country visit in February 2017.
SPREP is just one of the many organizations around the world trying to navigate the complex web of operational and project management standards in international development. It is critical for these local organizations and institutions to access resources available to support and target impacts in their unique communities, but for this to happen, they need to have the capacity, systems, and policy in place to respond to opportunities effectively. Fortunately, finance is available to assist organizations like SPREP build capacity and upgrade systems so that they may adapt to a rapidly evolving landscape and leverage opportunities in climate finance.