The Small Grants Programme (SGP) is a corporate programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Since its inception in 1992, SGP’s purpose has been to support Civil Society Organizations and Community Based Organizations directly with grants. SGP provides strategic partnernships for community-based action, with emphasis on synergies, sustainability, and scaling up. As an incubator of innovative solutions, SGP aims to support our grantees in safeguarding the environment while also accelerating social inclusion through the active engagement of women, indigenous people, youth in the projects it supports.

With a global presence in 125 countries, SGP firmly believes in the fundamental necessity of South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation to complement its work at the local, national and global levels. SGP also believes SSC is fundamental to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

For this reason, in its sixth operational phase, SGP started a “South-South Community Innovation Exchange Platform” with the aim to promote knowledge exchange between SGP countries and encourage replication of good practices across countries and regions. The rationale for this is to be able to produce high impact and scaling up of the innovations and practices developed by SGP grantees, as well as other CSOs at the regional level, as currently all grant making and associated knowledge exchange happens at the national level.

The objectives of South-South Exchange Platform are to trengthen the capacity of communities in developing countries to address sustainable development challenges; support and promote knowledge transfer of sustainable development solutions among communities and increase and improve communications among communities with the aim to create greater awareness of common problems and wider access to available knowledge, experience and networks.

Considering the fact that social, economic, and environmental issues are all connected at the local level, SSC and TrC has the potential to engender significant co-benefits. By offering flexible, practical, and tried solutions to address development issues and climate change, local communities must be lifted up and the lessons they have, for both the North and the South, must be shared. Many of SGP’s country programmes have been involved in SSC for several years.

The side event will include a moderated panel discussion on the importance of SSC and TrC to share Southern solutions with the world, as well as the launch of a new SGP publication on a sample of innovative community solutions that have been replicated and/or scaled up through South-South and Triangular Cooperation, from countries such as Barbados, Belize, Benin, Cuba, Haiti, Tanzania, and Thailand, plus many more. Most of these Southern solutions are featured on the UNDP SSMART platform and are available for other coutries who face similar challenges and are looking for solutions.


Objective and expected outcomes

The objective of this side event is to help is to present concrete examples of solutions to key SDGs such as life on land, climate change and life under water among others. The expected outcomes are as follows:

  • Present innovative solutions to climate change, land degradation, environmental degradation from countries of the South and the impact SSC and TrC has had in scaling up these practices
  • Inform SSC and TrC practitioners and development partners about the importance of SSC and TrC for achieving the SDGs at the community and national level
  • Present SSMART
  • Launch publication


Target Audience

The forum will be open to participants including representatives from governments, development agencies, civil society organizations and private sector.





Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang

Deputy Director for Programmes and Operations at the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)

Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang is the Deputy Director for Programmes and Operations at the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). Dr. Wang brings to the position extensive senior leadership experience in brokering knowledge exchange, facilitating partnerships, and strengthening the capacities of countries to engage in South-South and triangular cooperation. She dedicates strong efforts to ensure that the larger potential of South-South and triangular cooperation for sustainable development are reflected in both programmes and policymaking dialogues.

Ms. Wang has most recently served as the Lead Advisor on South-South and Triangular Cooperation at the United Nations Development Programme’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. In that capacity, she initiated and spearheaded the establishment of the Global Coalition of Think Tank Networks for South-South Cooperation – the South-South Global Thinkers Initiative, jointly supported by UNOSSC and UNDP.




Ms. Ana Maria Currea

Communications and Knowledge Specialist of the GEF Small Grants Programme, United Nations Development Programme

Ana Maria Currea has over 15 years of experience in communications, knowledge management, M&E, relationship building, advocacy and program management. Currently, she is the Communications and Knowledge Specialist of the GEF Small Grants Programme at the United Nations Development Programme where she leads the South-South Community Innovation Exchange strategic initiative.

In this role Ana Maria leads the implementation of the knowledge management strategy, improving the learning, knowledge exchange, collaboration, efficiency and overall capacity, as well as the communications strategy, including the development of key messages, branding guidelines and key templates for communication materials to ensure brand coherence and recognition. Before joining UNDP, Ms. Currea worked for a public relations firm in New York, the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of New York, and the Colombian Embassy to the United States, among other organizations.

Ana Maria holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the Universidad Javeriana in Bogota Colombia. She is also the author of several publications and has presented in global conferences and events.


Dr. Simona Marinescu

Director, Development Impact Group, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme

Ms. Marinescu is currently the Director of the Development Impact Group in the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (BPPS) in UNDP HQ. Before Joining BPPS, Dr. Marinescu was the Director, UNDP Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD). Prior to this assignment, Dr. Marinescu served as the UNDP Iraq Senior Economist and Programme Director for the multi-agency Private Sector Development Programme assisting the Government of Iraq and its social partners on structural reforms for inclusive market building in a complex post conflict environment. Projects included the corporatization of State Owned Enterprises, SME development, investment promotion and the launch of the UN Global Compact in Iraq. She also served as USAID Economic Governance Sector Lead for Social Safety Net and Pension Reforms in Iraq, and as World Bank Social Protection Expert in the Human Development Unit for MENA Region. Dr. Marinescu also served as Minister Secretary of State for Labor and Social Protection in Romania during a time of major socio-economic transformations that preceded the country’s integration in the European Union. She was formerly elected Senator and served as President of the Labor and Social Affairs Committee in the Senate of Romania.

Ms. Marinescu holds an MBA in International Relations and a PhD in Economics from the Academy of Economic Studies ASE Bucharest, a Diploma in Leadership from Harvard University and a Certificate in Modern Labor Market Administration from Cyprus International Institute of Management. She was the editor in chief of two national newspapers specialized in labor market and social affairs.


Dr. Omar A. Figueroa

Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries, the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Belize

Hon. Omar A. Figueroa is the Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries, the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Belize. He was born in 1969 in San Ignacio Town, Belize, Central America. Throughout his academic life, Dr. Figueroa was active in Conservation and Biodiversity Research. He holds a Doctorate Degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation through the Dexter Fellowship from the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida and a Master’s of Science Degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation through a Fulbright/Organization of American States Ecology Initiative Fellowship. During his academic pursuits, his research focus was in the use of Global Positioning System to study habitat associations and movement patterns of Jabiru Stork in Mesoamerica and thereafter on the spatial ecology and conservation of the iconic Jaguar. These experiences have contributed to his vast knowledge and appreciation for the environment and conservation. Besides his academic accomplishments, Dr. Figueroa also served on the board of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation and several local and international research initiatives. Between 2009 and 2012, Dr. Figueroa served as a member of the Senate and has been a Member of Parliament since January 2015.


Mr. Leonel Requena

National Coordinator, GEF Small Grants Programme, Belize

Leonel joined GEF Small Grants Programme as the National Coordinator in Belize on February 15, 2016. Leonel is however not new to SGP, having previously served as the COMPACT Local Coordinator in SGP Belize during 2010-2015. Prior to joining SGP, he worked with the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) as a Project Officer during 2007-2009. He also worked as an Associate Researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society (2005-2006) and the Nature Conservancy (2000-2004). Leonel has a Master’s degree in Protected Areas Management and Eco-regional Development. He has also received a Diploma from the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program in February 2013 and successfully completed the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Leonel has participated in several international conferences such as the UN Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD COP11 in Hyderabad, India, and CBD COP13 in Cancun, Mexico). He has presented at conferences in Germany, Senegal, India, the United States, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala. He has contributed to several international UNDP publications. He represents the Caribbean Region on the Young Leaders World Commission on Protected Areas. He is a trained UN Cares Facilitator. Leonel enjoys scuba diving and spelunking. Leonel can be reached at