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Miguel Mendez & Norma Palma


Represented by

Miguel Mendez & Norma Palma

Respectively Head of Partnerships & Senior Analyst of Partnerships
Miguel Mendez and Norma Palma work with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) at its headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As focal points to the GCF, they are strengthening the partnership with the GCF and focus on preparing projects and programmes for GCF funding. Founded in 1960, CABEI works to promote the economic integration and the balanced economic and social development of the Central American region.

What are the main challenges and opportunities in responding to climate change in your region, Central America?

Central America is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change on the planet. The 2017 Global Climate Risk Index report—by Germanwatch e.V.—highlighted that three out of the ten countries most affected by climate change events in the past 20 years are in our region and are CABEI member countries: Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. No doubt, this is a big challenge but it also provides many opportunities to develop innovative programmes and projects that can help and support countries to increase their resilience to the effects from climate change.

In terms of specific needs, we see great urgency to boost the adaptation capacity of agriculture as the economies in our region rely heavily on this sector. A second challenge is related to infrastructure. Countries have made significant investments in new roads and transportation links, yet the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like hurricanes erase the progress that has been made. The opportunity here is developing infrastructure to become more resilient. As you can see, our challenges are wide ranging and require not only financial resources, but technology, knowledge and innovation to help our countries adapt to climate change. 

What are CABEI’s priorities and how do you reflect the diverse needs of your member countries?

Our institutional strategy focuses on three areas—social development, competitiveness and integration. From this, we look to ensure sustainability across all our activities. CABEI’s member countries do not have the capacity to take on more debt and they need to see value for money. Within this framework, we develop concrete activities based on the priorities that countries have defined, for example investments in infrastructure, agriculture, water and sanitation, renewable energy and transportation links.

While our membership is diverse, it is our role as a regional bank to identify common issues to be addressed in an innovative and sustainable way. One such initiative that we are going to submit to the GCF for funding consideration is the ‘dry corridor’ programme that would include all Central American countries and Dominican Republic, even though it is not physically connected to the region. To identify such potential projects, our approach has been to analyse countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs), find commonalities and then speak to the National Designated Authorities (NDAs) to seek their interest in regional initiatives.

Let’s focus on you as an institution. CABEI’s accreditation to the GCF was approved in December 2016. You are the first direct access entity to get accredited after benefitting from targeted and early accreditation support. Tell us about this experience.

The whole process helped CABEI reflect on how we do business—what we do well and what can be improved. Having direct support from the GCF through its partner PwC helped us identify our gaps and the steps that we needed to take to raise our standards and institutional capacities. From the outset, our objective was not just to get accredited to the GCF but to improve who we are as a bank and to change how we do business. And ultimately, a fundamental driver was wanting to serve our member countries in a more sustainable way. Overall, the support we received was catalytic because it helped the Bank expedite our approach to improving core areas within the institution, from technical issues to environment and social safeguard policies. Thanks to the assistance provided, CABEI was accredited in a short timeframe.

What advice would you give to other organisations seeking accreditation to the GCF?

It is an easy question to answer after you have gone through the process! What is very important is to ensure that the organisation has commitment at the highest level. This is a key issue, and will unlock resources, both financial and staff. Because many of the issues that will be assessed during the accreditation process are linked to how people within the organisation work and overall processes, if the leadership is not convinced very few people will follow behind. For CABEI, we had the support and commitment from the highest levels of the organisation starting from the Board of Directors, the Executive President, and Vice President. This helped tremendously in taking the process forward.

Next is communication. Right from the beginning, express clearly what the organisation is trying to achieve through accreditation, how it will contribute to its goals and what impact it will have in taking the organisation forward. At CABEI, we always articulated that accreditation to the GCF isn’t the end result but the beginning.