Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund?
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a global program that provides grants to nongovernmental organizations and other private sector partners to protect critical ecosystems in the world's biodiversity hotspots.
How does CEPF work?
CEPF provides grants and technical support to nongovernmental and private sector organizations so they can conserve some of the most biologically diverse yet threatened ecosystems — the world's biodiversity hotspots. The investments are even more meaningful because these regions are home to millions of people who are impoverished and highly dependent on natural resources.
Who contributes to the fund?
CEPF is a joint program of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. CEPF also has a number of regional donors.
When was CEPF created?
CEPF was launched in August 2000. CEPF grants first became available in 2001.
Why was the partnership created?
The partners recognize that the urgency and complexity of today's threats to biodiversity require strategic alliances and the elimination of duplicate efforts. A fundamental goal is to engage nongovernmental partners in biodiversity conservation.
What makes CEPF different?
Several factors distinguish CEPF from traditional investment programs.
Our grants:
  • Target hotspots in developing countries and transitional countries.
  • Are guided by regional investment strategies—ecosystem profiles—developed with local stakeholders.
  • Go directly to civil society groups to build this vital constituency for conservation alongside governmental partners. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to implement the conservation strategy developed in each ecosystem profile.
  • Help governments meet targets related to the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity, Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Create working alliances among diverse groups, combining unique capacities and eliminating duplication of efforts.
  • Achieve results through an ever-expanding network of partners working together toward shared goals.
How is CEPF governed?
A council of senior representatives from each partner institution governs the Fund. The Donor Council approves priority areas and strategies for investment and provides strategic guidance on other operational aspects. The Council also provides a forum through which the partners can coordinate and leverage their investment.

Donor Council


Julia Marton-Lefèvre
Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Environmental Scholar, Yale University​

Donor Council Members

Laurence Breton-Moyet
Directrice, Département Développement Durable
L'Agence Française de Développement

Julia Bucknall
Acting Senior Director, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice
The World Bank

Daniel Calleja Crespo
Director General for Environment
European Commission

Mitsutoshi Kajikawa
Director of Development Issues
Ministry of Finance – International Bureau
Government of Japan

Naoko Ishii
Chairperson and CEO 
The Global Environment Facility

Jennifer Morris
Conservation International​​​​​

Roberto Ridolfi
Deputy Director-General
Policy and Thematic Coordination (Dir A, B & C)
Directorate General for Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid
European Commission

Jørgen Thomsen, on behalf of the President
Director, Conservation and Sustainable Development Program Area
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation​​​​​​

How is CEPF administered?
As one of the founding members, Conservation International (CI) administers and executes the global program through a CEPF Secretariat. This includes hosting the CEPF Secretariat, employing Secretariat staff, and ensuring that all funds are managed with due diligence and efficiency on behalf of the partnership. The CEPF Secretariat is responsible for strategic and financial management, oversight, and reporting for the program.
What is the role of Regional Implementation Teams?
Nongovernmental organizations selected to function as Regional Implementation Teams provide strategic leadership for the program in each hotspot approved for investment. Their objective is to convert the plans in the CEPF ecosystem profiles into cohesive portfolios of grants that exceed in impact the sum of their parts. They have primary responsibility for building a broad constituency of civil society groups working across institutional and political boundaries toward achieving the shared conservation goals described in the profiles.

The role of these Regional Implementation Teams further strengthens and expands the Coordination Unit model pioneered by CEPF during its first six years.
Where does CEPF support civil society?
CEPF invests in biodiversity hotspots, the Earth’s biologically richest and most threatened terrestrial areas. CEPF focuses on hotspots in developing and transitional countries and territories, and strategically targets priority areas for conservation within these hotspots for maximum impact. To learn more about where CEPF is currently accepting applications for grants, visit the Grants page.
How does CEPF determine which critical ecosystems to invest in?
Three main criteria guide which areas would be recommended to the Donor Council and approved for funding: ecosystems must be within a hotspot, within World Bank Borrowing Member Countries, and within countries that have ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity.
How does CEPF determine its focus and investment strategy for an area?
CEPF uses a stakeholder-informed process of developing ecosystem profiles to identify its niche and investment strategy for each region approved for investment. The profile reflects a rapid assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and couples this with an inventory of investment taking place within the region and other key factors to identify how CEPF can provide the greatest incremental value. Ultimately, the profile explains and guides CEPF investment in the region.
What is the process to develop an ecosystem profile?
CEPF coordinates a process to gather data, consult local stakeholders, and create the profile. This process includes securing up-to-date information on current activities, threats and opportunities affecting biodiversity conservation in a region, and current levels of investment. It also includes consulting many key stakeholders with expertise in biological, economic, and political arenas.
Who contributes or has input into the ecosystem profile?
Each ecosystem profile is based on a comprehensive research and consultation process that includes input from diverse stakeholders to create a shared strategy from the outset. Technical review teams and regional representatives from CEPF donor partner institutions also provide input.
Who approves the ecosystem profile?
The CEPF Donor Council reviews and approves each profile. The Donor Council approves funding for each profile in the form of a block ecosystem grant to be managed by CEPF, based on the final approved profile. The ecosystem profile for each region is then made public on this site.
How can I obtain a specific ecosystem profile?
The profiles are available in multiple languages in the Publications section


Who can apply for a CEPF grant?
Nongovernmental organizations, community groups, private enterprises, and other civil society applicants may apply for funding. Government-owned enterprises or institutions are eligible only if they can establish that the enterprise or institution i) has a legal personality independent of any government agency or actor; ii) has the authority to apply for and receive private funds; and iii) may not assert a claim of sovereign immunity.
Can Conservation International programs apply for grants?
CI may apply for grants and have its application considered following the same process as all other applicants. However, as CI administers the global program, its proposals must also be approved by the CEPF Working Group to avoid potential conflict of interest. Proposals will be reviewed and, where appropriate, approved based on their merit and the applicant’s comparative advantage in helping to implement the CEPF strategic directions for the region in question.
Can CEPF Regional Implementation Teams apply for grants?
To avoid potential conflict of interest at the hotspot level, neither the individual groups that comprise the Regional Implementation Teams nor other offices and programs of those organizations will be eligible for additional grants in that particular hotspot. Applications from formal affiliates of those organizations that have an independent operating board of directors will be accepted, but subject to additional external review.
What types of proposals does CEPF approve?
Proposals that target direct global environmental benefits and meet the following eligibility criteria are welcome:
  • Project is located in an approved hotspot
  • Project is located in a country that is not excluded by U.S. law
  • Project supports a strategic direction outlined in the relevant CEPF ecosystem profile and investment strategy
  • Grant applicant is authorized under relevant national laws to receive charitable contributions
  • Government-owned enterprises or institutions are eligible only if they can establish i) that the enterprise or institution has a legal personality independent of any government agency or actor, ii) that the enterprise or institution has the authority to apply for and receive private funds, and iii) that the enterprise or institution may not assert a claim of sovereign immunity
  • Grant will not be used for the purchase of land, involuntary resettlement of people, or activities that negatively affect physical cultural resources, including those important to local communities
  • Grant will not be used for activities adversely affecting Indigenous Peoples or where these communities have not provided their broad support to the project activities
  • Grant will not be used to remove or alter any physical cultural property (includes sites having archeological, paleontological, historical, religious, or unique natural values)
  • Proposed activities observe all other relevant safeguard and social policies
Can applicants apply for or receive more than one grant?
Yes. If an applicant wishes to perform work in multiple areas or support more than one strategic direction for a particular area, separate proposals may be submitted.

Applying For Grants

Where is CEPF currently accepting proposals?
To learn more about where CEPF is currently accepting applications for grants, visit Grants.
How can an organization apply for funding?
All applicants must first submit a letter of inquiry. Letters of inquiry for a grant of $20,000 or less constitute the full proposal. For grants of more than $20,000, if invited, applicants then submit a more detailed proposal. The letter of inquiry form is available in the Apply section or can be requested and returned via other means:
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
Conservation International
2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22202 USA
Main phone 1.703.341 2400
Fax: 1.703.553 0721
E-mail: cepfgrants@conservation.org
Is there a deadline for submitting grant applications?
Timeframes and procedures for submitting proposals may vary for each region. Details are available in the Apply section. CEPF will stop accepting proposals for a particular area or strategic direction in that area once the designated funds are committed. If this occurs, grant applicants will be advised on this site.
What is the maximum time a grant can cover?
Five years, however the time available for each project may differ depending on the region in question and the amount of time remaining for implementation of the overall investment strategy.
Is there a maximum amount an applicant can request for a project?
Yes. As of July 2007, CEPF will not fund projects of $1 million and above. Specific requests for proposals may also include a ceiling on the amount an applicant could request. In general when determining the amount to request, applicants should keep in mind that CEPF aims to create a diversified portfolio of grantees and projects to best meet its conservation objectives and help strengthen the involvement of civil society in conservation.
Will CEPF cover core costs?
Yes. CEPF can cover core costs, such as salaries, rent, and maintenance. These costs, however, must support a specific grant proposal and within that proposal, a specific output. Core costs are inevitable in achieving conservation outcomes, but they must be merited, budgeted, and reported on appropriately.
Is technical assistance available?
Yes. Technical assistance is available by e-mailing: cepfsupport@conservation.org or through Regional Implementation Team or CEPF staff directly for both parts of the process. Detailed help and instructions are also available in the applications themselves.
How are decisions made?
The CEPF partners have agreed on a specific grant decision-making process. Regional Implementation Teams will determine whether applications up to $20,000 will be funded. The relevant CEPF grant director together with the Regional Implementation Team, and in consultation with the CEPF Executive Director, will determine whether an application for above $20,000 will be supported.
Why might a proposal be rejected?
Funding for the appropriate strategic direction in the ecosystem profile may already be allocated or the activities may duplicate efforts already supported. In other cases, the proposed project may fall outside geographic or thematic funding priorities. In some cases, the project may be too ambitious for the requested time frame or beyond the demonstrated expertise of the applicant. Sometimes a proposal includes activities that CEPF cannot support, such as relocation of people or the purchase of land. Whatever the reasons, CEPF will communicate these directly to the applicant.

Grant Management

How are the funds disbursed to grantees?
CEPF grant agreements describe the terms of reference, payment schedules, and disbursements procedures for each grant. Grant payments are made based on approved financial reports and projected cash needs specific to the project supported.
What are the reporting requirements for CEPF?
All grantees must submit regular programmatic and financial reports in a specific format. The frequency of programmatic reporting required is specified in each grant agreement. The format has been designed to be a useful program management tool. The programmatic reporting relates to demonstrating progress with respect to the performance indicators in the project design. The financial reporting is based on the approved budget.
How can I keep updated on CEPF activities and opportunities?
Subscribe to CEPF E-News, our free newsletter distributed by e-mail. Each issue of the newsletter includes the latest news and links to new resources on our Web site. To subscribe, visit the E-News section.
How can I contact CEPF?
For additional questions, we can be contacted by e-mail at cepf@conservation.org. You can also find contact information for our primary regional contacts or use our contact form in the Contact Us section.
Are other information resources available?
Yes. Our Publications section includes lots of publications by CEPF and the many partners we support. These include our latest Global Overview fact sheet, annual report, and 5-year assessments of regions that have completed their first five years of investment. Hundreds of final project completion reports compiled by grant recipients are also available.
See Also