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Arlington, VA — Conservation International (CI) announces that, after 20 years of partnership, investment, and successful work with and by staff in Guatemala, its field office in Guatemala City (Ciudad de Guatemala) has a target date of closing on or about March 30, 2011.
The decision to close the Guatemala office was made as part of a global strategy audit, following CI's recent evolution in vision and mission. That mission has shifted from an earlier focus on working with communities to protect species and prevent habitat destruction in tropical countries facing the greatest threats to biodiversity (biodiversity 'hotspots'), to a larger and more holistic approach to sustainably manage and conserve all of nature's wealth.
Since the shift, CI's leadership has been carefully evaluating the geographies where it works, analyzing the places where investments can have the most impact, and where opportunities to scale up work are strongest. The decision to end CI's physical presence in Guatemala is a result of this analysis.
"We have come to a crossroads," said CI Chairman, CEO and Founder Peter Seligmann. "We care very much about Guatemala's people and biodiversity. However, our new mission and available resources require us to decide where, of all the world's important and threatened geographies, we can best advance our new mission and bring about global change. This has led us to make this very difficult but strategic decision that we must close our office in Guatemala."
CI's new mission will continue efforts to study and protect species and their habitats, but that work now represents just one facet of the organization's work. The new mission "builds on a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration to empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity". To that end, CI is focusing on six global initiatives: climate change, food security, freshwater security, human health, cultural services and species contributions.
José Maria Cardoso da Silva, CI's Executive Vice President in charge of the Field Programs, praised the CI Guatemala team's many accomplishments.
"We are proud of the hard work and dedication of CI's Guatemala staff over the years, and extremely grateful for their contributions. In fact, it is because of their successful efforts, that we feel conservation initiatives in Guatemala are well on track to continue without CI's physical presence in country. We hope that the advances this team has made, and the programs they have built or supported, will continue to progress through the work of our valued partners there."
Going forward, CI plans to engage civil society partners and indigenous peoples and their organizations in Guatemala through partnership: its Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program expects to continue engaging many of the country's indigenous peoples and organizations through ongoing collaborations at the national, regional and international scale related to conservation and climate change issues; its Conservation Stewards Program envisions continuing its investment in the region, working with partners and local communities to support conservation agreements; and its investment fund 'Verde Ventures' expects to continue providing support for small- and medium-sized businesses, such as small coffee farmers in Guatemala, that contribute to healthy ecosystems and human well-being.
At the same time, CI announces plans to scale up efforts in Mexico, and align its initiatives with a newly created Americas Division that will coordinate field programs in Central and South America.
CI began its work in Guatemala in 1991, and has achieved many conservation successes over nearly two decades, including:
- a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to Laguna del Tigre National Park in 2000, which contributed data on the region's biodiversity to help inform conservation decision making
- a 2006 agreement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the governments of the United States and Guatemala to conduct what was, at the time, the largest-ever debt-for-nature swap, in which $24 million in Guatemalan debt was cancelled and channeled into a fund for conservation grant-making
- an ongoing process of engagement and collaboration with indigenous peoples to achieve conservation outcomes, including the establishment of the Grupo Promotor (GP), a working group comprising 11 institutions focused on ensuring indigenous perspectives and participation in policy arenas related to conservation, particularly communal lands
- a series of conservation agreements with local communities that provide incentives for conservation, benefitting both biodiversity and livelihoods — including, in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an agreement with the Uaxactún community to protect nearly 84,000 hectares of forest at the heart of the globally important Maya Biosphere Reserve
- a $1.5 million, multi-year program with TNC to protect the highly threatened pine-oak forests of Guatemala and Mexico, an area of great cultural diversity and extreme poverty, which resulted in the establishment of several new protected areas
Seligmann added, "While any time of transition is challenging, we also believe that this marks an important opportunity for the future of conservation. The world is now beginning to understand that we must properly value the essential services nature provides if we are going to create a sustainable development path that will benefit all people for generations to come. This is exciting progress. Our challenge now is to reshape the most powerful social force of our time — development — to include a deep-rooted understanding that the conservation of all species and the interconnected ecosystems that support them is essential for economic growth and human well-being."
The current CI staff in Guatemala, comprised of nine people, will be in charge of the transition. Their jobs will be directly affected by the closure, as well as several others employees, who's reporting structures will shift. Most of these employees staff will be eligible for rehire by other divisions and programs with CI, outside of Guatemala.
Notes for Editors
Conservation International (CI) - Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity for the well-being of humanity. With headquarters in Washington, DC, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information, visit: www.conservation.org
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