Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)


Organizational profile:  The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. CEPF was founded in 2000 to address threats to biodiversity by empowering civil society in developing countries and transitional economies to protect the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which are some of Earth's most biologically rich yet threatened terrestrial ecosystems.

By supporting the development of conservation strategies driven by local input, and providing grants to civil society—nongovernmental, private sector and academic organizations—to implement those strategies, CEPF seeks to protect biodiversity, build local conservation leadership and nurture sustainable development. They believe this is the most effective path to conservation and communities that flourish.

Financing Instrument: Grants, Technical Assistance

Project scale: CEPF awards two types of grants: small and large. The average size of small grants is about US$15,000. The average size of large grants is about US$150,000. Grants more than US$500,000 are awarded only in exceptional cases.

Recipient countries regions/country groups: CEPF currently works in Cerrado, Eastern Afromontane, East Melanesian Islands, Guinean Forests of West Africa, Indo-Burma, Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands, Mediterranean Basin, Mountains of Central Asia, Tropical Andes, and Wallacea

Recipient categories: NGOs, the private sector and academic organizations

Eligibility Criteria: 
If the applicant represents a government-owned enterprise or institution, they are eligible only if they can establish that the enterprise or institution:

  • Has a legal personality independent of any government agency or actor
  • Has the authority to apply for and receive private funds
  • May not assert a claim of sovereign immunity

To be considered for CEPF funding, a project must be located within a biodiversity hotspot where CEPF currently works. The list of eligible countries is listed under each open call for proposals. If applicants are proposing project activities in a country that is not listed, please check with the CEPF Secretariat or the relevant regional implementation team before preparing an application.

The project must also support at least one strategic direction outlined in the CEPF ecosystem profile for the hotspot. (Applicants can learn more about strategic directions on the Before You Apply page). In addition, the project must not violate CEPF's safeguard policies.

CEPF does not fund the following activities:

  • Use of child labor or forced labor.
  • Construction or rehabilitation of large or complex dams.
  • Payment of salaries or salary supplements to government security personnel.
  • Purchase of firearms or other weapons.
  • Activities that promote the trade-in or use of any substances listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, or other chemicals or hazardous materials subject to international bans, restrictions or phaseouts due to high toxicity to living organisms, environmental persistence, the potential for bioaccumulation, or potential depletion of the ozone layer.
  • Purchase and use of pesticides that fall in the World Health Organization classes IA and IB, or in class II if they are likely to be used by, or be accessible to, lay personnel, farmers or others without training, equipment and facilities to handle, store and apply these products properly.
  • Physical resettlement of people (voluntary or involuntary).
  • Purchase of land.
  • Activities that have the potential to cause adverse impacts on critical habitats.
  • Activities that introduce or use potentially invasive, non-indigenous species.
  • Removal or alteration of any tangible cultural heritage. 

Priority will be given to projects that are the closest fit to the investment strategy set out in the CEPF ecosystem profile. Preference will also be given to projects that demonstrate a leading role for local organizations and/or an explicit focus on capacity building for local civil society. Projects that show that they will coordinate with other organizations to prevent duplication of efforts are preferred, as are projects that work with partnerships and alliances.

Other considerations that will strengthen an application include:

  • Endorsement from relevant government authorities
  • Clear plans for continuing the project after the CEPF funding is complete
  • Support for indigenous and local communities in community-based or co-management activities for biodiversity conservation and actions that enhance local communities’ tenure and resource use rights     


Application guidelines:   
Each call for proposals includes important details about the projects that are eligible. Review the information in the call to find out:

  • Countries where the project can take place
  • Strategic directions – the conservation objectives that CEPF-funded projects must contribute to
  • Language(s) that the letter of inquiry can be written in
  • Due date
  • Where applicants can send questions

Prepare Letter of Inquiry
If applicants are applying for a large grant, applicants will submit their letter of inquiry online, via a link in the call for proposals to the online grants management system Conservation Grants. If applicants have never used Conservation Grants before, they will need to register.
If applicants are applying for a small grant, an offline template (available in all of the languages specified in the call) will be provided. Your application will be reviewed by CEPF's regional implementation team in the hotspot.
Before submitting letter of inquiry, CEPF encourage applicants to read CEPF 12 Tips for Getting Your Grant Idea Funded for helpful advice.
Write Full Proposals (Large Grants Only) 
If applicants’ letter of inquiry is reviewed favorably, CEPF will invite applicants to submit a full proposal in Conservation Grants. Proposals for large grants are typically, but not always, required to be written in English. (Read the call's instructions to find out.)
Applicants invited to prepare a full proposal will also be asked to submit the following supporting documents along with the proposal:

Security screening form

  • Financial questionnaire and supporting documents
  • W9 or W8-BEN-E tax form
  • Bank account information (CEPF may require that a project-specific bank account be opened before your project begins.)
  • Signatory Information
  • Cash flow estimate for first five months of grant

Applicants for small grants are not required to prepare a full proposal. Any additional information required in support of the application (e.g., detailed budget, work plan, financial questionnaire, bank details) will be requested by CEPF's regional implementation team in the hotspot.
Complete Safeguard Documents (If Required) 
All CEPF grants (large and small) will be screened against CEPF’s safeguard policies, which are intended to prevent or mitigate any harm to people or the environment that might inadvertently arise during the project.
Applicants whose project triggers one or more safeguard policies will be asked to prepare the relevant safeguard document(s) and incorporate preventative measures into the project's design.
Email CEPF at for any questions.

Publication Date
Thursday, 01 April 2021
Applicable location
Biodiversity conservation
Financing opportunities