23 March 2022


In response to the volcanic eruption and tsunami that devastated the Kingdom of Tonga in January, the Small Grants Programme (SGP) – a corporate programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – is issuing US$ 250,000 in grant funding under its 7th Operational Phase of the SGP (OP7 SGP) to address the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the disaster. This allocation will be used to assist with national recovery and ‘building back better’ efforts, aligned with the UNDP Pacific Sub-Regional Office recovery strategy and UNDP’s SIDS offer: Rising up for SIDS. This support is consistent with the SGP’s Strategic Initiatives for OP7 and it is part of the agreed GEF grant allocation to the country. The funding will support project interventions focused on green and blue recovery efforts, nature-based solutions, community-based adaptation, livelihood improvements and diversification, and social inclusion.

SGP’s support is specifically focused on building the resilience of Tongan communities, not just in response to the volcanic eruption, but to address the environmental and socio-economic challenges that the country faces. As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Tonga is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and more frequent extreme weather events.

The Kingdom of Tonga is a Small Island Developing State located in the South Pacific. The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, just 65 kilometres away from the Tongan capital of Nuku‘alofa, erupted on 15 January 2022. The blast covered the entire country in volcanic ash, triggered a destructive tsunami and generated shock waves that rippled through the atmosphere and oceans around the globe. Over 80 per cent of Tonga’s population was directly affected by the event, with severe damage to homes, crops, livestock, marine ecosystems, and drinking-water supplies that aggravated social and economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNDP’s ‘building back better’ strategy complements the ongoing humanitarian efforts, with a two-pronged approach for meeting immediate needs and building the resilience of the most vulnerable segments of Tonga’s population. In the first year, it will alleviate socio-economic and environmental impacts and generate enabling conditions towards restoring a pathway to normalcy and sustainable development. At the same time, over at least three years UNDP will support corrective measures to reduce existing levels of risks.

“As part of the integrated support provided by UNDP, this contribution from SGP will be essential to support local actions among the most vulnerable island communities affected by the disaster, including women, youth, and persons with disabilities”, says Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Director of Nature, Climate, and Energy at UNDP.

Established in 1992, SGP is celebrating 30 years of support to local action, providing financial and technical support to civil society and community-led initiatives that address global environmental issues, while improving local livelihoods and promoting gender equality. “SGP is committed to continue supporting Tonga in socially inclusive recovery efforts and addressing global environmental challenges with local communities and partners” notes SGP’s Global Manager, Yoko Watanabe. Since 2016, it has supported more than 20 projects in Tonga in the areas of biodiversity, land degradation, chemicals and waste, and climate change adaptation.


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