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We are delighted to welcome Yoko Watanabe as our new Global Manager of the GEF Small Grants Programme. Yoko has over 20 years of professional experiences working on biodiversity and natural resources management in close partnership with civil society and indigenous peoples.

Yoko webPrior to becoming the fourth Global Manager of the Small Grants Programme, Yoko worked for over a decade at the GEF Secretariat where she headed the GEF’s operation in the Asia region. In this position, she coordinated the GEF’s largest regional portfolio of over $1 billion, including biodiversity, climate change, sustainable land and forest management, international waters, and chemical and wastes issues. She also managed the Gender and Social Issues Team at the GEF, while engaged in indigenous peoples and gender equality and women's empowerment issues. Yoko was also a Program Manager on Biodiversity, and passionate about saving endangered species with local communities.

Ms. Watanabe also worked at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), first as a Conservation Director at the Mongolia Country Office and then as a Senior Advisor on Multilateral Relations at the US Office. She started her career in 1995 at UNDP as a Programme Officer on Environment working at the Nepal and Mongolia Country Offices, and provided oversight and supervision to the SGP operation at the country level.

Yoko holds a master's degree in International Development with a focus on Environment and Natural Resources Management from the American University in Washington DC. For her undergraduate, she studied Environmental Studies and Development Economics at the Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo and University of Oregon. Yoko grew up in Japan, Austria, and Singapore, and loves spending time in the outdoors, particularly skiing and hiking with her husband and two girls.