ANNUAL REPORT 2023

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

PONT Programme

Last year we commissioned an external evaluation of our systems, processes, and work. We are proud of the outcome; to have achieved such a high standard as a relatively young institution is a great achievement. We have incorporated the feedback into our newly launched PONT Strategic Framework 2020 – 2040 and hope to build on this further in the coming years.

Our Connectivity Conservation programme got off to a great start in 2023 with five new grants in Albania, one in North Macedonia and five in North-Western Greece from two open calls for proposals. PONT’s grant portfolio has now grown from one in 2017 to 40 grants covering the PONT Focus Area which stretches along the borders of Albania, Greece, and North Macedonia.

We also saw the first sub-grants from our grant to Connecting Natural Values and People (CNVP). During 2023, CNVP awarded sub-grants to 28 local organisations (17 local NGOs, 1 local municipality, and 9 green initiatives for businesses and 1 for a farmer) who will receive a total of €360.000 of direct financial support. An important step towards promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, through provision and support to local communities creating a better socio-economic life in harmony with nature.

We would like to thank all our donors and our grantees and also take this opportunity to thank Oliver Avramoski for his commitment and hard work in helping PONT achieve its vision and mission. We wish you all the best in your new position at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Plans for 2024

Looking forward to 2024 we hope to amplify the topic of freshwater connectivity conservation for the Aoos-Vjosa upper catchment. An area which has been identified as strategically important for maintaining ecological connectivity along the Pindus Mountains mixed forests ecoregion and further north with the Dinaric Mountains mixed forests ecoregion.

Further consolidation of ongoing grant portfolio is expected along with new three-year grants for our long-term partners and the recruitment of new staff to PONT.

Behind the scenes we have been working on a system which captures all the work and success of Grantees and hope to complete the first version of the PONT database in 2024.

FACTS AND FIGURES 2016 - 2023

PROTECTED AREAS
 
NATURA 2000 SPECIES
 
NATURA 2000 HABITATS
 
ENDEMIC SPECIES
 
DISBURSED FUNDING
 

PONT's APPROACH

As a trust fund, PONT’s approach to conservation differs from the standard “project-based” or “short-term” solutions. PONT’s funding is long-term and focused on key conservation actions in the biodiversity-rich mountains and lakes bridging Albania, Greece, and North Macedonia. It is designed to ensure the sustainable management of the Prespa-Ohrid, Korab-Shara, and Albanian Alps regions, including ecological corridors between these areas. Our model emphasises long-term commitment, transparency, efficiency, accountability, and collaboration.

PONT's PROGRAMME

We have two funding programmes:

  1. PONT enables protected areas in the PONT Focus Region, to develop and implement their management plans to conserve nature through sustainable co-financing of operational costs.
  2. PONT provides grants to environmental actors who are qualified not-for-profit organisations implementing conservation actions in the Prespa-Ohrid, Korab-Shara and Albanian Alps regions, including ecological corridors between these areas.

PONT supported 40 grants in 2023 (10 grants for protected area management authorities managing 11 protected areas and 30 grants for environmental actors).

CONSERVATION CONNECTIVITY

Protected areas are central to PONT’s approach. To be effective, though, protected areas need to be of sufficient size and ecologically connected to one another and the larger landscape. The areas which provide ways to identify, maintain, enhance, and restore ecological connectivity are called Connectivity Conservation Areas (CCAs) or ecological corridors. Ecological corridors are not a substitute for protected areas but complement them, especially in regions where additional protected areas are not possible, and/or connectivity is required to support biodiversity and ecological processes of the existing protected areas. Ecological corridors facilitate adaptation to changing environmental conditions, such as climate change. The ecological corridors and protected areas they connect make up an ecological network.

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11.2% increase in average value of Civil Society Tracking Tool for EAs

7.5% increase in average annual value of Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool for PAs

30 Partnerships Financed

KEY MESSAGE

Coordination between NGOs to create synergies for a bigger impact.

2023 has seen PONT grantees working on multiple Protected Areas and Connectivity Conservation. They have continued to deepen their collaboration, joining forces, and exploring opportunities for combined action among their projects.

During meetings held on June 6th, November 14th, and December 12th, the grantees had the opportunity to share updates on their progress, discuss obstacles they have encountered, and reflect on the valuable lessons learned. It was truly inspiring to witness the collective dedication and enthusiasm of the Environmental Actors, who fully embraced this initiative supported by PONT.

The exchange of experiences and insights among the participants proved to be immensely valuable, fostering a sense of unity and a shared mission for conservation for the benefit of both, nature, and people. By joining forces, these dedicated individuals and organisations are paving the way for a more sustainable future in this unique and ecologically significant region. New and exciting initiatives such as Connectivity Conservation and Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) were discussed and debated.

This ongoing collaboration among the Environmental Actors is a testament to their unwavering support for protecting and preserving the natural values of the PONT Focus Area, promoting ecological connectivity between protected areas, and delivering benefits to the local communities. Their collective achievements serve as an inspiration to others working towards nature conservation in this remarkable region. In 2024, PONT will continue to bring grantees together around important topics.

“Robertina Brajanoska, Executive Director of the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES), emphasised that the OECMs, as a very innovative approach, diverge from traditional conservation strategies. It introduces a more nuanced and adaptive framework, recognising the interconnectedness of ecosystems and human activities.”

EXPENDITURE OVERVIEW

Grant Expenditure 2023

Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP)
Environmental Actors
Protected Areas

RISKS MANAGEMENT

In 2021, we started a risk register which is updated twice per year. With the additional sinking fund contributions from KfW/BMZ in 2021 and the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation in 2022, we secured long-term financing stability for the coming decade. This will help us maintain our endowment capital and continue providing support to the protected areas and environmental actors. We continue improving procedures and workflows of our growing grant programme and investment portfolio. The implementation of the PONT Environmental Social Management System helps us to minimize any reputational risk or negative social impact caused by PONT.

FINANCIALS

Total assets as of December 31, 2023 are €73.6 million. This €2.7 million decrease compared to December 31, 2022 is due to the use of the sinking fund capital of PONT, to pay for grant related expenses, consultancies and external project monitoring in 2023. The endowment capital from “German Financial Cooperation (“GFC”), MAVA and the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation remained unchanged at €30 million.

MAVA Foundation, GFC and Hans Wilsdorf Foundation made contributions to PONT’s funding capacity reserve totalling €54.6 million (of which €6.6 million from MAVA, €43 million from GFC, and €5 million from Hans Wilsdorf Foundation). The funding capacity reserve contributions were made as “sinking funds” to be spent until 2040. After the utilization in 2023 of the sinking funds as described in the discussion of the income statement below, a balance of €42.4 million remained at the end of 2023 (€2.7 million in the MAVA sinking fund, €34.8 million in the GFC sinking fund, and €4.9 million in the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation sinking fund).

In line with the prior year, the miscellaneous provisions amounted to €146.240 reflecting outstanding invoices for consulting and other services in connection with investment advisory, custody fees, accounting, financial statements, and audit.

The asset side of the balance sheet reflects a division between investment securities (€67.5 million) and cash (€6 million).

The Financial Statement 2023 will be published when the 2023 audit report is finalised by PONT’s independent auditor expected in mid-2024. A summary of the 2023 Financials is provided in the full PONT Annual Report 2023 which can be downloaded here.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to thank Dr. Klaus Müller, Director for Southeast Europe and Turkey, KfW Development Bank, for his time and contribution to PONT. He will be succeeded by Karen Möhring of KfW who plans to join the PONT Supervisory Board during the first quarter of 2024.

Under the leadership of David Morrison, the pro-bono contribution of our investment committee members (Al Breach, Johan Holgersson, Ronald Kent, Alessandro Manghi and Hanna Loikkanen) remains invaluable. PONT would like to thank all of them for their contribution.

A special thank you to Ronny Dobbelsteijn for providing us with pro bono support for our public relations, IT, and communications.

We would also like to thank all our cooperation partners for their co-financing contributions and technical inputs.

Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust - PONT - Conservation, Sustainability
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