Castries, Saint Lucia (September 13, 2016) Next week, Caribbean leaders from up to 15 nations, including Ministers and other government officials, private sector and civil society, will convene in Saint Lucia for a five-day event to advance regional marine conservation goals, sustainable finance strategies and cooperation in the Caribbean. The Fourth Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) Annual Meeting and the First Meeting of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) Council will be held in Castries from September 19-23, 2016 and will be attended by nearly 80 Caribbean and international participants. The Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) is a coalition of governments, companies and partners committed to protecting twenty percent of the Caribbean marine and coastal environment by 2020 through the establishment of marine protected areas, other conservation initiatives, and increased corporate responsibility. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) has partnered with the CCI to provide the financial framework to sustainably fund the effective management of the Caribbean marine environment. The CBF is a regional endowment fund of US $42 million contributed by the German Government through the German Development Bank (KfW), the Global Environment Facility(GEF) through World Bank (WB) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). CBF provides an innovative financial solution to bridge the funding gap for environmental initiatives. The CBF, together with an initial set of eight national conservation funds, form the Caribbean Sustainable Finance Architecture. Through the CBF, funding will be available for conservation activities from mangrove restoration to managing some of the region’s marine protected areas. CCI and CBF participating jurisdictions include Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grenada, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the US Virgin Islands, a list which may grow during the course of next week’s meetings. The CBF regional funds will be distributed through recently established National Conservation Trusts on participating islands. The Trusts have to raise their own funding locally, but double their resources and impact by receiving a dollar from the CBF for every dollar raised nationally. “Environmental degradation in the Caribbean is serious. The CCI and CBF are bringing multiple actors to the table to take down barriers, collaborate and advance conservation actions that are meaningful for our Caribbean livelihoods and national economies,” says Yabanex Batista, CBF Chief Executive Officer. The meetings mark a historic moment for Caribbean collaboration, both inter-governmental as well as through growing partnerships with the tourism industry and non-governmental organizations. Throughout the week, attendees will analyze challenges, determine solutions, share successes, and develop a strategic plan for achieving sustainable conservation goals on the path to 2020 and beyond.