The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) tonight at its gala at Central Park Zoo honored Carlos Manuel Rodríguez for his life-long dedication fighting for nature in his homeland of Costa Rica and now for the world as CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Said Monica Medina, President and CEO of WCS: “Carlos Manuel Rodríguez is a force of nature and a force for nature. With his leadership, Costa Rica stopped and subsequently reversed deforestation. From his early career as a passionate environmental lawyer—to when he helped transform Costa Rica as its Environment and Energy Minister—to when he became a global leader who helped forge the Convention on Biological Diversity agreement—Carlos Manuel has always understood the value of nature.”

Said Rodríguez: “WCS is on the front line of change. On the frontline of conservation. On the front line of scaling up. What they do is good for nature and good for people.”

The GEF is a multilateral environmental fund created in advance of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It provides grants and blended finance to support projects in 144 countries related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, persistent organic pollutants, mercury, sustainable forest management, food security, and sustainable cities. It is the largest source of funding for biodiversity globally. Rodríguez was elected to head the GEF in 2020 by the organization’s 183 partnership countries.

Rodríguez has been a long-time supporter and an advocate for WCS and its mission. He has been a champion for the WCS Mesoamerican Five Forests Initiative, and his leadership of the initiative has been crucial to its momentum. The GEF is a strong supporter of WCS conservation.

Medina joined WCS on June 1, 2023, as President and CEO. Just prior to WCS, Medina worked in the U.S. Department of State as the first U.S. Diplomat Designated to Advocate for Global Biodiversity and served as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. In her position at WCS, she oversees a global conservation program that harnesses the power of four zoos and an aquarium in New York City and conservation programs in more than 50 countries around the world.

“If you’d asked me to design an organization that is perfectly aligned with my passion for nature and the work I’ve done in government and the nonprofit world, I would have come up with WCS,” said Medina.