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Indigenous people are disproportionately represented among the destitute; they constitute approximately five per cent of the world's population, but make up 15 per cent of the world's poor. The majority of them have historically faced social exclusion and marginalisation. Their levels of access to adequate health and education services are well below national averages. And they are especially vulnerable to the consequences of environmental degradation.

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The 2nd replenishment meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund (GEF-7) was held earlier this month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, discussing the future direction of the GEF to tackle the drivers of environmental degradation.

The two-day meeting opened October 4 with a keynote address by Dr. Gemedo Dalle, Minister of the Environment for Ethiopia, who highlighted his country’s sustainable development plans, and “commitment to support the vison and objectives of the GEF”. 

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The Global Environment Facility is a knowledge-based organization in which evaluation is central to accountability, results and learning. For it to be truly useful, it must respond to changes both in the external landscape in which the Facility operates and in internal modus operandi. During the Facility’s 7th Replenishment process, the Independent Evaluation Office is completing its sixth Comprehensive Evaluation under the theme ‘the Global Environment Facility in the Changing Landscape of Environmental Finance’.

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More than just a financial mechanism or a partnership agreement, the Global Environment Facility sits at the very heart of global action to protect and restore our environment. This edition of Our Planet looks at the work of the Facility, which for more than a quarter century has driven catalytic change, enabling progress on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

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The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 was an historic moment for our planet, producing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity in addition to the Rio Declaration. Bhutan, under the far-sighted leadership of our monarchs, was one of the early countries to welcome and support both agreements to help tackle the world's most pressing environmental problems.

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Many may think us an unlikely pair – Republican Representative from Nebraska, in the heartland of America, and a progressive Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, the Ocean State. However, we have come together as Co-Chairs in the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus because we share a conviction that good natural resource management is fundamental to building a strong economy, bolstering national security, and protecting public health.

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As stretch targets for the world, the Sustainable Development Goals offer a game plan for harmonizing the demands of a fast-growing human population with a dwindling finite natural resource base. Business, government and civil society need to work together in radically new ways to meet them.

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Here’s a prediction: planetary intelligence could emerge on Earth by 2050. “Hold on,” you might say, “that has emerged already, right? Homo Sapiens.” No. What we have is a technologically advanced civilization. There is a subtle difference.

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There is no doubt that science is increasingly expanding our knowledge of the problem of environmental degradation (including our role in it) and the extent to which it affects our ability to continually improve our living conditions.

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Since the Global Environment Facility was established more than 25 years ago, the global dimension of environmental challenges has become increasingly evident. Scientists tell us that our 'planetary boundaries', the bio-physical processes that determine the stability and resilience of the Earth, are being pushed to their limit or overstepped, with high risks of severely jeopardizing the very base that has allowed our societies to thrive over the past 10,000 years. Especially in developing countries, environmental degradation is imperiling, if not sweeping away, development achievements.

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