In line with the continued health and safety measures being applied in most countries in response to COVID-19, the 59th Council meeting of the GEF and the 29th LDCF/SCCF Council meeting was held virtually with a full agenda.
The Council, the GEF's main governing body, comprises 32 members appointed by constituencies of GEF member countries (14 from developed countries, 16 from developing countries, and two from economies in transition). Council members rotate every three years or until the constituency appoints a new member. The Council, which meets twice annually, develops, adopts and evaluates the operational policies and programs for GEF-financed activities. It also reviews and approves the work program (projects submitted for approval), making decisions by consensus.
The Council meeting was preceded by a consultation with CSOs on the topic, "Application of Traditional Knowledge by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, Stewards of the Global Environment," on December 4, 2020.
IISD Council Coverage
On Friday, Council members approved the work program for the GEF Trust Fund, and concluded the 59th meeting of the GEF Council.
Council members then convened as the 29th meeting of the Council of the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) – two GEF-administered funds focused on helping the world’s poorest countries to increase their resilience and adapt to climate change.
Council members approved a $64 million LDCF work program comprising nine projects, including three multi-trust fund projects that combine resources with the GEF.
Council members considered the LDCF program evaluation comprising in-depth analysis of approved and completed projects on relevance, effectiveness, gender performance, private sector engagement, and sustainability, among other issues.
During a pledging session for the LDCF, Dirk Wouters, Ambassador of Belgium to the US, announced his country’s pledge of 20 million euros to be disbursed over four years. Switzerland pledged 700,000 Swiss francs. Finland pledged 5 million euros. Qatar pledged $500,000.
Following approval of the Joint Summary of the Chairs for both the GEF Council and the LDCF/SCCF Council meetings, GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodríguez led the Council in bidding farewell to longstanding Council Member Stefan Schwager, Switzerland.
On Thursday, Françoise Clottes, GEF's Director of Strategy and Operations, presented the report, “Impact of COVID-19 on GEF Project Preparation and Implementation,” which provides an overview of responses from across the GEF partnership of a survey that aimed to better understand implications of the pandemic on GEF projects and programs. Council members approved the decision to allow the GEF CEO to make an exceptional, time-bound authorization to the Project Cancellation Policy. This will enable the GEF to extend project timelines by 24 months, as needed, in order to allay the impacts of the pandemic.
The Council further considered a proposal by the Trustee to implement the proposed Sustainable Bond Strategy for the GEF Trust Fund, which seeks to add to a set of options for a responsible investment strategy for the Facility. While welcoming the proposals, Members underscored the importance of ensuring that all financing instruments are fully aligned with the Paris Agreement on climate change and global goals on sustainable and inclusive development.
Inviting members to launch the negotiation process towards the eighth replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-8), GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodríguez urged the Council to lay the foundation for an ambitious GEF-8 strategy to build back better and greener. Council members adopted the draft decision.
The Council also adopted decisions on: the Private Sector Engagement Strategy; extending the mandate of the Working Group on Governance until 30 January 2022; and the Update on the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund.
On Wednesday, Gustavo Fonseca, GEF's Director of Programs, presented the work program, amounting to $409.2 million, consisting of 60 projects and two programs: Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program; and the Yangtze River Basin Biodiversity Conservation Program. Fonseca explained that green recovery, post COVID-19 is a key feature of most of the projects in the work plan. Council members raised questions and sought clarification on several issues.
The Council then heard updates from the executive secretaries of four multilateral environmental agreements: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Minamata Convention on Mercury; and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions. The discussions touched on the status of negotiations ahead of the meetings of their respective conferences of the parties in 2021, and their financial needs under GEF-8. At the close of the session members adopted the corresponding draft decision which requests the GEF partnership to continue to work with recipient countries to reflect the guidance and national priorities in their GEF programming and activities.
On Tuesday, Rosina Bierbaum, Chair, Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), presented the report of the Chair of the STAP. She highlighted the Panel’s perspectives on a three-pronged strategy that seeks to ensure that: individual investments are efficient, transformative and durable; the GEF portfolio is more integrated and transformational; and the GEF catalyses the transformation of economic systems using its convening power and leverage to form partnerships to deliver more environmentally sustainable development.
Council members considered the Report of the Working Group on Governance. Introducing the report of the ad hoc working group, Stefan Schwager, Switzerland, highlighted positive results relating to the efficiency and transparency of the GEF's decision-making processes. He highlighted recommendations that the Council not only consider the evaluation report and recommendations, but also the management response.
Council members also discussed four reports by the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) on: GEF support in fragile and conflict-affected situations; interventions in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector; the role of medium-sized projects in the GEF partnership; and knowledge management. The Secretariat reported that the global pandemic has not had a major detrimental effect on the evaluations, even though field work was suspended in March. Members expressed appreciation for the quality of the evaluations.
In closing of the day's agenda, the Council re-opened discussions on the private sector engagement strategy. Some called for text on increasing the role of operational focal points, while others noted this topic is currently under discussion in the ad hoc Working Group on Governance. GEF CEO and Chairperson, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez recommended resuming discussion of this issue on Wednesday, after members have had a chance to reflect on the different options on the table.
GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodríguez opened the virtual 59th meeting of the GEF Council, observing that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is part of a series of overlapping crises that have been triggered by human-caused biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. Noting the pandemic has put urgent short-term economic recovery at the top of government agendas, he emphasized the importance of seizing this “once-in-a-lifetime chance” to address these global challenges in an integrated way.
The GEF Secretariat presented the GEF Monitoring Report 2020, including an assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on select operational areas. Prior to adopting the report, Council Members sought clarification on, among other things, reasons for slow implementation of projects by small island developing states, the impacts of COVID-19 on project implementation, and how these impacts affect risk assessment.
Council Members considered the GEF Secretariat Private Sector Engagement Strategy and Implementation Plan, noting its core elements, including: systems orientation for working strategically with multi-stakeholder platforms; internal orientation, which is a systematic approach to crowding-in the private sector; and external orientation, which supports multiple private sector entry points. Members supported the strategy and plan noting the need for, among other things: increased civil society participation in the strategy and plan development; capacity building of the private sector to understand modalities of engagement with the GEF; and ensuring priorities of GEF recipient countries are adhered to by the private sector.
Council Members also discussed and adopted the Report on the Assessment of GEF Agencies’ Compliance with GEF Minimum Fiduciary Standards, which presented the findings of the limited compliance reassessment, including agency self-assessments and certificates of compliance, as well as action plans to address areas of non-compliance.
Watch a video recap of the Council, with highlights provided by IISD Reporting Services
This interview series highlights individuals from across our partnership, including Council Members and Focal Points, whose collective actions are helping the GEF unlock a healthier, safe, more prosperous world for future generations.