DateJune 14-18, 2021

In line with the continued health and safety measures being applied in most countries in response to COVID-19, the 60th Council meeting of the GEF and the 30th LDCF/SCCF Council meetings were 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 at different intervals determined by each constituency. 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 Enhancing Climate Resilience: The Role of Civil Society, and Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on June 11, 2021.

IISD Council Coverage

The GEF and Least Developed Countries Fund/Special Climate Change Fund (LDCF/SCCF) Councils both approved the co-chairs' summaries and concluded their meetings on June 18.


The LDCF/SCCF Council considered several agenda items, including planning for the development of the 2022-2026 GEF programming strategy on adaptation to climate change for Council endorsement in June 2022. The Council supported the proposal, with many members and the GEF Civil Society Organizations Network indicating interest in participating.

During a discussion on the work program and budget for the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) under the LDCF and SCCF, Council members were briefed on the evaluation of portfolio-level performance and lessons learned. Members inquired about the low sustainability rating of the analyzed sample of projects, and commended the good progress on including gender issues in projects. On project sustainability, the Secretariat noted that: the review covered projects from the GEF-4, GEF-5, and GEF-6 funding cycles, and learning by countries, agencies, and the GEF Secretariat has been incorporated over time; projects have increasingly addressed the sustainability question, as lessons have been learned; and some projects were affected by the global pandemic.

On pledges, Germany called attention to its pledge of EUR 100 million to the LDCF, as announced during the Adaptation Summit in January 2021. Sweden announced an additional contribution of SEK 130 million. The Netherlands confirmed its EUR 20 million pledge for the LDCF. Denmark and Switzerland indicated they were considering increasing their pledges.

On the question of LDCF/SCCF visibility, Council members called for a strong LDCF presence at the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, including a side event and conducting a comprehensive outreach strategy, with regular reporting to the Council, among other actions. The Secretariat reported it is upgrading its website and will be using the occasion of the GEF’s 30th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of the LDCF/SCCF to further its outreach activities.

The joint summary of the LDCF/SCCF co-chairs was approved with minor amendments.

GEF Council

The GEF Council reviewed the joint summary of the GEF Council co-chairs and added text noting the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) presentation to the Council. The summary was approved without further amendment.

In closing, GEF CEO Rodriguez complimented Council members on a productive meeting. He reminded members that the Council would meet in executive session with UNDP after closing, and that the Secretariat would be providing members with monthly updates on the process with UNDP. He also noted preparations for the next GEF-8 replenishment meeting in September. The Council extended its thanks to outgoing Council Member Kordula Mehlhart of Germany.

Elected Chair Møglestue thanked members for working constructively all week, remarking that the GEF Council is unique. She also thanked CEO Rodriguez for his vision that guides GEF work.

The CSO Network thanked all for “a real participatory event,” and expressed hope that future GEF processes will include full CSO participation.

Rodriguez closed the meeting at 9:21 AM EDT.

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LDCF/SCCF Council meeting

GEF Council Members convened for the 30th meeting of the Least Developed Countries Fund/Special Climate Change Fund (LDCF/SCCF) Council. GEF CEO and Chairperson Rodríguez introduced substantive discussions in the LDCF/SCCF Council by highlighting that these funds seek to catalyze action and investment in adaptation for countries most vulnerable to climate change under the philosophy of “leave no LDC behind.”

Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi (Bhutan), Chair, Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, said LDCs consider the LDCF “our fund,” given that there is no competition from other countries for funding. He said LDCs need $1 billion in the GEF-8 replenishment for adaptation funding. He also called attention to the “LDC 2050 Vision” initiative, through which LDCs aim to “be net zero” by 2050.

The LDCF/SCCF Council approved an LDCF work program comprising seven projects, including four multi-trust fund projects, for total resources amounting to $60.73 million, inclusive of GEF project financing and agency fees. With this work program’s adoption, the fund has reached 91% of LDCs during the GEF-7 cycle.

The LDCF/SCCF Council also approved the Annual Monitoring Review of the LDCF and SCCF, welcoming its overall finding that the two portfolios under implementation performed satisfactorily in fiscal year 2020 and welcoming progress made in reporting portfolio-level performance, results, and lessons learned.

During a discussion on the Progress Report on the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund, LDCF/SCCF Council members queried the lack of recent funding for the SCCF, and called for more indicators and disaggregated data on progress. They adopted a decision welcoming the report and taking note with appreciation of the progress made under the LDCF and SCCF.

GCF/GEF complementarity, civil society engagement, and other agenda items

On the long-term vision on complementarity, coherence, and collaboration between the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the GEF, GEF Council members highlighted opportunities for streamlining processes while calling for the unique strengths and partnerships for each organization to be retained. They called for concrete future activities, with regular updates, with one suggesting that the GEF focus on early-stage innovative approaches, and the GCF concentrate on scaling up. Members adopted an amended decision welcoming “in particular the establishment of a joint steering committee” and looking forward to an annual joint progress report.

The GEF Council agreed to focus on “Engaging the Youth in Promoting GEF’s mission: Youth-led Advocacy and Solutions to the Planet’s Environmental Crisis” as the theme for its consultation with civil society before the GEF Council meeting in December 2021.

The Council agreed to hold its 64th session from June 11-13, 2023 and its 65th session from December 10-12, 2023.

Given changes in the scheduling cycle of supporting documentation used for annual managerial performance ratings of the GEF CEO and the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) Director, the Council adopted a decision proposed by its Selection and Review Committee to start conducting the annual reviews at the Council’s December session instead of the June session as it has done in the past.

The Council adopted a decision establishing a new numbering system for Council decisions, so the decisions can be more readily searched, located, and referenced and have their individual texts provided online for interested parties to access.

The Council discussed a recent ranking of the GEF in the 2021 Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) Report and the Secretariat’s analysis of why it may not accurately reflect the GEF’s performance. CEO Rodriguez reported that he has initiated discussions with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Center for Global Development, and others that rate aid quality on a possible improved methodology for comparing aid that better reflects what the GEF and other environment funds do. He promised to report back to the Council on the topic.

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Rosina Bierbaum, Chair, Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), updated the 60th meeting of the GEF Council on STAP’s recent work, its evaluation of the GEF work program and programming proposals for the GEF-8 replenishment, and STAP’s plans for the coming months. The GEF Council also conducted a dialogue with five executive secretaries of the conventions that the GEF serves.

Bierbaum outlined the STAP’s views on the current version of programming proposals for the GEF-8 replenishment, and explained how recent STAP studies and briefs can inform GEF-8 programming. Bierbaum also discussed how GEF-8 programming might be informed by insights gained from recent STAP workshops on business and biodiversity mainstreaming and on risk appetite and transformational change, as well as a technical dialogue on enhancing climate change adaptation. She briefed the Council on ongoing STAP work on: knowledge management in GEF programming; climate risk screening; circular economy approaches; measuring co-benefits; metrics for transformational change; and South-South knowledge exchange.

GEF CEO Rodriguez noted the timeliness of the dialogue with the executive secretaries, given their shared priority of supporting a clean, green recovery from COVID-19 and the GEF’s role in fostering integrated action. Among other updates, the executive secretaries discussed plans for the next meetings of Conferences of the Parties (COP) of their respective conventions. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is currently expected to convene COP 15 in Kunming, China, in October 2021. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is expected to convene COP 26 in Glasgow, UK, in November 2021. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) postponed its COP 15 from late 2021 to between May and October 2022, and expects to announce the date and venue soon. Both the combined meetings of the COPs to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions and the fourth meeting of the COP to the Minamata Convention will convene virtual meetings in 2021, followed by in-person events in 2022.

Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, noted that despite the fact that the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are not enough to get the world on the path we need to be on, there are signs of hope: the US has rejoined the Paris Agreement and submitted its NDC, the Republic of Korea has committed to a coal-free future, and the International Energy Agency has reported that the movement to renewables is robust, among other positive developments. She said the UNFCCC needs the GEF, countries need the GEF, and developing nations need the GEF. Espinosa noted that the original mandate of the GEF to serve the Convention and the Paris Agreement is more crucial than ever, as we aim for enhanced global climate ambition in both mitigation and adaptation efforts, and added that the needs will only grow stronger moving forward.

Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said the GEF is a knowledge hub and science advisor in addition to its other roles. He highlighted that the UN General Assembly just convened a High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, and speakers agreed that investing in land is a smart and effective choice for quick and positive impact. He said land integrates many of the GEF’s focal areas, and suggested making investments in early warning systems. He stated that the synergies agenda should be the “new normal” in GEF-8 programming.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, CBD Executive Secretary, discussed the preparatory discussions for COP 15 and the development of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. She said the first formal draft of the framework will be prepared for the upcoming virtual meeting in August, and highlighted key aspects of the current zero draft that are relevant to the GEF, including the calls for ensuring the participation of all stakeholders and outreach and awareness raising to ensure the framework’s uptake. She also stated that the GEF will have an important role in engendering integrated approaches to implementation, cutting across all its focal areas.

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, BRS Conventions, noted that many toxic chemicals still need to be eliminated, including DDT. He reviewed the Conventions’ funding needs for GEF-8, and noted that the Stockholm Convention’s Review Committee has begun looking at additives in plastics that threaten human health and cause environmental damage. He discussed the interlinkages among chemicals management, biodiversity, and climate change. As one example, he noted that lithium mining takes place in forests, requiring the construction of roads, with follow-on impacts on biodiversity and climate change.

Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention, highlighted that investing in any GEF focal area provides support for other focal areas, while underinvestment in one focal area puts other focal areas at risk. She stated that the Convention would be in a position to have greater global environmental benefits from mercury emission reductions in GEF-8, with transformative change in trade and supply chains relative to mercury. She also touched on the widespread economic and social benefits of full implementation of the Minamata Convention and on the “enormous” costs of not fulfilling the treaty obligations. Countries’ work to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury use and emissions must be part of the blue and green recovery, she said.

Also on Wednesday, the Council convened an hour early to continue its discussion of the GEF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) reports on GEF Engagement with Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, GEF Support to Innovation – Findings and Lessons, Institutional Policies and Engagement at the GEF, and Results Based Management – Evaluations of the Agency Self-Evaluation Systems and the GEF Portal. Françoise Clottes and Gustavo Fonseca answered members’ questions and comments about the Secretariat’s responses to the IEO report.

In addition, the Secretariat presented the GEF Business Plan and Corporate Budget for fiscal year 2022. The decision approving the requested budget of $30.768 million for 2022 was adopted with no changes.

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The Council focused on a set of evaluations prepared by the GEF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO). Council members were reminded that the evaluations will serve as inputs to the IEO's Seventh Overall Performance Study (OPS) of the GEF and will help inform the GEF-8 replenishment talks. The IEO presented all seven reports and the GEF Secretariat delivered its responses to each. Council members discussed three, adopting decisions on the Small Grants Programme (SGP) and Country Support Program (CSP). Discussions on the other evaluations will continue on June 16.

Opening the discussion, Council-elected Chairperson Møglestue reminded members that the Council decided at its last meeting to shift the focus of its decisions on IEO evaluations from endorsing the reports to considering whether to endorse management responses by the GEF Secretariat.

In its evaluation of the SGP, IEO recommendations included updating the long-term vision, analyzing the funding impacts of adding countries to the Programme, improving the approach to and measurement of sustainability in the SGP, and reviewing and re-energizing governance. The Secretariat said it is working on these issues and will provide inputs to the GEF-8 replenishment talks. Council members supported the recommendations, with many urging expansion of the SGP under GEF-8. The Council adopted a decision endorsing management’s response.

In its evaluation of the CSP, the IEO recommended increasing collaboration with other global environmental funds, developing a clear strategy and implementation plan, enhancing inclusiveness, and applying customized capacity-building. The Secretariat said it is working on these issues, would provide appropriate inputs to the GEF-8 replenishment talks, and would present to the June 2022 Council session a paper on capacity-building. Council members called for more synergies with other funds and the conventions the GEF serves, and stressed the need to enhance the role of focal points. The Council adopted a decision endorsing management's response.

The evaluation on GEF integrated approach programs called for clarifying program-level reporting requirements for lead agencies, further catalyzing and demonstrating the value addition of a programmatic approach to integration, and diversifying the countries included in integrated programs. The Secretariat said work in line with IEO recommendations is underway and will factor into GEF-8. He noted that 11 Impact Programs (IPs) are proposed for GEF-8, including one on green and blue recovery for Small Island Developing States. During Council debate, several members supported an amendment to the draft decision. A final decision was delayed until Wednesday, June 16 to allow members time to consider the amendment.

Regarding the evaluation of GEF engagement with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the IEO found that MSMEs sometimes do not continue participating in interventions due to insufficient follow-up technical and financial support. The Secretariat agreed with the evaluation’s recommendations to bolster such support.

The IEO evaluation of GEF support to innovation found that GEF-integrated projects commonly incorporate innovation not necessarily correlated with higher outcomes or sustainability risks. The IEO recommended continuously monitoring risk, requiring monitoring and evaluation and mid-term reviews (MTRs) in all innovative projects, and partnering to mobilize more capital. The Secretariat responded that innovation evaluation must have greater impact for systemic change and noted cross-linkages between these findings and those of other evaluations being presented.

Regarding the evaluation of GEF institutional policies and engagement, the IEO recommended: tying together policies on stakeholder engagement, gender equality, and environmental and social safeguard under an “inclusion” rubric and stressing their complementarities and contribution to the GEF program; resetting GEF's relationship with the CSO Network; and recalibrating the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group mechanism. The Secretariat agreed with the evaluation’s findings, saying it is focused on improving processes and may play a greater role as relation broker with partners, including in knowledge-sharing and capacity development.

The final IEO evaluation presented looked at both the GEF agency self-evaluation systems and the GEF Portal. On the former, the IEO called for strengthening the use of MTRs by the Secretariat and agencies, and for strengthening learning systems and cross-agency exchanges. On the Portal, the IEO recommended improving user feedback mechanisms and a time-bound plan to speed up Portal development. The Secretariat responded by proposing to reinforce guidance on evaluating good practice, adaptive management, and problem solving in MTRs and to review MTRs, with greater country engagement and monitoring of timely submission. The Secretariat also proposed to enhance incentives for candor in self-evaluation, better capture lessons learned, identify gateways for sharing these across the partnership, and host knowledge-sharing events on better tools for self-assessment.

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GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez opened the 60th GEF Council meeting and expressed his hope that this would be the last virtual Council meeting on account of COVID-19. He highlighted the need to work together to address “the crises in front of us,” including climate change, biodiversity and wildlife habitat loss, land degradation, ocean pollution and depletion, and dangerous chemicals. The CEO suggested that strong political signals for more sustainability action coming from political leaders, including the G7 Leaders’ Summit that concluded over the weekend, are cause for hope. He reported that the first meeting for the GEF-8 replenishment discussed how the GEF can scale up action on interrelated environmental threats, and expressed general support for the GEF’s plans and priorities.

Rodriguez highlighted that the Council will consider the formalization of an agreement for the long-term vision on complementarity, coherence, and collaboration between the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the GEF, among other agenda items. In closing, he reminded participants that the GEF is turning 30 this year and said the GEF will be running a campaign for the next six months under the theme #ForThePlanet. 

Rodriguez welcomed Mette Møglestue, Norway, as the Elected Chairperson for 2021.

After adopting the agenda, the Council proceeded to discuss three agenda items: Progress Report on the Independent Third Party Review of the UN Development Programme (UNDP); follow-up of UNDP-related decisions from the 59th Council meeting; and work program for the GEF Trust Fund.

On the progress report, Council members expressed appreciation for the report, the transparency of the process, and signs of progress so far. On follow-up to the UNDP-related decisions from the 59th Council meeting, Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, UNDP, updated the Council on UNDP’s ongoing self-assessment, reported completion of a first follow-up audit, and said a second audit will assess sustainability of changes made. He said strengthening risk management will continue.

Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Director of Programs, introduced the proposed work Program for the GEF Trust Fund, containing 33 projects and addenda to three existing programs for a total request of $257.3 million from the GEF Trust Fund and $23.8 million in associated agency fees. He pointed out that the total of $281.1 million represents 7.2% of the entire GEF-7 replenishment. He reported that, if approved, the work program would result in 100% achievement of five core GEF-7 indicators, while a sixth will nearly reach that level. Stand-alone full-sized projects include eight on international waters, four on biodiversity, three on climate change mitigation, and two on chemicals and waste. The work program also includes six multi-focal area projects and four multi-trust fund projects.

Most Council members intervening expressed support for the work program as proposed, although some requested that certain projects undergo a second review before CEO endorsement to address specific concerns about project design or issues such as additionality. Council members adopted the decision as presented.

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GEF Voices

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.

30 Years of the GEF

The GEF’s 30th Anniversary is an opportune moment to both celebrate past achievements as well as highlight the challenges ahead. 

Over the coming months, our digital campaign #ForThePlanet will take a deep-dive into the past, present and the future of the GEF, and the issues we work on.

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to get updates as each story is released.

Related Documents

Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/C.60/Highlights Highlights
GEF/C.60/JointSummary Joint Summary of the GEF Council Co-Chairs
IEO Information Documents
Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/E/C.60/Inf.01 Management Action Record 2021

Wrapup Video and Proceedings

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