DateDecember 1-10, 2021

In line with the continued health and safety measures being applied in most countries in response to COVID-19, the 61st Council meeting of the GEF and the 31st LDCF/SCCF Council meetings 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 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.

IISD Council Coverage

The 61st meeting of the GEF Council and the 31st meeting of the Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund (LDCF/SCCF) Council finished their work on Friday, 10 December. The LDCF/SCCF Council reviewed a progress report on the Funds, discussed the development of the GEF Programming Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change for the LDCF/SCCF, and considered the Independent Evaluation Office’s (IEO) program evaluation of the SCCF. Following a review of Co-Chairs’ summaries from the meetings of both Councils, the GEF Council concluded with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the GEF.

LDCF/SCCF Council Meeting

The meeting considered a review of the progress report on the LDCF and SCCF, as presented by Chizuru Aoki, GEF Secretariat. Aoki highlighted that expected results for the LDCF include: 51.34 million direct beneficiaries; 5.8 million hectares of land better managed to withstand effects of climate change; 1.04 million people trained on adaptation strategies and measures; and 2,521 policies and plans to integrate adaptation strategies and measures. She also outlined expected results for the SCCF, including: 7.38 million direct beneficiaries; 4.01 million hectares of land better managed; 209,301 people trained to identify, prioritize, implement, and evaluate adaptation strategies and measures; 462 policies, plans, and processes developed or strengthened to integrate adaptation strategies and measures; and 175 risk and vulnerability assessments.

Aoki highlighted the Challenge Program competition, from which new project concepts were identified. GEF CEO Rodríguez praised the level of innovation in the submissions to the Challenge Program, and said it was hard to narrow down the winners. He also thanked Council Members for their support with communication and outreach to position the LDCF and SCCF on the frontline for assistance to vulnerable societies.

Council Members supported a suggestion to disaggregate data by age and sex, commended efforts to raise the visibility of the Funds, and adopted the decision on the agenda item.

On the update on the development of the GEF Programming Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change for the LDCF and SCCF, the Secretariat noted that a proposed virtual second LDCF/SCCF strategy meeting will take place in February 2022, with a third meeting to follow before the 32nd LDCF/SCCF Council meeting.

During discussion, Council Members inquired about the relationship between the LDCF and the Adaptation Fund, indicated support for a shift towards innovation and private sector engagement, approved a gender focus, and urged other donors to contribute.

GEF CEO Rodríguez said the GEF can find ways to bring mitigation-focused projects into the realm of adaptation, adding that nature-based solutions can provide large-scale impact for both.

GEF Council Meeting

Among the concluding issues raised during the final session of the 61st meeting of the GEF Council, GEF CEO Rodríguez discussed planning for the final replenishment meetings. The location of an in-person meeting in January 2022 remains to be decided. The fourth meeting is expected to take place from 6-8 April 2022, at a location to be announced.

The Council elected Ambassador Feturi Elisaia, Samoa, to serve as GEF Council Co-Chair for 2022. Elisaia called on all Members to be part of the solution to the many challenges the world is facing, stressing that “many hands make light work.” Outgoing Elected Co-Chair Møglestue thanked the Council for their support and congratulated Ambassador Elisaia on his election, offering to share lessons learned during the first year of the pilot on one-year chairing arrangements.

The GEF Council then took a moment to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the GEF. Following messages from past GEF CEOs, implementing Agencies, and stakeholders, Council Members expressed their support for the GEF’s work and looked forward to many more decades.

GEF CEO Rodríguez celebrated the integrated approach the GEF takes in focusing on both the “drivers and symptoms” of environmental degradation, and shared the release of the new GEF publication reflecting on 30 years of GEF activities.

Co-Chair Møglestue highlighted that the GEF is crucial to transforming multilateral decisions into action on the ground and could serve as a great model to other multilateral funds.

GEF CEO Rodríguez closed the meeting at 10:54 am EST.

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On the fourth day of the 61st meeting of the GEF Council, the Council approved a Work Program worth USD 190.7 million. The Work Program comprises 25 projects and one program. During the 31st meeting of the LDCF/SCCF Council, the Work Program for the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was approved. It comprises three projects with total resources from the LDCF amounting to USD 19.62 million.

Work Program for GEF Trust Fund

GEF CEO Rodríguez introduced this agenda item, and Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, presented the proposed Work Program to the Council. Explaining that the Work Program would direct significant resources to vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia, and across the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS), Fonseca highlighted that the Program is expected to leverage a total of USD 1.4 billion in co-financing, of which USD 1.1 billion represents mobilized investment. He underlined that this figure exceeds the overall GEF-7 co-financing aspiration.

Fonseca said eight of the 18 Implementing Agencies will receive resources under the Program, with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), followed by the World Bank, and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), receiving the largest share. He further explained that the Chemicals and Waste, and International Waters focal areas will receive the largest allocations in this Work Program, noting these two areas were lagging behind in the previous GEF-7 Work Programs. Regarding recipient countries, he said 43 countries comprising ten LDCs and 18 SIDS would receive funds.

Fonseca concluded by highlighting the joint World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), UNEP, and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Statement on the definition of “One Health.” He said the redefinition of what a “one health” approach should look like is in line with the proposed GEF-8 strategy and conclusions of the white paper on the GEF COVID-19 Response Strategy.

During discussion on the Work Program, Council Members indicated they were generally satisfied with the increased focus on the Chemicals and Waste focal area but several questioned why the Climate Change focal area was lagging under this Work Program and GEF-7 in general. Some Members also noted decreased participation of the Latin America and the Caribbean region, and asked for clarification about the distribution of projects across focal areas and regions.

Some Council Members also reiterated the need for a better distribution of resources among GEF Agencies. One Council Member highlighted that Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets are voluntary and only one of several approaches to combating the impacts of drought and desertification, and cautioned that projects should not inadvertently make this a mandatory target. Among other concerns, a Council Member also called for gender to be considered and reported on in all GEF projects.

The Council then approved the Work Program of the GEF Trust Fund.

31st LDCF/SCCF Council Meeting

During the 31st meeting of the Council for the LDCF and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), the incoming Chair of the LDC Group, Madeleine Diouf Sarr, Senegal, highlighted that USD 413 million was pledged to the LDCF during the Glasgow Climate Change Conference in November, with contributions announced by Belgium, the Belgian region of Wallonia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US. She urged increased investment in private sector engagement and innovation and, for the SCCF, emphasized that around 1.1 billion people living in LDCs depend on these funds for critical support.

During discussion of the LDCF Work Program, which requests a total of USD 19.62 million for three projects to address climate change adaptation priorities in Malawi, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Solomon Islands, Council Members inquired about whether there is a pipeline of projects for the LDCF, given the small number of projects presented in the Work Program.

Council Members suggested continuing to hold pledging events like the one that took place during the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, and inquired about the GEF’s plans for the January 2022 meeting of the fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5).  

The Secretariat noted plans to organize an event at LDC5.

The LDCF/SCCF Council adopted the Work Program, and adjourned at 11:05 am EST.

On Thursday, the GEF Council also discussed the pilot on adjusted co-chairing arrangements, the organization of the Seventh GEF Assembly, and other business. The 61st meeting of the GEF Council will continue on Friday, 10 December, and will conclude with a celebration of the GEF’s 30th anniversary.

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On the third day of the 61st meeting of the GEF Council, Rosina Bierbaum, Chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), briefed Council Members on the STAP’s research results and upcoming areas of focus. The Executive Secretaries of four conventions for which the GEF serves as a financial mechanism updated Council Members on planning for in-person meetings of their Conferences of the Parties, and noted challenges that postponements of these meetings have meant for providing timely guidance to the GEF-8 negotiations. The Council was also briefed on the outcome of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26).

Report of the Chairperson of the STAP

Rosina Bierbaum discussed the STAP’s paper on the South-South Knowledge Exchange, and highlighted related recommendations for GEF-8 programming: to organize knowledge in a coherent manner; to develop a database of best practices from the Small Grants Programme (SGP); and to empower GEF operational focal points with the skills and understanding to define knowledge exchange needs and report results. She also presented STAP reports on “Enabling Elements of Good Project Design” and “How to Design Circular Economy Projects.”

Bierbaum described the STAP’s ongoing work on the sustainable blue economy, and noted that early consultations with Agencies and other experts confirm that GEF blue economy investments should be integrated, durable, and transformative.

On adaptation, Bierbaum described work on: a decision tree user guide, which aims to ensure adaptation projects deliver effective and durable outcomes; and an adaptation services framework, which will analyze GEF-supported adaptation services and aims to complement non-GEF adaptation investments.

Bierbaum identified highlights from the GEF Work Program, identifying three projects as good examples:

  • a Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) project on strategies and social solutions to manage bycatch in tropical large marine ecosystems, noting it incorporates a good theory of change and consideration of drivers, and focuses on long-term viability of the fisheries sector;
  • a UN Environment Programme/Asian Development Bank project on financing agrochemical reduction and management, saying it addresses the nexus of agrichemicals management, biodiversity conservation, and water pollution; and
  • an FAO project on land degradation neutrality (LDN) for improved equity, sustainability, and resilience, highlighting it as a good application of the LDN conceptual framework of “avoid, reduce, reverse.”

Bierbaum concluded by identifying areas of forthcoming STAP work on co-benefits, the blue economy, scenario planning, transformational change, natural capital approaches, and the report to the GEF Assembly.

During discussion, GEF CEO Rodríguez highlighted the importance of both GEF-8 and GEF-9 project funding in light of the latest climate change models. Council Members expressed appreciation for guidance on what constitutes a climate-relevant project for funding purposes, and noted the need for greater inclusion of social science components, such as indicators measuring impacts in rural areas. One Council Member questioned the lack of references to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bierbaum replied that most project identification forms have sections on COVID-19 and it is also taken into account when preparing projects.

Relations with Conventions and Other International Institutions

This agenda item involved three sections: presentations by the Executive Secretaries of four conventions the GEF serves; an update on the Glasgow Climate Change Conference; and consideration of a report on the conventions.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), highlighted that GEF funding incubated the Great Green Wall project when it started, and reported it is now receiving funding from banks. He said UNCCD COP 15 will take place in May 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), said the postponement of the January 2022 sessions of the subsidiary bodies will delay Parties’ input to GEF-8. She emphasized that upcoming decisions in multilateral processes, including the second part of CBD COP 15 in mid-2022, will have profound implications for the future and that a strong GEF-8 replenishment is essential.

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, said allocation of resources for managing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the GEF has not been commensurate with the evolution of the Stockholm Convention. He discussed expectations for the triple-COP meeting that is expected to take place in-person in June 2022, and said it would discuss guidance to GEF-8.

Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention, discussed plans for an in-person fourth COP session in Bali, Indonesia, in March 2022. She highlighted that Parties’ first full national reports are due at the end of December 2021 and noted the need to do a better job in sharing information on results of investments in implementation.

During discussion, Council Members highlighted: collaboration between the GEF and the Green Climate Fund (GCF); the GEF’s involvement in the Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) process; and the GEF’s work to ensure co-benefits from addressing environmental issues, such as pollution, biodiversity, and climate change.

Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), provided an update on the COP 26 outcomes, including the completion of the “Paris Agreement rulebook.“ He noted the attention to and financing announced for adaptation, including the establishment of a Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation. He reiterated the importance of an enhanced transparency framework on financing in order to build trust.

In response, GEF CEO Rodríguez welcomed guidance from the UNFCCC, especially on GEF climate financing, and noted the joint partnership between the GEF and the GCF. Council Members expressed concern that the increase in adaptation support should not be at the expense of support for mitigation, and highlighted the need for funding to support the preparation of Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs) under the Paris Agreement, among other issues.

Council Members then considered the report on “Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions,” and adopted a decision welcoming the report and requesting the GEF network to continue to work with recipient countries to reflect the guidance and national priorities in their GEF programming and activities.

On Thursday, 9 December, the Council will discuss planning for the seventh GEF Assembly and the Work Program, among other agenda items.

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The second day of the 61st meeting of the GEF Council began with an executive session during which Council members discussed the agenda items related to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The Council members will continue their discussion on these items on Wednesday. The GEF Council also discussed the share of GEF financing in agencies' portfolios and the seventh comprehensive evaluation of GEF results and performance. 

Reporting on the Share of GEF Financing in Agencies’ Portfolio

On the share of GEF financing in agencies’ portfolios, Francoise Clottes, GEF Secretariat, explained that two issues have been discussed with regard to this issue: relative levels of GEF financing in each GEF agency’s overall operations, and concentration of GEF funding for each implementing agency. Clottes said the report addresses the former issue and found that for all agencies, the level of GEF financing in their overall operations is well below the 30% ceiling. As a result, she said, the proposed decision does not recommend additional measures beyond light monitoring of the issue going forward.

During the discussion, Council members inquired about the distinction between agency focus and share of GEF funding and highlighted the need to increase the number of agencies that can be considered for project funding. Several stressed that countries must retain the ability to choose the agencies that will implement their GEF projects.

The Council adopted the draft decision that calls for the Secretariat to monitor this issue and submit a recommendation to Council if it is determined that additional measures are warranted in the future.

Seventh Comprehensive Evaluation of the GEF

On the agenda item titled, “Working Toward A Greener Global Recovery - Executive Summary of OPS7,” Council members considered the report prepared by the Independent Evaluation Office of the GEF. The report, which was prepared to inform GEF-8, summarizes the seventh comprehensive evaluation of GEF results and performance and is organized along three themes: what works in the GEF, how things work in the GEF, and why things work in the GEF. GEF management provided a response to the report, following which Council members offered questions and comments.

Juha Ilari Uitto, Director, GEF Independent Evaluation Office, outlined the eight conclusions from the evaluation, including the continuing relevance of the GEF, and the GEF’s strong performance record, with 80% of projects rated as satisfactory on outcomes and 68% on sustainability.

Many speakers emphasized the value of keeping the GEF as a learning institution and emphasized the need for responsive management. They called for strengthening country ownership and the country support program in particular, including through support of the operational focal points. The need for an overall country engagement strategy was also mentioned.

Some speakers noted the need to close the gap between having good policies on paper and implementing them effectively. Several speakers supported streamlining the application process while providing a robust review of project design.

Several supported creating a specific window that would have more tolerance of risk. Others asked how the GEF defined an acceptable level of risk. A few speakers noted the relevance of peace and security concerns for this discussion.

Several speakers requested a document that outlines all steps GEF management will take in response to the evaluation report. Many speakers welcomed a GEF focus on the least developed countries and small island developing states.

The second day concluded at 12:00 noon. Discussions on Wednesday, 8 December, are expected to include the report of the Chairperson of the STAP and relations with conventions and other international institutions.

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Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson, opened the 61st meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council on Monday, 6 December. He underscored that this is one of the most important Council meetings, particularly for the next generation. He also highlighted that the GEF is celebrating its 30th anniversary of providing support for environmental action worldwide.

Rodríguez noted that: the announcements and decisions made at the Glasgow Climate Change Conference kept the 1.5°C temperature goal “on life support,” and nature was “finally integrated into climate issues”; the pandemic is still severely impacting many parts of the world; and the floods, fires, and droughts we are seeing around the world are pushing the Earth beyond its natural limits.

Reflecting on the GEF CSO Consultation held on 3 December, Rodríguez highlighted youth participants’ message to the GEF that “we must deliver on our promises.” He said GEF-7 implementation and the Work Program to be presented to the Council demonstrate the GEF’s commitment to tackle environmental challenges in an integrated way, and noted many projects will contribute to blue and green recovery from the pandemic.

He said the GEF-8 replenishment must deliver solutions for the post-pandemic era, and noted that it will enable the GEF to scale up the impact of its initiatives in an effective and efficient way. Emphasizing the importance of the next ten years, Rodríguez stressed that the environmental crises the world is facing, such as climate change, land degradation, and ocean pollution, must be addressed together, not one at a time, and with everyone at the table, in order to achieve a nature-positive, carbon-neutral, and pollution-free world.

GEF Council Co-Chair Mette Møglestue, Norway, highlighted the GEF’s 30-year anniversary and underlined the need to reflect on the GEF’s many achievements as we look into the future.

Co-Chair Møglestue presided over the adoption of the agenda and an initial discussion of the agenda item on the UN Development Programme (UNDP) third-party review of UNDP’s compliance with GEF minimum fiduciary standards. On this agenda item, representatives from the GEF Secretariat, UNDP, and the independent reviewer presented on progress to date. Council Members discussed the recommendation for a follow-up report and inquired about provisions for whistleblowers, among other issues. The discussion will continue in an executive session on Tuesday, 7 December.

GEF CEO Rodríguez presided over the discussion of the GEF Monitoring Report 2021. Françoise Clottes, GEF Secretariat, reviewed the results as presented in the Portfolio Scorecard in the Monitoring Report. She noted multiple areas with good progress, including timing for the first disbursements and quality of implementation. She said the timing of Mid-Term Review (MTR) submission is an area that needs further attention, highlighting that pandemic travel restrictions have prevented many project teams from holding MTRs as planned.

During the discussion of the GEF Monitoring Report 2021, Council Members stressed the role of MTRs in identifying lessons learned and identifying options for “course correction,” and inquired about risk assessments, among other issues. The Secretariat noted that the risk ratings are provided by each implementing Agency and are not normed across agencies, although the data are still useful to track. In the decision on this agenda item, the Council welcomes the report and requests Agencies, through engagement with the Secretariat, to ensure the timely and quality delivery of MTRs as a tool to enhance implementation progress.

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. 

Follow our digital campaign #ForThePlanet which is taking a deep-dive into the past, present and the future of the GEF, and the issues we work on.

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

Click the button below to visit our 30 Years of the GEF landing page for a historical timeline and more.


Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/C.61/Highlights Highlights
GEF/C.61/JointSummary Joint Summary of the GEF Council Co-Chairs
Information Documents
Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/C.61/Inf.01/Rev.01 Provisional Timetable
GEF/C.61/Inf.02 Provisional List of Documents
GEF/C.61/Inf.03/Rev.01 GEF Council Members, Alternates, and Constituencies
GEF/C.61/Inf.04 GEF-7 Corporate Scorecard - December 2021
GEF/C.61/Inf.05 Long-term Vision on Complementarity, Coherence and Collaboration between the GCF and the GEF: Summary of the Presentation and Discussion at the 29th Meeting of the GCF Board
GEF/C.61/Inf.06 GEF Trust Fund Financial Report
GEF/C.61/Inf.07 GEF Private Sector Engagement Strategy Annual Report
GEF/C.61/Inf.08 The Use of Flexibility of STAR
GEF/C.61/Inf.09 Progress Report on the Implementation of the GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards
GEF/C.61/Inf.10 Progress Report on Agencies' Compliance with Minimum Standards in the GEF Policies on: Environmental and Social Safeguards, Gender Equality, and Stakeholder Engagement
GEF/C.61/Inf.11 Annual Report on Grievance Cases Involving GEF-funded Projects
GEF/C.61/Inf.12 Summary of the Extensions Granted Under the Cancellation Policy
GEF/C.61/Inf.13 Update Report on Reflows to the GEF Trust Fund from the Non-Grant Instrument Portfolio
GEF/C.61/Inf.14 Progress Report on GEF Agencies' Compliance with the GEF Minimum Fiduciary Standards
GEF/C.61/Inf.15 Progress Report on the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency
IEO Working Documents
Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/E/C.61/01 Working Toward a Greener Global Recovery - Executive Summary of the Final Report of OPS7
IEO Information Documents
Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/E/C.61/Inf.01 Working Toward a Greener Global Recovery - Final Report of OPS7
GEF/E/C.61/Inf.02 Annual Performance Report 2021

Reflections on 30 Years of the GEF

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