DateFebruary 5-9, 2024
Venue
Washington, DC

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 customarily meets twice annually but has decided to meet three times in 2024. It develops, adopts, and evaluates the operational policies and programs for GEF-financed activities, and reviews and approves the work program (projects submitted for approval), making decisions by consensus.

Three other meetings took place: a virtual GEF Consultations with Civil Society on Friday, February 2, the 35th LDCF/SCCF Council on Thursday, Feb. 8, and the 1st Global Biodiversity Framework Fund Council from Feb. 8-9.

Council Coverage by IISD

IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin provided event coverage with daily summaries and photos.

On its final day, the Global Environment Facility Council, meeting as the first Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF) Council, completed the work needed to make the GBFF operational in the upcoming weeks. The Council approved the GBFF Project Cycle Policy providing for a streamlined project cycle for all GBFF projects, and the FY24 and FY25 administrative budget and business plan vis-à-vis the Fund. A spirited debate about the terms of reference (ToR) for the Fund’s Advisory Group and Auxiliary Body did not result in consensus and had to be forwarded to the next Council for further discussion.  

The decision on the GBFF Project Cycle Policy approves a streamlined project cycle tailored to the guidance from the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the programming directions provided by the GEF Council in June 2023. In a nutshell, GEF Implementing Agencies will have nine months from GEF CEO endorsement of a project preparation grant (PPG) to fully prepare projects. Projects by the GEF Secretariat can be included in Work Programs to be approved by the GBFF Council. Projects with comments from the CBD Secretariat, GBFF Council Members, or the GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) will have three months to address them.

The Policy decision also delegates authority to the GEF CEO to approve projects up to USD 5 million and requires midterm reviews for all projects above USD 2 million.

The decision on the FY24 and FY25 administrative budget and business plan covers the GEF Secretariat, the Trustee, the STAP, and the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) vis-à-vis the GBFF.

The ToR proposals were the subject of spirited debate. Members reached general agreement on issues such as the need for the group and body to hold virtual meetings and to establish a rotation mechanism to enable institutional knowledge transfer. They diverged, however, on issues such as whether to reduce or expand the number of experts in the Auxiliary Body and whether the composition of the Advisory Group should be open to non-sovereign participants or only non-sovereign contributors. Given the lack of consensus, as per the Council rules of procedure, the agenda item was referred to the next Council for further discussion.

During closing, Council Members applauded the decision to appoint Geeta Batra as the new IEO Director and expressed appreciation to Council Secretary William Ehlers for his years of service to GEF after CEO Carlos Manuel Rodríguez announced Ehlers will be retiring.

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On Thursday, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, meeting as the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF)/Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) Council, approved one of the largest LDCF/SCCF work programs ever. They also met as the first Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF) Council and approved GBFF’s Resource Allocation Policy. At the opening of the GBFF Council, Spain announced a pledge of EUR 10 million.

In his opening remarks to the LDCF/SCCF Council, GEF CEO and Council Co-Chair Carlos Manuel Rodríguez emphasized the importance of these two GEF adaptation funds to build resilience and adaptation in the world’s most vulnerable countries. Expressing satisfaction with recent donor pledges at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 28 and the size of the new LDCF/SCCF Work Program, he urged more support for the SCCF innovation and technology transfer window.

Via video remarks to the Council, UNFCCC LDC Group Chair Evans Davie Njewa expressed his appreciation for the recent increased donor support for the LDCF, stressing the need for even more resources as the needs of least developed countries (LDCs) are much greater. He emphasized that “we need to ensure both LDCF and SCCF are fully supported.”

The Work Program approved by the Council totals USD 203.4 million for 21 projects, to address urgent climate change adaptation priorities in 16 LDCs and eight non-LDC small island developing States (SIDS). The Work Program includes one multi-country project and 20 national projects. It is the first Work Program to include multiple SIDS projects from the new SCCF-A funding window devoted to SIDS, which is a new feature for GEF-8.

Upon opening the first GBFF Council Thursday afternoon, Rodríguez said convening the GBFF is one of the proudest and most significant moments in his years as GEF CEO. He emphasized that contributions to this fund are not pledges to the GEF or GBFF – “they are pledges to the future of the planet, to the future of our children and grandchildren”.

Acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) David Cooper stressed that the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) set very ambitious 2030 targets that will require action now if they are to be realized on time. He thanked the GEF for working hard to get the GBFF operational, and the first GBFF Council meeting organized. He welcomed pledges from Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan and Spain, allowing the Fund to begin operations, and urged more pledges. Cooper underscored that the immediate task is to move from agreements to actions.

The GBFF Council adopted a decision approving the GBFF Resource Allocation Policy, which operationalizes resource allocations through programming tranches triggered by financial capitalization thresholds. The approved Policy also provides operational procedures for the selection rounds, country-specific ceilings, and portfolio-level targets agreed upon in the GBFF Programming Directions. After Council debate, they agreed that after the first tranche, a new tranche will open every time an additional USD 250 million is contributed, or 18 months pass since the last tranche opened, whichever comes first.

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On Wednesday, the Global Environment Facility Council adopted decisions on: initial guidelines for enabling activities and support for the International Legally Binding Instrument on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (“BBNJ Agreement”); streamlining the GEF project cycle; GEF funded activity and engagement in fragility, conflict, and violence-affected states (FCS); and GEF policies and key social inclusion issues. The Council also decided on the dates for the 69th and 70th Council meetings, updated its rules of procedure, received the report of the Chair of the GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), and reports from the heads of the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) that GEF serves.

On the BBNJ Agreement, the Council approved the initial guidelines for the funding of ratification support and implementation readiness activities for the Agreement, and asked the Secretariat to implement the guidelines. Under the guidelines, the GEF will provide up to USD 175,000 per country for national support, where countries can choose between some options for the type of support they need. The GEF will also allocate up to USD 5 million for global and regional support efforts.

Regarding streamlining the GEF project cycle, the Council adopted a decision which:

  • increases the cap for Medium-Sized Projects from USD 2 million to USD 5 million;
  • requires Mid-term Reviews of all projects over USD 2 million; and
  • requests the Secretariat and an ad hoc working group of interested Council Members to elaborate additional measures, in consultation with GEF Agencies, GEF Focal Points, and others as appropriate, for consideration by the Council at its 67th and 68th meetings.

On FCS and social inclusion, the Council took note of the Secretariat’s gap analyses and requested the Secretariat to proceed with its proposed actions.

In her report, STAP Chair Rosina Bierbaum reviewed recent scientific findings relevant to GEF work and outlined recent STAP activities and reports, with particular focus on the recommendations for GEF from its reports on agrivoltaics; blended finance; alternative livelihoods; environmental security; citizen science; and ecosystem-based approaches. She also highlighted STAP’s future work reviewing “emerging signals and trends” and their relevance for the GEF in terms of societal changes; economic and financial shifts; and science and technological advances. 

MEA presentations included:

  • the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC);
  • the UN Legal Counsel (as temporary secretariat of the BBNJ Agreement);
  • the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);
  • the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD);
  • the Stockholm Convention; and
  • the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

UNFCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell announced that COP 29 will be “a finance COP” focusing on increasing mobilization and reforming the multilateral finance architecture. UN Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares stressed the importance of GEF support for enabling activities and swift ratifications. CBD Acting Executive Secretary David Cooper urged for more and substantial pledges to the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund before CBD COP 16. Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions Executive Secretary Rolph Payet highlighted future work on sustainable financing and phaseout of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and on the linkages and co-benefits between tackling climate change and pollution. Minamata Convention Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz noted GEF integrated programs have not yet served her convention, and expressed hope they will do so in future work programs. UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Andrea Meza Murillo outlined outcomes of the recent Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC) session, emphasizing country reports on the land degradation neutrality goal and a worrying increase in degraded land.

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On Tuesday, the Global Environment Facility Council adopted a decision on GEF’s risk appetite. It also considered the evaluations and recommendations of the GEF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) on: GEF support to dryland countries; community-based approaches (CBAs) at the GEF; learning from challenges in GEF projects; and GEF support to climate information and early warning systems. In addition, the Council discussed Secretariat gap analyses on: GEF funded activity and engagement in fragility, conflict, and violence-affected states (FCS); and GEF policies and key social inclusion issues.

The Council approved the Risk Appetite Statement and Framework, as well as the follow-up actions for implementation, proposed by a working group composed by the Secretariat, the GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), and Council Members. The Statement articulates the risk appetite for the whole GEF portfolio along three risk dimensions: context, innovation, and execution. It designates substantial, high, and moderate risk appetites for each, respectively.

On support to drylands countries, the Council endorsed the Secretariat’s support for the IEO recommendations, which called for:

  • enhancing policy coherence at the subnational level;
  • increasing attention in project design to land tenure security and conflict resolution for resource management;
  • balancing attention in project design to fostering synergies and mitigating trade-offs between environment and socioeconomic development; and
  • improving long-term monitoring of associated biophysical changes.

Regarding CBAs, the Council endorsed the Secretariat’s support of IEO recommendations on project co-design with communities and on results tracking of devolved responsibility and/or financial resources to the local level for GEF projects. Council Members also endorsed the Secretariat’s partial agreement with the IEO recommendation on the need for providing further clarity and guidance on CBA use.

On learning from challenges, the Council endorsed the Secretariat support of the recommendation to reflect eight guiding principles suggested by the IEO in GEF’s detailed action plans for knowledge management and learning.

Regarding support for climate information and early warning systems (CIEWS), the Council endorsed the Secretariat’s partial agreement with the IEO recommendations on shifting focus to fostering early actions during disaster events, aligning indicators with established good practices, and exploring strategies to enhance the financial sustainability of CIEWS components.

On GEF-funded activity in FCS, the Council discussed the Secretariat paper outlining GEF policies, guidelines, and approaches, and Agency and other environment funds’ approaches to the subject. The paper suggests potential areas for further GEF work on its approach and guidance related to FCS, especially guidance for GEF Agencies that have not developed FCS-related policies and operational guidance. The Council agreed to consider a draft decision on this topic on Wednesday.

As for key social inclusion issues, the Council discussed the Secretariat paper outlining existing policies and guidelines to identify potential for further work. The paper identifies some potential areas for further consideration, such as identifying opportunities to use non-discrimination consistently across GEF policies on stakeholder engagement, gender equality, and social and environmental safeguards. The Council agreed to consider a draft decision on this topic on Wednesday.

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On its opening day, the 66th meeting of the Global Environment Facility Council approved the second largest Work Program in GEF history. The Council also considered ways to streamline the GEF project cycle, discussed tracking and measuring socioeconomic co-benefits from GEF investments, and reviewed and welcomed the GEF Monitoring Report 2023.

In his opening remarks, GEF CEO and Council Co-Chair Carlos Manuel Rodríguez told the Council that the triple planetary crises require a better GEF, bringing more resources, enhancing access, streamlining its policies and procedures, managing higher risks, generating more investment around policy coherence, and catalyzing the mobilization of financial resources from all sources. This means, he said, that the GEF and its Partnership, must evolve.

The Work Program approved by the Council totals USD 916.1 million, including Agency fees. With its approval, programming under the Eighth Replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-8) has reached nearly 50% of the GEF-8 funds, only 38% through the replenishment timeline. It comprises 45 projects and programs covering all GEF thematic focal areas, six with a global focus; eight with a regional focus; and 32 with a national focus. Among the 77 recipient countries, 22 are least developed countries, and 14 small island developing states.

On streamlining the GEF project cycle, the Council considered Secretariat proposals on changes to GEF policy, guidelines, and practices to be made during this meeting and others to be deliberated at the 67th meeting of the Council. The principal change proposed was to raise the cap for Medium-Sized Projects from USD 2 million to USD 5 million. The Council agreed to return to the decision on this issue on Tuesday morning after revising the draft decision text to take into account Council Member suggestions.

On measuring socioeconomic co-benefits, the Council agreed to Secretariat proposals on next steps, including:

  • identifying a small number of standard indicators;
  • assessing the feasibility of relying on alternative measurement practices, such as geospatial analyses linked to population data;
  • better capturing and monitoring the results of GEF financing for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, civil society, and youth, through the development of new indicators; and
  • taking steps to ensure an appropriate consideration of socioeconomic co-benefits during the design stage.

As for the Monitoring Report 2023, it indicated:

  • significant results across five environmental areas;
  • Agencies reached first disbursements in countries with speed and reached an overall higher disbursement ratio, while rating implementation progress in the satisfactory range for over four out of five projects;
  • financial closure was reached on time for a higher share of the portfolio than a year ago; but
  • delays in submitting Mid-Term Reviews (MTRs) remain, and there has been modest progress in materializing co-financing.

While Council Members welcomed the report, they raised questions and indicated concerns about the indicators on co-financing and delays in MTRs and terminal evaluations. They also asked for greater clarity about whether first disbursements are actually significant. The GEF Civil Society Organization (CSO) Network called for more analysis in future reports of CSO engagement in GEF work.

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Summary
Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/C.66/JointSummary Joint Summary of the Co-Chairs
Document
Working Documents
Number Title Document Summary Documents
GEF/C.66/01 Provisional Agenda
Document
GEF/C.66/03 The GEF Monitoring Report 2023
Document
GEF/C.66/04 Work Program for GEF Trust Fund
Document
GEF/C.66/05 Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions
Document
GEF/C.66/06/Rev.01 Amendments to the Rules of Procedure for the GEF Council
Document
GEF/C.66/07 Initial Guidelines for Enabling Activities and Ratification Support Projects for the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)
Document
GEF/C.66/08/Rev.03 Streamlining the GEF Project Cycle
Document
GEF/C.66/09 Gap Analysis of GEF-Funded Activity and Engagement in Fragility, Conflict and Violence-Affected States
Document
GEF/C.66/10 Gap Analysis of GEF Policies and Key Social Inclusion Issues
Document
GEF/C.66/11 UNDP: 2023 Third Party Review of Minimum Fiduciary Standards
Document
GEF/C.66/12 Tracking and Measuring the Socio-economic Co-benefits of GEF Investments
Document
GEF/C.66/13 GEF Risk Appetite
Document
GEF/C.66/14 Management Response to the IEO Strategic Country Cluster Evaluation: GEF Support to Drylands Countries
Document
GEF/C.66/15 Management Response to: Evaluation of Community-Based Approaches at the GEF
Document
GEF/C.66/16 Management Response to: Learning from Challenges in GEF Projects
Document
GEF/C.66/17 Management Response to Evaluation of GEF Support to Climate Information and Early Warning Systems
Document

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