44th GEF Council Welcomes Mexico as Assembly Host; Adds Two New Agency Partners; Approves Work Program
WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2013 – The 44th meeting of the Global Environment Facility’s governing Council concluded today after welcoming the Government of Mexico’s proposal to host the next GEF Assembly, approving a work program totaling $369.82 million, expanding the roster of GEF Partner Agencies, and approving initial funding for the new Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The Council gathered at a critical time of transition, with planning for the four-year GEF-6 funding cycle beginning July 1, 2014, well under way, along with the GEF 2020 process being led by CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii to set a course for the GEF and its partners to confront worrisome global environmental trends.
“First and foremost, the GEF should focus on tackling underlying drivers of environmental degradation, not only symptoms,” Ishii told the Council. “I believe that the GEF’s potential strength is its network of partnerships with Agencies, Conventions, the GEF Evaluation Office, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), the private sector, and civil society organizations.” Addressing serious environmental threats requires that these players “share the same strategic direction and contribute based on their own unique value addition.”
GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii with GEF Council members during the GEF 44th Council meetings in Washington D.C
Mexico will host the next meeting of the GEF Assembly in 2014 in which all 183 member nations, including South Sudan – the GEF’s newest member – will gather. Whereas the representative GEF Council meets twice a year, the Assembly of GEF member nations meets every four years to take major decisions, including endorsement of the next four-year GEF replenishment package. The Council also received an update on the GEF-6 replenishment process, which will be ready for final review and approval next year.
Approaching the first anniversary of her tenure as CEO, Ishii briefed the Council on the GEF 2020 strategic visioning exercise, which is to be concluded in time for presentation to the next Council meeting in November 2013. The briefing, which drew positive comments by Council members, followed a keynote address by Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, on the implications of growing human impact on nature. The theme of both presentations was the worrisome deterioration in global environmental health – whether it involve the loss of rainforest, decline of coral reefs, or rising global temperatures – and the danger that human activity could, in some areas, produce irreversible damage.
Ishii emphasized the underlying trends behind global environmental degradation – population growth, a rising middle class, and increasing urbanization worldwide. These trends lead to greater demand for food production, new construction, greater power generation and transportation. These drivers, in turn, generate greenhouse gas emissions, lead to deforestation and the loss of coral reefs, increase land degradation, put greater pressure on marine fisheries, stress access to water resources, and create more nutrient pollution and waste.
A number of metrics of human activity and environmental degradation point to exponential increases in human impact on the environment, leading to the concept of the world having entered a new epoch which could be called “anthropocene,” in which human activity can match or exceed the world’s great natural forces, Professor Rockström noted.
Presided over by co-chairs Naoko Ishii and Council member Josceline Wheatley of the United Kingdom, the Council completed an expansive agenda including a number of presentations and decisions. Among these, the Council:
- Applauded Thomas Lovejoy, outgoing STAP Chair, and welcomed Rosina Bierbaum, who assumes the STAP Chair on July 1st. Bierbaum is a University of Michigan environmental scientist and advisor on science policy to President Obama.
- Approved a $369.82 million work program, consisting of 48 project concepts and two programmatic approaches. Co-financing associated with the work program totals $2 billion, meaning that each dollar in GEF grants is matched, on average, by $6 in co-financing.
- Authorized expenditure of up to $10 million for funding of an early action, pre-ratification program in support of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Earlier this year, nations negotiating the mercury convention selected GEF to serve as the key element of the financial mechanism of the treaty, which will be open for signature next October in Minamata, Japan, scene of devastating exposure to toxic mercury poisoning in the 1950s and ‘60s. GEF is already engaged in supporting programs to address mercury pollution.
- Discussed the GEF Secretariat’s report on the progress toward the accreditation of new project agencies. Conservation International and World Wildlife Fund have been cleared by the independent GEF accreditation panel to move to the final stage of the process where, after signing legal documents with the GEF, they will be eligible to access GEF funds for environmental projects. The applications for accreditation of a further seven organizations are under review.
- Heard statements by three Executive Secretaries to environmental Conventions supported by GEF financing: Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; and Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
- Discussed the First Report of the Fifth Overall Performance Study and Management Response prepared by the GEF Evaluation Office (GEFEO) and GEF Secretariat. Among the report’s findings: Global environmental trends continue to spiral downward and global environmental problems continue to be underfunded; compared to the international benchmark norm of 75 percent, more than 80 percent of GEF projects completed during the GEF-4 and GEF-5 funding cycles achieved outcome ratings of moderately satisfactory or higher; more than 70 percent of completed projects showed positive environmental impacts, but mostly at the lower scale. Robert D. van den Berg, Director of GEFEO, said the report points to the importance of strategies aimed at achieving environmental benefits at higher scales, and to the emergence of a new generation of more holistic and programmatic multi-focal area projects that aim to tackle environmental issues in a comprehensive manner.
Mr. John Diamond
Senior Communication Officer | Spokesperson
Phone +1 202 458 7953
About the Global Environment Facility
The GEF unites 183 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. Since 1991, the GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $11.5 billion in grants and leveraging $57 billion in co-financing for over 3,215 projects in over 165 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), the GEF has also made more than 16,030 small grants directly to civil society and community based organizations, totaling $653.2 million.