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Global Environment Facility Launches Publication of From Rio to Rio: A 20-Year Journey to Green the World’s Economies

Global Environment Facility Launches Publication of From Rio to Rio: A 20-Year Journey to Green the World’s Economies

Book tells story of GEF through lens of 20 projects over 20 years, ranging from Danube River Basin to African Sahel

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, June 20, 2012 – The Global Environment Facility today launched publication of a book telling the story of the GEF through the lens of 20 environmental projects over the first two decades of an organization, founded at the first Earth Summit, that has become the largest public funder of projects to benefit the global environment.

The book, From Rio to Rio: A 20-Year Journey to Green the World’s Economies, ranges widely, from the Amazon region to the Danube River Basin to the Himalayas to tell the stories of projects and programs backed by the 182 member nations that make up the GEF.

GEF CEO and Chairperson Monique Barbut hosted the book launch and panel discussion at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), better known as Rio+20, taking place this week in Rio de Janeiro on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio.

Barbut was joined by cosponsors of the high-level event, representatives of GEF partner organizations including the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the African Development Bank, Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Biodiversity.

“It was the 1992 Earth Summit that really set the GEF in motion by naming the GEF as the financial mechanism for the Rio environmental conventions dealing with biodiversity, climate change and desertification,” Barbut told the gathering. “Our early success supporting these three globally-agreed environmental priorities was what persuaded our member countries to support GEF participation in a wider array of environmental endeavors.” 

The book, available for free as a pdf file at, tells the story of the GEF from its beginnings as an historic outcome of the 1992 Earth Summit to today, with its accumulated record of providing $10.5 billion in grants and leveraging $51 billion in co-financing for more than 2,700 projects and 14,000 small grants in 168 developing countries and countries with economies in transition. 

From left: Luc Gnacadja (UNCCD), Edward Norton, Monique Barbut (GEF) , Marine Fey (WB)


“But this is about much more than money,” said Barbut. “The work we do with our 10 implementing agencies has generated a substantial wealth of knowledge that we are now applying to a new round of investments. What we have learned is helping us break new ground in supporting projects that address multi-focal areas.”

The book features 20 initiatives that illustrate the strength and breadth of the GEF in supporting projects implemented by multilateral development banks, U.N. agencies, national governments and NGOs. Each chapter is a story in its own right and can be read separately. Yet the book also tells a coherent story of the complex task of working at the local and regional levels to create positive impacts on the global environment.

Chapters include the story of the revival of the Danube River Basin in one of the GEF’s first projects, carried on in the Balkans region during a time of civil conflict. There is the story of the largest rainforest protected area program – the Amazon Region Protected Areas program in Brazil, which has resulted in dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across a network of rainforest areas larger in total than the Ukraine. The GEF’s role as the manager of the Least Developed Countries Fund is illustrated by an extraordinary project under way in the Himalayas of Bhutan, where glacial melt attributed to global warming threatens to burst the banks of high mountain lakes, endangering communities downstream. Stone by stone, villagers working for good wages under the program hike to the highest-elevation work site in the world where they hand carry stones to make channels for lake overflow, helping avert the threat of so-called glacial lake outburst floods, or GLOFs.

Today’s book launch event, featuring addresses from high-level representatives of initiatives highlighted in the publication, celebrates the launch of this remarkable account and showcases environmental successes that trace their roots to the 1992 Earth Summit. The panel discussion focused on practical solutions to global environmental issues that the GEF has learned over the last two decades while highlighting a key theme of the UNCSD – the integration of economic, social, and environmental dimensions to sustainable development.



Mr. John Diamond
Senior Communication Officer | Spokesperson
Phone +1 202 458 7953


About the Global Environment Facility

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 182 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. Today the GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. 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, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $10.5 billion in grants and leveraging $51 billion in co-financing for over 2,700 projects in over 168 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), the GEF has also made more than 14,000 small grants directly to civil society and community based organizations, totaling $634 million. For more information, visit

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