Many may think us an unlikely pair – Republican Representative from Nebraska, in the heartland of America, and a progressive Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, the Ocean State. However, we have come together as Co-Chairs in the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus because we share a conviction that good natural resource management is fundamental to building a strong economy, bolstering national security, and protecting public health.
Responsible management of natural resources underpins economic opportunity and quality of life for all communities. The loss of natural resources can lead to poverty, hunger, and compromised health and security. Conservation and development must go hand in hand so that nations may bene t from their natural wealth, while preserving it for future generations. This is not only true in the developing world: international conservation also bolsters America’s economy, improves our national security, and helps meet our growing need for natural resources. America’s interests stretch worldwide and across all sectors: these interests can only be protected by active international leadership and investment in conservation. Through our work as the International Conservation Caucus Co-Chairs, we have come to know the Global Environment Facility as a valuable mechanism for American investment in international conservation.
The Facility is a partnership of 183 countries working together with institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector to address issues of international conservation. Dollars invested in it are immediately leveraged 4:1 by other major donor nations and are ultimately leveraged as much as 34:1 by other sources (institutions, other nations, partner businesses, and non-governmental organizations). The vast majority of its funding is used directly by programmes on the ground. The Facility is developing agriculture, fisheries, and forestry programmes that benefit people as well as wild animals and places. Its programmes are stabilizing economies around the globe and focus on a range of issues that directly affect the United States, including sustainable development, resource scarcity, and food security. These programmes consequently secure American supply chains and help to ensure a level playing field for American businesses by promoting sustainably produced, responsibly sourced, and certified products.
Three key areas of its work are preventing deforestation, combating the illegal wildlife trade, and protecting our marine resources.
Forests are home to two-thirds of the world’s animal species. They are the “lungs of the Earth,” providing us with the air we need to breathe and the water on which we all depend. Most deforestation of tropical forests is linked to commercial agriculture, specifically the production of palm, soy, timber, and cattle. The Facility is securing and tracking commitments from major corporations to reduce or eliminate deforestation in their supply chains. It is also assisting small farmers to improve their practices. Working through global public- private partnerships, the Facility is helping to protect millions of hectares of forests.
Wildlife crime is not only a threat to iconic species, but also to the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on healthy ecosystems. It funds organized criminal networks and leads to instability and armed conflict. The Facility is tackling this challenge through a range of projects and public-private partnerships targeting demand and focusing on illegal tracking throughout the supply chain.
Protecting the world’s shared ocean resources requires nations and the private sector to work together. For more than two decades, the Facility has been committed to improving international ocean management, including working with countries to develop regional frameworks to protect fisheries and other marine resources. It has allocated more than $1.15 billion in grants to transboundary marine projects, leveraged by $7.7 billion from other funders, resulting in the creation of 4.1 million square kilometres of marine protected areas.
It is the job of Congress to take a hard look at the federal budget and maximize the value of our expenditures. By investing in the Facility and its partners, we are investing taxpayer dollars where the greatest amount of work is needed – and being done. We hope to see this outstanding work continue, and the return on investment continue to grow.
by Sheldon Whitehouse, United States Senator Co-Chair, United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus, and Jeff Fortenberry, Member of the United States House of Representatives Co-Chair, United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus
This article originally appeared in "The Global Environment Facility: Delivering solutions for a sustainable future," the September 2017 issue of UN Environment's "Our Planet" magazine. The magazine was launched at the GEF-7 2nd replenishment meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.