Three out of four participants in the Global Environment Facility’s recent Country Support Program events have attested that the activities strengthened their ability to plan and deliver new environmental projects, affirming how these meetings have helped share knowledge and tools to tackle environmental challenges.
Since June 2018, the GEF has brought together stakeholders including operational and political focal points, focal points of environmental conventions, representatives of GEF Agencies, and civil society organizations for 68 in-person meetings. Through five different activities – National Dialogues, Expanded Constituency Workshops, Constituency Meetings, Introduction Seminars, and meetings of Council members of recipient constituencies – participants have had opportunities to share their experiences managing environmental projects and policies, to establish and strengthen partnerships, and to build their countries’ capacity to fulfill environmental commitments.
The survey, conducted in May 2020 and covering events during the first half of the GEF-7 cycle, reveals that two-thirds of respondents acquired tools and good practices relevant to their day-to-day practice through the GEF gatherings. Operational and political focal points said they were better able to align their country priorities with GEF strategies after participating in Country Support Program events.
“Thanks to the Expanded Constituency Workshop I attended, I can now understand how GEF resources flow in my country’s portfolio. This helps me advise my operational focal point, the Minister of the Environment, and her staff about how GEF projects would provide more effective environmental and socio-economic impacts,” one respondent said.
The results of the 1,300-person survey come as the GEF is increasingly shifting to an engagement approach focused on using digital tools for greater online connection amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made face-to-face meetings and international travel more impossible in most cases.
“This is a very difficult time and we are working to turn the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity for greater connection with and among our partners,” said Paola Ridolfi, GEF Manager for Policy, Partnerships and Operations. “Over the past two months we have held seven events virtually, including Constituency Meetings and National Dialogue meetings, and we have intensified our outreach to operational focal points. We have also developed tailored data tools to empower government counterparts with information about the ongoing portfolio and available resources so that they can make program decisions.”
Expanded Constituency Workshops - a cornerstone of Country Support Program activities - allow countries to meet as a delegation with peers from the same constituency and discuss how GEF policies and priorities intersect with country programming. More than four out of five respondents said they found it useful that these workshops focused on the allocation and programming of GEF funds. They also said they valued learning about the GEF operations and policies, and the opportunity to network and hold group meetings with members of the GEF Secretariat.
Making sure that partner countries are aware of recently adopted policies helps them work effectively with the GEF Secretariat and agencies in support of their highest-priority environmental initiatives. The survey found that the share of participants in Country Support Program activities with a good understanding of the GEF’s policies and priorities doubled as a result of participating in these activities, reaching 81 percent after joining an event. Participants also better-understood how to develop projects and connect them to GEF strategies and policies as a result of the engagement. Respondents from Africa and Asia & the Pacific said they especially valued the skills they learned about how to develop GEF-supported projects and the understanding they gained about the roles and responsibilities of GEF partnership members.
Another way in which the Country Support Program has been helping countries design projects that match GEF strategies and national priorities has been through National Dialogue meetings – events directly led by the country, with the GEF Secretariat providing assistance. Both National Dialogues and Expanded Constituency Workshops bring the Washington-based GEF Secretariat closer to countries, bringing forward a stronger understanding of national needs and how to best tailor assistance.
The survey also captured how National Dialogues are helping to shape national environmental agendas and strengthen project programming. Respondents showed an appreciation for the opportunity to discuss programming priorities as well as to disseminate and validate national environmental policies, and to discuss project implementation. They also indicated that these events have provided a platform to engage with stakeholders from civil society organizations as well as representatives across ministries.
The full survey results report is available here.