50th GEF Council Plenary
50th GEF Council Plenary

The 50th GEF Council Meeting ended today with the approval of a new work program that puts a strong emphasis on biodiversity and natural resource management, with a particular focus on Africa.  The three-day meeting, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the GEF, also helped lay the foundation for the future direction of the organization.

Closing the meeting, Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, highlighted the “rich discussion” that had taken place and said the ideas raised were a “really great start” for thinking about the GEF-7 replenishment.

In the discussions early in the meeting concerning future directions for the GEF, various Council members highlighted the need for the GEF to be bold in thinking about its future direction and implementation of the GEF 2020 strategy.

Presenting an update of GEF 2020, CEO Ishii said that, although it is still too early to detect tangible results on the ground, it is possible to capture some early lessons. She said key issues for discussion include: emerging lessons from new initiatives such as the Integrated Approach Pilots and how these could be drivers and catalyzers for further growth; the GEF’s role in the rapidly changing environmental financing landscape and the GEF’s value proposition and complementarity with other funds and mechanisms; the GEF’s focus on resilience and integrating it into all operations; and the effectiveness of the delivery machinery.

At the GEF, we have a unique opportunity, a moment in time to drive this agenda forward,” Ishii told the Council meeting. “We want to help create platforms to bring diverse stakeholders together to solve issues around the global commons; from communities to cabinets, from smallholders to shareholders, from philanthropy to finance, and many more,” she said.  “I am convinced that only when everybody plays their part, can we achieve the massive transformation in our economies that we need to safeguard the global commons.

The issue of protecting and enhancing the global commons was a theme that ran through many of the Council sessions, in particular a dialogue on GEF relations with the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

“As you celebrate your 25th anniversary, I honor you for everything you have accomplished. You have invested billions of dollars in the vibrant forests, well-managed lands and healthy water systems that support all life on Earth and underpin our human economy," said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. These global commons must be safeguarded for future generations  and last year’s Paris Agreement proves that nations can agree on a political framework to protect the common natural capital as an essential part of the solution to climate change."

"As a global community, we had consistently missed the clear social, economic and environmental signals telling us we were heading in the wrong direction on land," said Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary. "But a lot can happen in a year. The global community is increasingly recognizing land as a global common good and is heading in a much better direction." 

Jacob Duer, Principal Coordinator for the Interim Secretariat of the Minamata Convention, reminded the Council of the importance of promoting the sound management of chemicals and waste in efforts to safeguard the global commons. “Management of chemicals and waste was not a part of the larger sustainable development agenda before the SDGs,” he said“To ensure the health of our global commons, sound management of chemicals is key, including the importance of addressing the inter-linkages with efforts on the implementation of the climate change agenda”. 

While, Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the UNCBD, updated the Council on the goals the Convention still plans to achieve. “Current efforts are not enough to make sure we meet all or most of the Aichi targets by 2020, but we cannot afford not to meet them,” he said. “The theme for our next COP in December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico is to promote mainstreaming to ensure well-being for all.”

The newly approved GEF work program is made up of 38 project concepts and four programmatic frameworks, for a total of $398.68 million.

In light of the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity meeting, there is a strong focus on biodiversity, including a range of projects from invasive species to ecosystem and habitat restoration in key landscapes around the world, as well as the expansion of the Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention program.

The 50th GEF Council also took decisions on a range of other issues from the approval of a new financial initiative (the CBIT) in support of the Paris Climate Agreement to a new GEF corporate scorecard, results-based management and an evaluation of the GEF CSO network.

The Council also received a progress report on the Integrated Approach Pilots (IAPs) and briefings by Juha Uitto, Director of the GEF Evaluation Office and Rosina Bierbaum, Chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) on activities undertaken by the panel.

A full summary of the decisions can be found in the Joint Summary of the Chairs.

Immediately following the 50th GEF Council, the 20th Council Meeting of the Least Developed Countries Fund/Special Climate Change Fund (LDCF/SCCF) was held.

A progress report was presented and CEO Ishii launched the new publication: Time to Adapt: Insights from the Global Environment Facility’s Experience in Adaption to Climate Change.

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