Cities are a critical entry point to address drivers of three mega-trends of global environmental degradation: urbanization, rising middle class, and population growth. The role of cities for sustainable development cannot be overstated. The GEF's integrated program on sustainable cities will engage with key partners to develop conceptual models in harmonized performance indicators and, for the first time, capture global environmental benefits. The models will provide policy and governance support to facilitate integrated urban design, planning, and management that lead to sustainable, resilient development and sound ecosystem management.


While feeding a growing population and meeting aspirations of a rising global middle class are social and economic imperatives, the environmental footprint of these products has been nothing short of dramatic. Three commodities - soy, beef, and palm oil - have been responsible for some 80% of tropical deforestation worldwide, which in turn reduces the provision of ecosystem services such as clean water and soil productivity, increases the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane (responsible for 12% of emissions globally), and contributes to the loss of biodiversity from some of the biologically richest ecosystems on Earth. This program is dedicating $45 million to address one of the key global drivers of deforestation by harnessing the growing public and private sector interest in expanding the supply of sustainably managed commodities, in particular palm oil, soy, and beef.

The new GEF 2020 strategy emphasizes the need to support transformational change and achieve impacts on a broader scale. The strategy calls for the GEF to focus on the drivers of environmental degradation, and it addresses the importance of supporting broad coalitions of committed stakeholders and innovative and scalable activities.

The three programs – Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sustainable Cities, and Taking Deforestation out of Commodity Supply Chains – will test the delivery of more integrated approaches that address discrete, time-bound global environment challenges.

The programs are in line with priority themes of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and constitute key components of the GEF2020 strategy:

  • Address drivers of environmental degradation - They will proactively seek out and promote interventions that focus on the underlying drivers of global environmental degradation, and support coalitions that bring together partnerships of committed stakeholders around solutions to complex environmental challenges. 
  • Support innovative and scalable activities - They will advance and support innovative ways of doing business and focus on activities that are scalable across multiple countries, regions and sectors through policy, market or behavioral transformations. 
  • Deliver the highest impacts, cost-effectively - They will keep a clear focus on maximizing the global environmental benefits by investing in cost-effective solutions to major environmental challenges.

Food Security

The Integrated Approach Program on Food Security, also known as the Resilient Food Systems program, targets agro-ecological systems where the need to enhance food security is directly linked to opportunities for generating global environmental benefits. The program aims to promote the sustainable management and resilience of ecosystems and their different services (landwaterbiodiversityforests) as a means to address food insecurity. At the same time, the Resilient Food Systems program safeguards the long-term productive potential of critical food systems in response to changing human needs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Resilient Food Systems is firmly anchored in local, national, and regional policy frameworks that aim to enable more sustainable and resilient production systems and approaches to be scaled up across the targeted geographies.