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GEF Bulletin

Volume 192 Number 23 | Saturday, 21 December 2019


Summary of the 57th Meeting of the Global Environment Facility Council

16-19 December 2019 | Washington, DC, US


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Visit our IISD/ENB+ Meeting Coverage from Washington, DC, US at: http://enb.iisd.org/gef/council57/

The 57th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council adopted a Work Program, comprising 48 projects and five programs, with total resources amounting to USD 588.5 million. The Work Program includes two Impact Programs on sustainable cities and on food systems, land use and restoration, as well as the first three Non-Grant Instruments (NGIs) and the first dedicated GEF-funded initiative that will focus entirely on indigenous peoples. It will benefit 87 recipient countries, including 25 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 24 small island developing States (SIDS).

The 57th meeting of the GEF Council convened in Washington, DC, US, from 17-19 December 2019, at World Bank headquarters. Representatives of governments, international organizations, and civil society organizations (CSOs) attended the three-day meeting, which also included the 27th meeting of the Council for the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). The meetings were preceded by a consultation with CSOs on 16 December.

Naoko Ishii, GEF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairperson, and Gillian Guthrie, Jamaica, served as Co-Chairs for the meetings.

The GEF Council discussed a proposed strategy for private sector engagement, identifying areas where the strategy could benefit from further clarification and greater detail. Council Members requested the Secretariat to present a revised strategy at the 58th meeting of the Council in June 2020, and to present an implementation plan no later than the 59th meeting of the Council in December 2020.

The Council heard updates by representatives of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and by the Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The updates included information on the Conventions’ activities leading up to “super year 2020,” their implementation efforts, and upcoming meetings. The Council also heard an update from the Ozone Secretariat regarding the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Convening as the LDCF/SCCF Council, Members approved the LDCF Work Program comprising nine projects, with total resources amounting to USD 59.95 million.

During a pledging session, Belgium pledged EUR 15 million to the LDCF for new projects.

At the conclusion of the meetings, Council Members reviewed and approved the Joint Summaries of the Chairs for the GEF Council and LDCF/SCCF Council meetings.

This summary highlights the discussions and decisions reached at the 57th meeting of the GEF Council and the 27th meeting of the LDCF/SCCF Council.

A Brief History of the GEF

The GEF was created in 1991 in an effort to address financing needs in response to mounting concern over global environmental problems during the preceding decade. The GEF operated in a pilot phase until mid-1994. Negotiations to restructure the organization were concluded at a GEF participants’ meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 1994, where representatives of 73 countries agreed to adopt the GEF Instrument.

The GEF organizational structure includes:

  • an Assembly that meets every four years;
  • a Council that meets twice a year;
  • a Secretariat;
  • the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP); and
  • the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), which was created in 2003.

The organization’s main decision-making body is the GEF Council, which meets twice a year and is responsible for developing, adopting, and evaluating the GEF’s operational policies and programs. It is composed of 32 appointed Council Members, each representing a constituency, that is, a regional group of countries, or a single country. Both donor and recipient countries are members of constituencies.

The GEF Assembly has convened six times: 1-3 April 1998 in New Delhi, India; 16-18 October 2002 in Beijing, China; 29-30 August 2006 in Cape Town, South Africa; 25-26 May 2010 in Punta del Este, Uruguay; 28-29 May 2014 in Cancún, Mexico; and 27-28 June 2018 in Da Nang, Viet Nam.

The GEF is funded by donor nations, which commit money every four years through a process called the GEF replenishment. Since its creation in 1991, the GEF Trust Fund has been replenished by USD 2.75 billion (GEF-1), USD 3 billion (GEF-2), USD 3.13 billion (GEF-3), USD 3.13 billion (GEF-4), USD 4.34 billion (GEF-5), USD 4.43 billion (GEF-6), and USD 4.1 billion (GEF-7).

The GEF administers the LDCF and the SCCF, and provides secretariat services to the Adaptation Fund established by the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The GEF also serves as a financial mechanism for a number of multilateral environmental agreements, including the:

  • CBD;
  • UNFCCC;
  • UN Convention to Combat Desertification;
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); and
  • Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The GEF’s work also focuses on sustainable forest management, international waters, and ozone layer depletion.

Funding from the Facility is channeled to recipient countries through 18 “GEF Agencies”: the UN Development Programme (UNDP); the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); the World Bank; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN; the UN Industrial Development Organization; the African Development Bank; the Asian Development Bank; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the Inter-American Development Bank; the International Fund for Agricultural Development; World Wildlife Fund US; Conservation International; the International Union for Conservation of Nature; the Development Bank of Southern Africa; the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund; the Chinese Foreign Economic Cooperation Office; the Development Bank of Latin America; and the West African Development Bank.

Summaries of IISD RS coverage of past GEF Council and Assembly meetings can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/process/trade_invest_in_sd.htm

GEF Council Consultation with CSOs: A GEF Council Consultation with CSOs took place on Monday, 16 December 2019, at World Bank headquarters. The CSO consultation focused on the theme “Illegal Wildlife Trade: A Civil Society Organization’s Perspective” and included a dialogue with GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii and a discussion of the GEF Secretariat’s proposal for a Private Sector Engagement Strategy (PSES). Two roundtables addressed the role of communities in the management of conservation areas and in law enforcement and the benefits of a wildlife economy for local communities. For IISD RS’ summary of the proceedings, see: http://enb.iisd.org/gef/council57/16dec.html

Report of the GEF Council Meeting

Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, opened the 57th meeting of the GEF Council on Tuesday morning, 17 December. She highlighted a need to bridge the “disconnect” between citizens around the globe and negotiating room in Madrid at the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 25), and lamented the failure to raise climate ambition. Ishii stressed the need for “massive, unprecedented” change, which should be underpinned by scientific findings and economic benefits, including additional jobs, and the GEF’s role in navigating the path to achieving such change. Warning about the “huge costs of inaction,” she called for a multi-stakeholder coalition of national and subnational governments, businesses, and citizens to transform the energy, food and city systems.

Ishii suggested using “super year 2020” to set a nature target, similar to the 1.5°C climate goal, and identifying ways to achieve it.

Gillian Guthrie, Jamaica, was elected Co-Chair of the meeting and the Council adopted the agenda (GEF/C.57/01/Rev.01).

Annual Portfolio Monitoring Report 2019

On Tuesday, 17 December, Françoise Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced “The GEF Monitoring Report 2019” (GEF/C.57/03), which includes a “deep dive” on the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) and provides data disaggregated by Agency. She said that although performance varied across different focal areas and countries, progress had been achieved in all GEF portfolios.

Council Members welcomed the Report, noting the incorporation of feedback from the Council’s June 2019 meeting. Some suggested areas for improvement, such as using “actual result” indicators, providing more detailed data on disbursement rates, and disaggregating data by Impact Program. Many sought clarification on, among other things: the low performance ratings of certain focal areas and in certain countries; SGP governance; the variance between disbursement rates of implementing Agencies; and the backlog of financial project closure.

Several Council Members stressed that monitoring results should inform the Work Program and provide the Council with sufficient information to make decisions. Many called for improving the efficiency of information management and transparency.

A number of Council Members expressed appreciation for the SGP’s work with CSOs and local communities to improve their livelihoods.

Responding to comments from the floor, Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, said the complexity of fisheries-related issues, for example, has contributed to delays at the project preparation stage. He said methodological changes contributed to the relatively lower performance of the chemical and waste focal area, and that the performance rating data in the report provide only a “snapshot” of any project.

Clottes said that the Monitoring Report relies heavily on data provided by the Agencies. She further noted that “actual result” indicators will be presented at the December 2020 Council meeting, once most projects have been fully completed and results have been achieved.

UNDP provided an explanation of the SGP management costs, and reported on the Agency’s efforts to address the backlog in project closure, bringing the number of projects that had achieved financial closure down to 24.

On Wednesday, 18 December, Clottes introduced modified decision text reflecting Members’ concerns. After brief discussion, Council Members adopted it with a minor amendment.

Decision: The Council, having reviewed document GEF/C.57/03, “The GEF Monitoring Report 2019,” welcomes the Report. The Council requests the Secretariat, in collaboration with the Agencies, to expedite action on financial closure and to report back to the 58th meeting of the Council. The Council also requests the Secretariat to provide detailed information on Integrated Approach Programs, Impact Programs, and Multi-Focal Area projects or programs in the next Monitoring Report. The Council notes the analysis of the GEF SGP provided in the Report. In the context of the reporting requirements relevant to the SGP in the GEF Policy on Monitoring (GEF/C.56/03/Rev.01), the Council requests that information on results, financial management, and resource distribution be provided.

Updated Policy on Minimum Fiduciary Standards

On Tuesday, 17 December, Françoise Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced a proposed updated policy on minimum fiduciary standards (GEF/C.57/04/Rev.01), saying that it follows from a 2017 decision that the Secretariat review the GEF’s 2007 policy in light of global best practices. She highlighted new standards for implementing Agencies, including requirements to: exercise oversight of executing entities; prevent and combat fraud in respect to GEF funds provided to executing agencies; reinforce standards on, inter alia, procurement, conduct, and investigation; and inform the Council of cases of potential non-compliance. She also pointed to stronger separation between implementing and executing agencies, and noted that the updated standards should be applied immediately upon Council agreement.

In the aftermath of recent allegations of potential misuse of GEF funds associated with UNDP as a GEF implementing Agency, Council members’ comments and questions focused in particular on a desire for the Council to be alerted fully, promptly, and continuously in the case of a potential misuse of funds, and on decision-making procedures to be followed in such a case. After the Secretariat’s explanation of legalities surrounding the relationship between the GEF and its Partner Agencies, further consideration of this issue was postponed pending redrafting of the text by the Secretariat.

A number of delegates favored establishing an “audit committee” composed of interested Council Members, to review compliance in a smaller setting, given various GEF partners’ sensitivities about confidentiality. Several Members then undertook to draft terms of reference for such a committee for later consideration.

Requests for language on procedures on project completion, financial closure, and detailed documentation on co-financing were accepted, along with requests for clarity on the different fiduciary roles and responsibilities of the various entities in the GEF Partnership.

Several Council Members pointed to increasing costs of project preparation to ensure compliance with standards, and the disproportionality of these costs to the size of many small projects. Some others raised the issue of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.

On Wednesday afternoon the Secretariat produced a revised draft decision which, inter alia, requests the Secretariat to submit consolidated Partner Agency self-assessment reports on compliance to the Council for decision rather than as an information document, and adds that the Council confirms the Secretariat’s proposed new procedure to address misuse of funds.

The Secretariat also presented revisions to the proposed policy based on discussions during the 57th Council meeting, including specification that GEF Partner Agencies are to:

  • implement, not just have in place, policies, procedures and legal arrangements to require that the Minimum Fiduciary Standards are met during GEF-funded project and program implementation;
  • include information on co-financing in final financial reports upon project completion; and
  • keep the Council informed of developments in cases concerning possible non-compliance.

The Council accepted this and the other changes, and adopted the decision.

DecisionThe Council:

  • approves, with immediate effect, the Policy contained in Annex B of document GEF/C.57/04/Rev.01, “Updated Policy on Minimum Fiduciary Standards,” which supersedes the existing Policy on Minimum Fiduciary Standards for GEF Partner Agencies (GA/PL/02);
  • requests each GEF Partner Agency, within nine months of the Policy approval (or by 30 September 2020), to conduct a self-assessment and present a report to the GEF Secretariat on its compliance with the Minimum Fiduciary Standards, including a signed certification of compliance, and, as necessary, timebound action plans to remedy any shortfall, and the GEF Secretariat is requested to consolidate GEF Partner Agency reports as a decision for submission to the Council at its meeting in December 2020;
  • agrees to review the GEF Minimum Fiduciary Standards, as appropriate and needed; and
  • notes and confirms the content of paragraph 39 of the updated Policy under “Addressing Concerns about Misuse of Funds” on the Council’s requests that the Trustee seek additional financial information.

Report on the Findings of the Assessment of GEF Agencies’ Compliance with Policies on Environmental and Social Safeguards, Gender Equality, and Stakeholder Engagement

On Tuesday, 17 December, Françoise Clottes, GEF Secretariat, presented this Assessment Report (GEF/C.57/05), explaining that its findings had been established and validated through an iterative process including bilateral consultations and discussions between the 18 GEF Partner Agencies, expert reviewers and the Secretariat.  She noted that where an Agency was found to have a gap in compliance, the Report includes a time-bound action plan for the Agency to come into compliance, and highlighted 14 Agencies’ plans to come into full compliance.

Clottes noted that most Agencies have put in place comprehensive policies, processes and mechanisms for addressing environmental and social risks and impacts in project design, implementation and operations. The most common compliance gap, she said, is where Agencies have not yet adjusted to new requirements in the GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards on such issues as climate and disaster risks, disability inclusion, disadvantaged or vulnerable individuals or groups, adverse gender-related impacts, including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, and free prior informed consent for indigenous peoples.

Clottes observed that some Agencies do not currently have policies addressing all aspects of the GEF’s two new minimum standards on labor and working conditions and on community health, safety and security. She said almost all Agencies were found to be fully compliant with the minimum standards on gender equality and stakeholder engagement.

Clottes noted the Secretariat’s recommendation for the Council to allow the Agencies to continue sourcing GEF funding while working through their compliance plans, with an updated assessment to be presented at the Council’s 59th meeting.

Council Members expressed concerns regarding:

  • the number of Agencies with compliance gaps;
  • plans that do not envision compliance until the end of 2022;
  • plans with vague timelines;
  • how to assess implementation of the compliance action plans;
  • how compliance with minimum standards on gender relates to actual results;
  • the number of Agencies not in compliance with standards on indigenous people;
  • the number of Agencies with compliance gaps regarding sexual and gender-based violence; and
  • the ability of some Agencies to monitor their own compliance.

One Council Member sought clarification on next steps if an Agency is found to be missing its Action Plan targets, including possibly limiting its access to GEF funding. Another suggested that compliance be measured through an independent evaluation process.

Responding to comments from the floor, Clottes explained the process behind developing the Report and compliance action plans, which required substantial time and effort by the Agencies and approval by their governing bodies. She noted that some Agencies are unable to commit to a firm compliance date until their governing body has signed off. Clottes observed that many of the Agencies were already in the process of upgrading their own internal policies, which factored into the high compliance rates reflected in the report. She noted efforts to promote knowledge sharing on standards among the Agencies, and outlined the reporting policies for each of the minimum standards.

Decision: The Council, having reviewed document GEF/C.57/05, “Report on the Assessment of GEF Agencies’ Compliance with Minimum Standards in the Policies on Environmental and Social Safeguards, Gender Equality, and Stakeholder Engagement,” welcomes the assessment contained in Annex 1, and takes note of the findings and the plans of action submitted by Agencies to address the findings of non-compliance. The Council requests that:

  • Each Agency determined not to be in full compliance with the minimum standards provide updates to the Secretariat, before every Council meeting, on the progress in implementing their plans of action according to the timelines set out in those plans, until they have completed implementation of the plans of action to come into full compliance with each minimum standard in the three Policies;
  • The Secretariat report to the Council on progress on Agencies’ implementation of the plans of action at subsequent Council meetings, based on the updates provided by the Agencies and, as needed, further expert assessment and consultation with the Agencies; and provide a summary of overall progress in the annual reports on the implementation of the Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards; and
  • The Secretariat notify Council when Agencies have met their commitments set out in their respective plans of action to achieve compliance.

The Council approves the plans of action submitted by Agencies to achieve full compliance and decides that these Agencies may continue to seek GEF financing while they implement the time-bound plans of action.

GEF’s Private Sector Engagement Strategy

Introducing this item, CEO Ishii noted agreement during GEF-7 replenishment to involve all stakeholders, including the private sector, in transforming economic systems, and the mandate given to the Secretariat to develop a private sector engagement strategy (PSES). She added that this included creation of the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), approved at the 54th meeting of the Council.

Helen Crowley, Conservation International and PSAG member, reported on the evolution of private sector interest in sustainability efforts and engagement with the GEF through the PSAG.

Matthew Brian Reddy, GEF Secretariat, presented the proposed PSES (GEF/C.57/06), highlighting its two pillars – the use of blended finance (NGIs) and mobilization of the private sector as an agent for market transformation – saying the PSES focuses on the second. He highlighted three core elements of the PSES: working strategically with multi-stakeholder platforms to achieve scale and impact; supporting multiple private sector entry points throughout the GEF Partnership; and “crowding in” the private sector by creating the right environment and tools for private sector engagement.

In ensuing discussion, Council Members welcomed the strategy but called for further clarification and greater detail on, inter alia, indicators, working modalities, timelines, and levels and types of private sector actors to be engaged. Calls were made for discussion about issues such as innovation, technology transfer, additionality, involvement of countries and Agencies, enabling environments, and past elements that have hindered private sector involvement with the GEF. Several Members called for the PSES to address synergies between private sector mobilization and blended finance.

Some requested time to conduct consultations with their constituencies before approving the strategy. A detailed implementation plan was also requested for the next Council meeting.

CEO Ishii said the Secretariat would redraft the strategy taking into account the comments and would prepare an implementation plan for the Council’s consideration.

Revised decision text was tabled in the evening and adopted with minor amendments.

Decision: The Council, having reviewed document GEF/C.57/06, “GEF’s Private Sector Engagement Strategy,” requests that the Secretariat review the document in light of the discussions held, draw on broader consultations, and present a revised version for the 58th meeting of the Council. The Council further requests the Secretariat to prepare an implementation plan for consideration by the Council no later than its 59th meeting. The Council invites the PSAG to continue dispensing its duties until the end of the GEF-7 replenishment cycle.

Report of the Chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel

On Tuesday, 17 December, Rosina Bierbaum, Chair, STAP, presented the Report of the Chairperson of the STAP (GEF/STAP/C.57/Inf.01). She provided an overview of the scientific findings reflected in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Reports on land, and oceans and the cryosphere and the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2019, among others. Bierbaum also reported on the STAP’s work on Impact Programs, climate risk assessment, durability, and other activities.

On this new science, she emphasized that achieving the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal is “still theoretically possible, but the window is closing fast.” She highlighted the potential of nature-based solutions, noting that they offer great co-benefits at lower cost.

Bierbaum outlined six STAP criteria, including a theory of change and multi-stakeholder processes, to promote building innovation, integration and transformation into all Impact Programs. She stressed the importance of bringing “the right people, to the right table, at the right time.”

She said that, for GEF-8, STAP recommends looking at, among other things, multiple benefits that can be achieved through sound management of chemicals and waste, biodiversity mainstreaming in light of new science and evidence, and synergy between climate change adaptation and biodiversity.

Bierbaum highlighted the potential of blockchain technology for harnessing global environmental benefits, and encouraged the use of remote sensing to improve efficiency and accuracy. She welcomed the improved quality of accepted Project Identification Forms (PIFs) integrating a theory of change and multi-stakeholder processes, and noted that improvements need to be made in the use of systems thinking and the provision of information related to climate risks.

Council Members welcomed the report, many calling for ensuring that STAP’s findings are well integrated into the GEF’s projects and programs. Some urged STAP to incorporate more social science perspectives into its work.

Semi-Annual Evaluation Report of the Independent Evaluation Office: December 2019 and Management Response

On Wednesday, Co-Chair Guthrie introduced this item. Juha Uitto, Director, IEO, presented the “Semi-Annual Evaluation Report of the GEF Independent Evaluation Office: June 2019” (GEF/ME/C.57/01). Uitto, inter alia, announced an upcoming peer review of the IEO’s evaluation function, and highlighted the ongoing Strategic Country Cluster Evaluations on African biomes and on LDCs, as well as Evaluation of the GEF’s Engagement in Fragile and Conflict-affected Situations. He provided updates on knowledge management and communications, including survey results on IEO stakeholder engagement and knowledge management needs assessment, international conferences on evaluating environment and development, and other knowledge dissemination. Uitto also presented a proposed timetable for the IEO’s seventh Overall Performance Study to be conducted in preparation for GEF-8.

During ensuing discussion, Council Members expressed support for the IEO’s activities and acknowledged progress achieved in evaluation practices. A decision acknowledging the IEO’s progress during this period was adopted without change.

Decision: The Council, having reviewed document GEF/ME/C.57/01, “Semi-Annual Evaluation Report of the GEF Independent Evaluation Office: November 2019,” acknowledges the progress made by the IEO in the reporting period.

Strategic Country Cluster Evaluation of the Small Island Developing States

Geeta Batra, IEO, reported on this evaluation (GEF/ME/C.57/02), which assesses the relevance, performance, and sustainability of GEF-supported interventions in SIDS.

She noted that SIDS countries are heterogeneous, and drew attention to the specific environmental and socioeconomic common challenges faced by SIDS, including sea level rise, coastal and coral reef degradation, threat to marine resources and biodiversity, vulnerability to natural disasters, and difficulty in mobilizing financial resources.

Noting the GEF’s increasing commitment to SIDS through each replenishment period, she said GEF interventions: continue to be highly relevant in most SIDS; strongly align with government priorities; and are relevant to national environmental challenges.

On GEF performance in SIDS, she highlighted the positive environmental, socioeconomic and institutional outcomes in at least 75% of projects, but noted that the GEF’s performance in SIDS was lower than in the overall GEF portfolio.

On project sustainability, she reported that SIDS’ ratings are similar to those in the overall GEF portfolio, adding that regional projects perform significantly better on outcomes and sustainability.

Based on the evaluation results, Batra noted that the IEO recommends, inter alia: deriving greater benefits from the expanded GEF Partnership; building on the GEF’s comparative advantage; promoting innovation and more integrated interventions; and strengthening institutional capacity.

Council Members welcomed the evaluation report, and endorsed the recommendations of the IEO. Several Members called for more thought about how to operationalize the IEO’s recommendations while taking into account the heterogeneity among SIDS countries, such as Caribbean SIDS.

DecisionThe Council, having reviewed document GEF/ME/C.57/02, the “Strategic Country Cluster Evaluation of the Small Island Developing States,” endorses the recommendations of the evaluation.

A Methodological Approach for Post Completion Verification

On Wednesday, Juha Uitto, GEF IEO, presented a new IEO-developed post-completion verification methodology for measuring the durability of a project’s environment and development impacts (GEF/ME/C.57/03). He specified that it aims to measure the extent to which outcomes continue to progress after a project’s completion and the conditions leading to this. He noted that projects must have been completed at least four years earlier and hold lessons for future interventions and the potential to contribute to larger evaluations. He described the methodology’s use of geospatial analysis of remote sensing images in combination with traditional survey methodologies. He said a template was produced and used on eight projects undertaken in the Yellow Sea region, adding that it will be used on up to 25 new post-completion evaluations.

Many Council Members raised questions on the methodology’s cost. Participants also asked about:

  • the maximum age of projects eligible for evaluation;
  • who is responsible for using the methodology, how, and for whom;
  • factors hindering durability;
  • regular review and revision of the methodology, as needed;
  • the desirability of earlier, preliminary evaluations for learning lessons;
  • attribution of outcomes to GEF projects;
  • the need to measure land degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss from human population growth, transformative change, gender-related and other social impacts, and other impacts – all underpinned by objective criteria, indicators and baselines;
  • establishing a public access data tool; and
  • definitions of evaluation and verification.

After receiving assurances from Uitto and Geeta Batra, IEO, that points raised would be addressed, Council Members adopted a decision endorsing the application of the methodology without further comment.

DecisionRegarding the Semi-Annual Evaluation Report of the IEO, the Council, having reviewed document GEF/ME/C.57/03, “A Methodological Approach for Post-Completion Verification: November 2019,” endorses the approach, and supports the application of the post-completion verification methodology.

Work Program for GEF Trust Fund

On Wednesday, Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, introduced the proposed Work Program for the GEF Trust Fund (GEF/C.57/07), containing 48 projects and five programs, including two Impact Programs – on sustainable cities and on food systems, land use and restoration – for a total request of USD 539.2 million from the GEF Trust Fund and USD 49.3 million in associated Agency fees. He pointed out that the total of USD 588.5 million represents 15.1% of the entire GEF-7 replenishment.

Fonseca listed a number of “firsts” and other achievements represented in this Work Program, including: the first three NGIs; the first dedicated GEF-funded initiative that will focus entirely on indigenous peoples; and 25 LDCs and 24 SIDS as beneficiaries. He said the Work Program is expected to largely fulfill GEF-7 targets on marine protected areas and land restoration, and make a substantial contribution towards GEF-7 targets on emissions of greenhouse gases and POPs.

Council Members expressed general support for the Work Program.

Several Council Members raised questions regarding the proposed NGIs. Fonseca responded that:

  • there will be other calls for proposals for NGIs until the allocated resources are exhausted, with the next call slated for January 2020;
  • NGI reflows go to the Trust Fund for repurposing;
  • partners in the three proposed NGIs all have substantial capacity for screening project risks, and an advisory group of experienced investment advisors is assisting them on a pro bono basis; and
  • the Secretariat will ensure that Operational Focal Points (OFPs) are informed about NGI projects at the design stage.

Several Members raised questions regarding the Sustainable Cities Impact Programs, in particular, on why more African cities were not included while they are some of the fastest growing cities on the planet. Fonseca pointed out that the IP involves three countries from Africa, three from Latin America, and three from Asia, for an equitable spread, and that African countries were also included in the GEF-6 pilot integrated approach program on sustainable cities. Regarding the large loan component in co-financing for the Impact Program, he explained that most of these loans are targeting areas that will spur more investments and further co-financing. Responding to concerns raised by Members about the Sustainable Cities Impact Program entering a “crowded space” of alliances, platforms, and programs, CEO Ishii said GEF is working closely with city-based institutions such as C40 and ICLEI to ensure that city strategies bring the intended global environmental benefits and consider nature-based solutions to urban problems.

Some Members asked about the role of the GEF in the Blue Nature Alliance. Fonseca explained that as a founding member, the GEF will be on the steering committee and will ensure that projects contribute to global benefits. He also noted significant interest among other actors in joining the Alliance.

Several Members approved of the greater portion of international waters projects in this Work Program, while one called for greater attention to freshwater projects in future Work Programs. Fonseca replied that in the next Work Program the Secretariat expects to be achieving GEF-7 targets for international waters. He reminded Council Members that such projects are complex and time-consuming.

In response to queries regarding which countries will be involved in the Inclusive Conservation Initiative, Fonseca said these will be determined during project implementation, depending on their relevance to global benefits in matters such as biodiversity and carbon stocks.

Several Council Members expressed concern that projects that include middle-income countries are ineligible for official development assistance.

Calls were also heard for:

  • greater focus on LDCs in Work Programs;
  • GEF projects to include assistance to generate local expertise and technical analysis infrastructure;
  • GEF projects and programs to build on lessons learned from related projects; and
  • measurement of actual benefits for women achieved by GEF projects and programs.

One Council Member said his country’s policies on human trafficking, state-sponsored terrorism, and transparent military audits do not allow him to support several projects proposed in the program, and asked that his objections be reflected in the Co-Chairs’ Summary.

Council Members adopted the decision as presented.

Decision: The Council, having reviewed document GEF/C.57/07, “Work Program for GEF Trust Fund,” approves the Work Program comprising 48 projects and five programs, subject to comments made during the Council meeting and additional comments that may be submitted in writing to the Secretariat by 16 January 2020.

Total resources approved in this Work Program amount to USD 588.5 million, which includes GEF project financing and Agency fees. The Work Program comprises PIFs, Program Framework Documents, and a Non-expedited Enabling Activity contained in Annex A to the decision.

The approved programs include two Impact Programs (Sustainable Cities Impact Program and Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration) and three other programs: GEF-7 Africa Minigrids Program; Global Cleantech Innovation Programme; and Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in SIDS (ISLANDS).

Projects using the NGIs are: The Food Securities Fund: A Fund to Finance; Circular Economy Regional Programme Initiative in the Western Balkans and Turkey; and regional Agtech for Inclusion and Sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Stand-alone full-sized projects include 11 projects on biodiversity, six projects on climate change mitigation, two projects on land degradation, three projects on chemicals and waste, and four projects on international waters.

The Work Program also includes 11 multi-focal area projects, four multi-trust fund projects, three SGP projects, and a Non-expedited Enabling Activity in Indonesia on the fourth national communication and fourth biennial update report to the UNFCCC.

With respect to the PIFs and the Non-expedited Enabling Activity, the Council finds that each of these PIFs and the Non-expedited Enabling Activity:

  • is, or would be, consistent with the Instrument and GEF policies and procedures; and
  • may be endorsed by the CEO for final approval by the GEF Agency, provided that the final project documents fully address the Council’s and the STAP reviewer’s comments on the Work Program, and that the CEO confirms that the project continues to be consistent with the Instrument and GEF policies and procedures.

With respect to any PIF and Non-expedited Enabling Activity approved in this Work Program, the final project document will be posted on the GEF website for information after CEO endorsement. If there are major changes to the project objectives or scope since PIF approval, the final project document shall be posted on the web for Council review for four weeks prior to CEO endorsement.

With respect to the PFDs approved as part of the Work Program, the final child project documents fully incorporating and addressing the Council’s and STAP reviews shall be circulated for Council review for four weeks prior to CEO endorsement/approval.

Towards Greater Durability of GEF Investments

On Tuesday, CEO Ishii presented this report (GEF/C.57/08), saying it provides a summary of key factors that influence the sustainability of GEF projects and programs, and describes how such factors are taken into account and may be strengthened in current GEF operations. She noted that the STAP and the Secretariat have worked together to come up with a series of actionable design and implementation elements on durability centered around four themes: a theory of change; multi-stakeholder processes; stakeholder involvement; and adaptive learning. She observed that some of the policies adopted by the Council in the last two years have helped put in place many elements that address durability, and promised further improvements going forward.

STAP Chair Bierbaum added that some aspects of the STAP’s earlier recommendations on durability were already present in the GEF portfolio, particularly in the GEF-7 Impact Programs, but said more could be done, especially regarding risk appetite.

Council Members generally welcomed the report, but inquired about the practical steps to operationalize the suggested elements in the GEF’s projects and programs. Several praised the report’s emphasis on multi-stakeholder process and stakeholder engagement. Some highlighted issues that in their view should receive greater attention in building durability into projects and programs, including: solid exit strategies; involvement of CSOs in durability monitoring and OFPs in discussions about durability; building climate resilience into projects and programs; incorporating durability assessments in project midterm and closure evaluations; and regular reporting to the Council by the STAP and the IEO on sustainability of completed projects.

Ishii assured Council Members that the Secretariat is already fully engaging STAP and the Agencies on durability and has already engaged several OFPs as well. She concurred on the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches and stakeholder engagement, noting that both CSOs and the private sector are interested in greater engagement. She said multi-stakeholder engagement involves greater risk and the Council must decide how much risk they are willing to take. She suggested that durability be part of the discussions on GEF-8 replenishment due to launch in 2020.

Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, said it was up to the Secretariat to enhance the screening of projects for durability and to monitor it. He promised that the Secretariat will do everything possible to have a fast transition towards building durability into the design of projects. Clottes stressed that implementing durability and obtaining “hard data” about it will require time, and emphasized the role of dynamic learning and adjustment. Bierbaum said ensuring durability is “tricky,” but said all parties involved want it and are working together towards that goal.

DecisionThe Council, having reviewed document GEF/C.57/08, “Towards Greater Durability of GEF Investments,” welcomes the analysis carried out by the Secretariat, and agrees with the conclusions and next steps.

Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions

On Wednesday, Co-Chair Guthrie introduced “Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions” (GEF/C.57/09).

Rossana Silva Repetto, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury, thanked the GEF for: supporting enabling activities on mercury assessment and artisanal and small-scale gold mining action plans; funding for projects helping to reduce mercury emissions; and help in appraising projects proposed for other funding.

Elizabeth Mrema, CBD Acting Executive Secretary, reported on joint activities with the GEF Secretariat including regional consultations and global working group meetings in preparation for a post-2020 biodiversity framework. She called for joint CBD-GEF consideration of longer timelines for their work, including work undertaken to achieve the 2030 SDGs and for a proposed 2050 “vision of living in harmony with nature.” Mrema noted that the CBD and GEF Secretariats are implementing COP 13-approved recommendations for integrative efforts, and urged greater communication and outreach efforts.

Basile van Havre, Co-Chair, CBD Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, provided details about progress on developing the post-2020 framework. He noted that its success will depend on engaging new actors from all parts of society, and highlighted the critical need for financial means to achieve its new ambitions.

During discussion, one Council Member requested that the CBD and GEF Secretariats help countries needing alternative roadmaps for meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Another lamented reductions in GEF climate change funding and requested that procedures for project submission be simplified in the CBD post-2020 framework.

The Ozone Secretariat reported that countries with economies in transition have received GEF funding in support of their commitments to phase down hydrofluorocarbons and accelerate phase out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons. He attributed the universal implementation of the Montreal Protocol in part to predictable GEF funding.

The GEF Secretariat noted: continuing informal discussions between the GEF and key partners on streamlining reporting; exploration of synergies between the GEF and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, of which two do not receive GEF financing; and GEF support to the UN Forum on Forests through the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

The Council adopted a decision welcoming the report without further comment.

DecisionThe Council, having considered document GEF/C.57/09, “Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions,” welcomes the report and requests the GEF network to continue to work with recipient countries to reflect the guidance and national priorities in their GEF programming and activities.

Amendments to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the GEF Regarding Secretariat Services to the Adaptation Fund Board

Mikko Antti Ollikainen, Adaptation Fund Secretariat, introduced “Approval of Amendment of Memorandum of Understanding between the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the Council of the Global Environment Facility Regarding Secretariat Services to the Adaptation Fund Board” (GEF/C.57/10).

Council Members expressed support for the MoU, and adopted the decision without amendment.

Decision: The Council, having considered document GEF/C.57/10, “Approval of Amendment of Memorandum of Understanding between the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the Council of the Global Environment Facility”:

  • approves the amended and restated MoU as adopted by the COP serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) at its 15th session, as adopted by the President of the COP and as annexed to this document; and
  • requests the GEF Secretariat to transmit its approval to the CMP and the Chair of the Adaptation Fund Board.

Strengthening Consultations with Civil Society: Proposed Topics for Discussion at the Consultations of the 58th and 59th GEF Council Meetings

On Thursday, Pilar Barrera Rey, GEF Secretariat, introduced “Strengthening Consultations with Civil Society: Proposed Topics for Discussion at the Consultations of the 58th and 59the GEF Council Meetings” (GEF/C.57/11), highlighting the two proposed topics: “The Application of Traditional Knowledge by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, Stewards of the Global Environment,” to be discussed at the 58th Council meeting in June 2020; and “Enhancing Climate Resilience and the Role of Civil Society, Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples,” to be discussed at the 59th Council meeting in December 2020.

Council Members welcomed both topics, highlighting country experiences in integrating traditional knowledge to inform decision making. Some Members urged stronger involvement of the STAP to strengthen the scientific backing for traditional knowledge and to bridge the resulting information to the GEF’s operations.

On CSO consultation mechanism, Akhteruzzaman Sano, GEF-CSO Network, Chair, called for all Council Members to attend the consultation, and for the Secretariat to invite high-level government officials and private sector representatives for more meaningful outcomes. CEO Ishii supported the proposal.

Following brief discussion, Council Members adopted the decision as presented.

Decision: The GEF Council, having considered document GEF/C.57/11, “Strengthening Consultations with Civil Society: Proposed Topics for Discussion at the 58th and 59th GEF Council Meetings,” selects the following topics to be addressed as part of the GEF Consultations with Civil Society: The Application of Traditional Knowledge by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, Stewards of the Global Environment, to be discussed at the 58th meeting of the Council meeting in June 2020; and Enhancing Climate Resilience and the Role of Civil Society, Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples, to be discussed at the 59th meeting of the Council in December 2020.

Other Business

Dates of Future Meetings: The Council agreed that the 62nd meeting of the GEF Council would convene back-to-back with the next GEF Assembly and that the 63rd meeting of the Council would take place from 6-8 December 2022.

Report of the LDCF/SCCF Council Meeting

Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, acting as Chairperson of the LDCF/SCCF Council, opened the 27th meeting of the LDCF/SCCF Council on Thursday, 19 December. She said adaptation needs to be scaled up and happen faster, and highlighted recommendations from the recent flagship report by the Global Adaptation Commission (GCA) for better understanding of risks and opportunities, better planning and budgeting for adaptation, and innovative finance. She noted that, if done right, adaptation can create social and environmental co-benefits and underscored the GEF’s role in achieving adaptation “at scale and speed” by promoting “systems thinking” on food, cities, and the natural environment.

The agenda (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.27/01) was adopted without changes.

Progress Report on the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund

Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, presented the LDCF/SCCF progress report (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.27/03). He outlined the LDCF and SCCF financial summaries, including funding approvals for projects, CEO endorsements, and the expected results of approved or endorsed projects. He also provided an update regarding countries with remaining technically cleared projects in the GEF-6 LDCF pipeline.

Fonseca reported that Agency involvement during the GEF-7 period has evolved, with programming of resources being more diversified among the Agencies than was historically the case.

Fonseca updated Council Members on the Challenge Program on Adaptation Innovation, aimed at contributing to the Paris Agreement’s global adaptation goal by supporting initiatives to increase resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change in vulnerable developing countries. He also reported on increased outreach and communications activities and events, including co-hosting events during Climate Week NYC and UNFCCC COP 25.

The decision was adopted with no amendments.

DecisionThe LDCF/SCCF Council, having reviewed document GEF/LDCF.SCCF.27/03, “Progress Report on the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund,” welcomes the report and takes note with appreciation of the progress made under the LDCF and the SCCF.

Work Program of the Least Developed Countries Fund

Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, presented the Work Program for the LDCF (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.27/04), noting it requests a total of USD 59.95 million for nine projects to address urgent and immediate climate change adaptation priorities. He said that seven of the nine LDCs involved are accessing the LDCF for the first time in the GEF-7 period and that four projects are multi-trust fund projects combining resources from the LDCF with the GEF Trust Fund.

Fonseca reported that factors for prioritization in project approval include: alignment with national plans, processes, and priorities; opportunities to leverage support from other funding sources; and providing access to LDCs with little other access to support. He also:

  • reported expected benefits from the projects;
  • noted that all nine projects responded to the ambition and requirements of the GEF Policy on Gender Equality and are in line with the GEF Gender Implementation Strategy; and
  • noted that coordination with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is reflected in the projects for Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Myanmar.

Responding to Council Members’ comments, Fonseca explained that while UNDP has a large share of projects in the proposed Work Program, that share is less than it was in GEF-6.

The Secretariat noted they are working with Angola and Vanuatu, who are “graduating” from LDC status in 2020-2021, to ensure that they use 100% of the LDCF resources available to them before that time.

Responding to a query from a Council Member, CEO Ishii recalled her participation in the GCA and said the GEF is helping the Commission formulate an action agenda on food, cities, and the natural environment.

The Council approved the Work Program as proposed.

DecisionThe Council, having reviewed document GEF/LDCF.SCCF.27/04, “Work Program for the Least Developed Countries Fund,” approves the Work Program comprising nine projects, subject to comments made during the Council meeting and additional comments that may be submitted in writing to the Secretariat by 16 January 2020. Total resources approved in this Work Program amount to USD 59.95 million for the LDCF, inclusive of GEF project financing and Agency fees. The Work Program is comprised of nine PIFs including four multi-trust fund projects, listed in Annex A, on:

  • Reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to climate change through promoting innovation, transfer and large-scale deployment of adaptation-oriented technologies in priority agriculture value chains and creating jobs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Increased resilience and adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable communities to climate change in forested Guinea;
  • Climate-resilient and sustainable capture fisheries, aquaculture development and watershed management in Malawi;
  • Resilient, productive and sustainable landscape in Mali’s Kayes Region;
  • Promoting climate-resilient livelihoods in rice farming communities in the lower Ayeyarwady and Sittaung River Basins in Myanmar (RICE-Adapt);
  • Watershed approaches for climate resilience in agro-pastoral landscapes in South Sudan;
  • Building resilience through sustainable land management and climate change adaptation in Dodoma, Tanzania;
  • Adaptation to climate change in the coastal zone in Vanuatu – Phase II (VCAP II); and
  • Resilience of pastoral and farming communities to climate change in north Darfur, Sudan.

With respect to the PIFs approved as part of the Work Program, the Council finds that each of these PIFs:

  • is, or would be, consistent with the Instrument and GEF policies and procedures; and
  • may be endorsed by the CEO for final approval by the GEF Agency, provided that the final project documents fully incorporate and address the Council’s and the STAP reviewer’s comments on the Work Program, and that the CEO confirms that the project continues to be consistent with the Instrument and GEF policies and procedures.

With respect to any PIF approved in this Work Program, the final project document will be posted on the GEF website for information after CEO endorsement. If there are major changes to the project objectives or scope after PIF approval, the final project document shall be posted on the web for Council review for four weeks prior to CEO endorsement.

With respect to the project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Council requests the Secretariat to arrange for Council Members to receive a draft final project document and to transmit to the CEO, within four weeks, any concerns they may have prior to the CEO’s endorsement of the project document for final approval by the GEF Agency.

Pledging Session for the LDCF

Dirk Wouters, Belgian Ambassador to the US, announced his country’s pledge of EUR 15 million to the LDCF for new projects, to be paid out before the end of 2019. Council Members from Sweden, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany reaffirmed their governments’ pledges made earlier in 2019.

Other Business

No issues were raised under this agenda item.

Closing of the LDCF/SCCF Council

GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii closed the Council meeting at 11:15 am.

Joint Summary of the Chairs

At the conclusion of the Council meetings on Thursday, Council Members adopted the Joint Summaries of the Chairs both for the 57th meeting of the GEF Council and for the 27th meeting of the LDCF/SCCF Council, with minor editorial amendments.

Co-Chair Guthrie thanked Council Members for their excellent work throughout the week, and reminded all of the important role the GEF plays in development, and protecting the environment.

Highlighting 2020 as a “super year” for sustainable development, “a make or break year for humanity and for our planet,” CEO and Chairperson Ishii urged Council Members to bear in mind what contribution the GEF can make in a rapidly changing landscape. She expressed pride over the accomplishments of the 57th Council meeting, and pledged to further improve the Secretariat’s communications with the Council, “so that together we can aim higher.”

Guthrie thanked Ishii and the Secretariat for their hard work, and closed the meeting at 11:52 am.

Upcoming Meetings

Workshop on Governance in the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020: The UN Institute on Training and Research (UNITAR) will organize a multi-stakeholder workshop to explore a possible enabling framework for the post-2020 platform on sound management of chemicals and waste to replace the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), and options for garnering high-level political buy-in, such as submission of the declaration and/or outcome of the October 2020 Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) to the UN General Assembly for endorsement. The workshop is hosted by the Government of Germany.  dates: 14-16 January 2020  location: Frankfurt, Germany  www: http://www.saicm.org

Second meeting of the CBD Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework: This meeting will discuss a “zero draft” of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework document, which will be available by mid-January 2020.  dates: 24-28 February 2020  location: Kunming, China  www: https://www.cbd.int/conferences/post2020

52nd Session of the IPCC: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will meet in the context of its sixth assessment cycle.  dates: 24-28 February 2020 (TBC)  location: Geneva, Switzerland (TBC)  www: https://www.ipcc.ch/calendar/

Fourth Meeting of the Intersessional Process for Considering SAICM and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP4): IP4 is expected to continue the discussions on a possible post-2020 platform for chemicals and waste.  dates: 23-27 March 2020  location: Bucharest, Romania  www: http://www.saicm.org

24th meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA): The 24th meeting of the SBSTTA will focus on scientific and technical matters in preparation for CBD COP 15, which is expected to agree on a post-2020 biodiversity framework.  dates: 18-23 May 2020  location: Montreal, Canada  www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/

Third Meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI): The SBI will convene in conjunction with the 24th meeting of the SBSTTA and address issues related to the CBD’s implementation.  dates: 25-29 May 2020  location: Montreal, Canada  www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/

52nd sessions of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies: The 52nd sessions of the UNFCCC SBI and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) will meet to advance negotiations ahead of UNFCCC COP 26.  dates: 1-11 June 2020  location: Bonn, Germany  www: https://unfccc.int/calendar

58th Meeting of the GEF Council: The GEF Council will approve projects to realize global environmental benefits in the GEF’s focal areas, provide guidance to the GEF Secretariat and implementing Agencies, and discuss its relations with the conventions for which it serves as the financial mechanism, such as the Minamata Convention.  dates: 2-4 June 2020  location: Washington D.C., US  www: https://www.thegef.org/council-meetings

For additional meetings, see http://sdg.iisd.org

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