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In Plenary, Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of the GEF, briefed the Commission on the status of GEF restructuring and replenishment. In the question and answer session that followed, El-Ashry responded to a question from Egypt that the Scientific Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) will evolve with the GEF, taking into account other advisory boards that may be set up. US$1.3 billion was the amount of the pilot phase and $2.4 billion is the amount for the next phase. A double majority system of voting would come into play only when consensus could not be reached. The Russian Federation asked if there is an intention to implement the status of economies in transition with the GEF, and did the GEF issue invitations to countries to join. El-Ashry replied that any country could join, and that an invitation had been sent to the Russian Federation to participate in the Beijing meeting.

India was concerned with linkages between the GEF and Agenda 21. El-Ashry replied that the GEF is only one of the financial mechanisms for environment and development. Uruguay wanted to know about the legal procedures and what the best relationship the governments could have with the GEF. El-Ashry said that in Abidjan the legal status of the GEF after the pilot phase had been discussed, and the restructured GEF would be created by resolutions adopted by the governing boards of the World Bank, UNEP and UNDP.

Poland asked about flexibility of resources in relation to the provisions of the conventions. El-Ashry replied that it was hard to say, since now there is only a concentration on programmes. In response to Vanuatu, El-Ashry said that the GEF should have a clear mandate to deal with the global environmental conventions. Mexico said that records and reports are a two-way street between the GEF and the CSD. Cuba shared India's concern about the scope of the facility. El-Ashry said that there was a narrow mandate because there are other funding institutions and facilities.

Canada asked if GEF funds actually sponsor work done in other entities. El-Ashry stated that GEF funds sponsor only the programme of the GEF. Benin wanted to know about possible inequities in the voting of the Participants Assembly. It was explained that there is no final decision on what the constituencies look like. Malaysia asked about linkages between the Montreal Protocol and the GEF. El-Ashry said that many countries did not qualify under the Montreal Protocol fund because the cut-off point related to either production or consumption, and that those countries would then qualify for GEF funding.

Morocco had a question about the criticism by NGOs of projects that might be funded. El-Ashry replied that GEF has a good relationship with NGOs, that there has been much criticism of projects from many places and some is justified and some not. Finland asked about the tripartite role of the partners and the importance of the small grants programme for NGOs. El-Ashry said that the role of the partners is important for the future. [Return to start of article]