Summary report, 24–29 June 2018

54th GEF Council Meeting and 6th GEF Assembly

The 54th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council convened in Da Nang, Viet Nam, from 24-26 June 2018. The three-day meeting brought together more than 500 representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society organizations (CSOs). The 24th meeting of the Council of the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) also convened with the CSO Forum meeting on Tuesday, 26 June.

The Council approved the seventh replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-7) in the amount of US$4.1 billion and adopted decisions on, inter alia:

  • the GEF Gender Implementation Strategy, which aims to mainstream gender in the design, implementation, and evaluation of GEF programmes and projects;
  • the updated Co-Financing Policy, with a new overall co-financing ratio of 7:1;
  • the GEF Partnership;
  • updating the System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR); and
  • the 2019 GEF Business Plan and Corporate Budget.

Following the Council meeting, the sixth meeting of the GEF Assembly was held on Wednesday and Thursday 27-28 June 2018, with the Assembly taking note of the Report on the GEF-7 Replenishment; Sixth Overall Performance Study of the GEF; and Report of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel. During the two days, over 1,100 participants met in parallel roundtable sessions to discuss how to accelerate action on issues such as: food, land-use and restoration; sustainable cities; blue economy; partnerships for implementing the 2030 Agenda; science-based targets for the Earth; circular economy; and marine plastics.

In her comments on the GEF-7 replenishment, Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, characterized the replenishment as being the “best possible outcome of long and difficult negotiations,” and stressed that the resources allocated to the various focal areas must be maximized to yield the highest quality results over the next four years.

On Friday, 29 June, participants visited GEF-sponsored projects around Da Nang, Viet Nam.

A Brief History of the GEF

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was created in 1991 in an effort to formulate financing responses to the mounting concern in the preceding decade over global environmental problems. The GEF operated in a pilot phase until mid-1994. Negotiations to restructure the organization were concluded at a GEF participants’ meeting in Geneva 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 is responsible for developing, adopting and evaluating the GEF’s operational policies and programmes. Meeting twice a year, it is composed of 32 appointed Council Members, each representing a constituency, that is, a group of countries, including both donor and recipient countries.

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 US$2.75 billion (GEF-1), US$3 billion (GEF-2), US$3.13 billion (GEF-3), US$3.13 billion (GEF-4), US$4.34 billion (GEF-5), and US$4.43 billion (GEF-6).

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 the financial mechanism for a number of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), including the:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);
  • UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD);
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants; 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 has been channeled to recipient countries through eighteen “GEF Agencies” also known as Accredited Entities: the UN Development Programme (UNDP); UN Environment (UNEP); World Bank; Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO); UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); African Development Bank; Asian Development Bank (ADB); European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); Inter-American Development Bank; International Fund for Agricultural Development; World Wildlife Fund, Inc.; Conservation International; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Development Bank of Southern Africa; Brazilian Biodiversity Fund; Chinese Foreign Economic Cooperation Office; Development Bank of Latin America; and West African Development Bank.

Summaries of IISD RS coverage of past GEF Council and Assembly meetings can be found at:  

Discussions on the Seventh Replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-7): Replenishment discussions were held over four meetings: March 2017 in Paris, France; October 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; January 2018 in Brasília, Brazil; and April 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. The financing framework for the GEF-7 was agreed during the course of these replenishment meetings, resulting in a replenishment level for programming in the amount of US$4.1 billion.

CSO Forum: A Civil Society Organizations Forum, under the banner “Partnerships for Transformative Change: Civil Society’s Contribution to Transforming Systems to Safeguard the Future of Our Planet,” convened on Tuesday, 26 June 2018, in parallel with the last day of the 54th meeting of the GEF Council. Please click here for more detailed coverage.

GEF Small Grants Programme - 25th Anniversary Reception: On Tuesday evening, the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) hosted a reception to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The SGP provides small grants of up to US$50,000 and has funded more than 21,000 projects since 1992.

Yoko Watanabe, Global Manager, SGP, welcomed participants to the reception by underscoring the innovative work of the SGP over the past 25 years. Following a short video highlighting the contributions of local communities, Adriana Dinu, Executive Coordinator, UNDP Global Environmental Finance Unit, said that the SGP is an incubator of innovation that provides thousands of examples of local solutions to global challenges that can be scaled up.

Trần Hồng Hà, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam, delivered a keynote address, thanking the SGP for effectively funding programmes that support civil society in implementing activities related to environmental protection and sustainable livelihoods. He expressed hope for continued cooperation between the SGP and Viet Nam. Urging the SGP to create systemic change, Andrew Steer, President, World Resources Institute (WRI), praised the SGP for being transformative and hugely successful at the project level and looked forward to the next 25 years.

Lucy Mulenkei, Chair, Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group of the GEF, said that largest number of beneficiaries of the SGP are Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs), and that the SGP should be scaled up to ensure additional project funding. Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan, said that the SGP demonstrates there can be a balance between human needs and environmental imperatives.

Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, said that the GEF Council strongly supports the SGP, highlighting the importance of recognizing the power of the local commons to transform the global commons.

The reception also included the inauguration of a commemorative stamp and an anniversary photobook. The event concluded with a dance and music performance by the Co Tu Indigenous Peoples of Da Nang.

Report of the GEF Council

Opening of the Meeting and Election of a Chairperson

On Sunday, Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairperson of the GEF, opened the 54th meeting of the GEF Council, highlighting that the sixth replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-6), which was US$4.43 billion, had provided an opportunity for innovations such as the non-grant instruments finance window and the establishment of the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT). Saying that the seventh replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-7) of US$4.1 billion has a number of policies to guide its implementation, she expressed a wish for the GEF to become more effective and efficient during this replenishment round, and that the GEF Assembly will be useful to “kick-start” its implementation. She acknowledged that the negotiations had been challenging, and pointed to currency fluctuations as a partial explanation for the diminished replenishment.

Peter Elder, Australia (Council Member for Australia, New Zealand, and Republic of Korea), was elected Co-Chair of the 54th meeting of the GEF Council. The Council adopted the provisional agenda (GEF/C.54/01).

Summary of the GEF-7 Replenishment Negotiations

Axel van Trotsenburg, Vice President of Development Finance, World Bank, introduced the Summary of Negotiations of the GEF-7 Replenishment (GEF/C.54/19/Rev.03), which includes a three-part package containing the GEF-7 programming directions, the policy recommendations, and a draft replenishment resolution. Noting the negotiation process had been “long and difficult,” Ishii said the GEF-7 package strikes a balance among competing demands for urgent action to combat global environmental degradation.

One Member, with the GEF-Civil Society Organization (CSO) Network, called for more transparent criteria and an equitable approach to GEF-7. Some Members encouraged streamlining the programming process and ensuring complementarity between the GEF and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with regard to accreditation of national entities. Others noted the importance of: inclusive participation; greater flexibility in resource allocation; national priorities and country ownership; and progress reporting based on robust indicators.

One Member proposed strengthening GEF-7 to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and suggested greater integration between climate change and other focal areas. Another expressed concern regarding a decrease in pledged amounts, noting that this poses a challenge for the operationalization of GEF-7 and future replenishments. One Member warned against politicizing the allocation of project funds.

Ishii observed overall support for the GEF-7 package, lauding it as “the best possible outcome from the difficult process.” Outlining next steps, she said the World Bank, in its capacity as Trustee, would consider the package with a view to approving it. Supporting the endorsement of the GEF-7 replenishment, one Member underscored the voluntary nature of country contributions to the Trust Fund and stressed that any mention of climate change should not preempt negotiations under the Paris Agreement.

Decision: The Council takes note of the summary of GEF-7 negotiations, and endorses the programming directions, including the allocations of resources, the policy recommendations, and the Draft Replenishment Resolution, contained in three annexes to the document; and requests the GEF CEO and Chairperson to transmit the Summary of Negotiations of the GEF-7 Replenishment to the World Bank with a request that the Bank’s Executive Directors be invited to adopt the draft resolution, thereby authorizing the Bank, as Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund, to manage the resources made available under GEF-7.

GEF Gender Implementation Strategy

Françoise Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced the GEF Gender Implementation Strategy (GEF/C.54/06), noting it: marks the operationalization of a more ambitious gender approach across GEF’s policies; identifies three “gender gaps” and corresponding strategic entry points; contains four priority action areas; and introduces a “gender tagging system,” through an upgrade of the GEF Portal that enables related labeling and tracking of projects and programmes. All Council Members supported the strategy, with many stressing the importance of monitoring and reporting on progress.

Discussing the strategy, Members called for: implementation to be synergistic and coherent with national-level initiatives; clarification on implications for the work of Implementing Agencies; integration into the Country Support Programme; coordination and exchange of experiences with relevant institutions, including the GCF; and use of quantifiable targets and indicators at the project level.

The GEF CSO-Network lamented the limited access to gender-related capacity building events.

Responding to the Council Members’ questions on addressing sexual harassment, Ishii explained that the GEF is subject to the World Bank’s human resources policies, which include a strong component in this regard. On efforts to build capacity for implementation tracking, Clottes highlighted updated project submission templates, a gender tagging system, and new training materials.

On a draft decision, some Members suggested that the Secretariat also provide progress updates on “activities contained in the strategy” in addition to annual updates on “progress in line with the results framework.”

Decision: The Council welcomes the strategy and requests the Secretariat to provide annual updates on the progress on activities outlined in the strategy, as well as in line with the results framework.

Updated Co-Financing Policy

On Sunday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, presented the Updated Co-Financing Policy (GEF/C.54/10), highlighting the changes compared to the current policy from 2014, including:

  • the concept of “investment mobilized,” defined as the sub-set of co-financing that excludes recurrent expenditures;
  • a higher level of ambition for the overall GEF portfolio to reach a co-financing ratio of 7:1, and for the portfolio of projects and programmes approved in upper middle-income countries and high-income countries that are not Small Island Developing States (SIDS) or Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to reach a ratio of investment mobilized to GEF financing of at least 5:1; and
  • clearer requirements for Agencies and the Secretariat to document, monitor and report on co-financing and investment mobilized at the project, programme, and portfolio levels.

She added the policy will be supported by guidelines which will be finalized shortly. 

Several Council Members asked for clarification regarding the definition of “investment mobilized” and what is considered recurrent expenditure. Several Members also expressed concern regarding differentiating between countries with respect to co-financing ratio targets and especially “singling out” upper middle-income countries.

A number of Members highlighted that the co-financing ratio was exceeded during GEF-6, noting therefore that the new target would be feasible and reasonable. One Member, supported by several others, proposed that the decision contain a request to the Secretariat to provide an update to the Council’s 55th meeting on the implementation of the policy and to present related guidelines.

Clottes highlighted that the definition of “investment mobilized” was inherited from the GEF-7 negotiation process and falls short of a tight definition. She proposed that the Secretariat work together with the Agencies to practically define this term. One Member expressed concern about approving a policy without a clear definition to guide implementation. With the agreement that the language from the GEF-7 negotiations regarding a broad definition of “mobilizing investment” would be included in the update, the Council approved the policy. The Council considered an updated draft decision (GEF/C.54/10/Rev/01) on Monday and adopted it without discussion.

Decision: The Council approves the Updated Co-Financing Policy (GEF/C.54/10/Rev/01), which supersedes the Co-Financing Policy of May 2014 (Council document GEF/C.46/09). The Council also requests the Secretariat to:

  • report to the Council at its next meeting on the implementation of the Co-Financing Guidelines, particularly regarding the calculations used to compute co-financing and investment mobilized; and
  • monitor the implementation of the policy and report on progress, results and lessons learned to the 59th meeting of the Council in the Fall of 2020.

Strengthening the GEF Partnership

On Sunday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced the background paper on Strengthening the GEF Partnership (GEF/C.54/08), which recommends policy measures on harmonizing the rules and requirements for all GEF Agencies.

Some Members suggested deferring the decision on the removal of the 20% GEF project financing ceiling and on the application of a 30% ceiling on the GEF’s share of an Agency’s portfolio to the 55th meeting of the Council until more information becomes available. The GEF-CSO Network, with many Council Members, proposed accrediting national and regional institutions as potential GEF Partner Agencies to enhance the capacities of recipient countries.

Several Members expressed concern over a lack of guidance on the quality and nature of the engagement between Operational Focal Points (OFPs) and the partner Agencies and suggested expanding the involvement of Country Focal Points to the entire project cycle as a common practice.

A number of Members encouraged considering options beyond just raising the GEF project-financing ceiling in order to ensure a level playing field for all Agencies, namely that, when accessing GEF finances, the same ceiling is applied to all Agencies, without prejudice. Several Members requested further information on whether increased competition among GEF Agencies has led to a higher quality of GEF projects.

Members discussed splitting the decision, in order to approve the removal of the 20% ceiling at this meeting, and to defer discussions on a blanket 30% ceiling to the next Council meeting. Upon clarification from the GEF Secretariat, Members agreed to lift the 20% ceiling currently applied to eight GEF Project Agencies.

Decision: The Council takes note of the analysis carried out by the GEF Secretariat and approves the policy measures to remove the ceiling on the size of individual GEF projects and the 20% ceiling of GEF financing of a GEF Project Agency’s total portfolio, and requests the Secretariat, in collaboration with all Agencies, to present updated information on the GEF’s share of each Agency’s portfolio and suggest a way forward regarding the 30% ceiling for consideration at the next Council Meeting.

Private Sector Advisory Group Terms of Reference

On Sunday, GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii introduced the Private Sector Advisory Group Terms of Reference (ToR) (GEF/C.54/13), noting that Members had already raised questions concerning the group’s mandate and timeline, among others, and opened the floor for further comments.

Many Members supported establishing the advisory group. Several stressed the need for more clarity and detail in the ToR, calling for clarifications on, inter alia: selection criteria; governance and accountability; financial implications; and the role of the participants as “ambassadors” and as “sounding boards.” On the timeline, one Member proposed mandating the group to convene for strategy input only and reviewing this mandate at a later date. Another Member suggested having stakeholder engagement workshops instead of a standing arrangement.

On membership, many Members called for ensuring geographic representation and gender balance. Members also suggested a balance in representation from developed and developing countries, and from different business sectors and types. They further called for attention to the special circumstances of SIDS and the tourism sector, and stressed the need to ensure transparency in the group’s operations.

Ishii explained that the Secretariat would reflect on the comments and revise the draft ToR for consultation. On Monday, the Secretariat circulated a revised ToR document. Responding to Members’ questions, Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, clarified that the revised ToR:

  • leave the duration of the group’s mandate to be determined at the spring 2019 Council meeting;
  • allow for the GEF Secretariat to support preparing the group’s work schedule; and
  • maintain the use of Chatham House Rules, so as to allow for more candid inputs.

Decision: The Council approves the revised Private Sector Advisory Group ToR (GEF/C.54/13/Rev.01) and requests the Secretariat to present a proposal for a strategy on private sector engagement, with inputs from the Advisory Group, for consideration by the Council at its next meeting.

Updating the System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR)

On Sunday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, presented the background document on Updating the STAR for GEF-7 (GEF/C.54/03), and proposed changes related to:

  • rebalancing the focal area floors to reflect the relative reduction in the climate change focal area allocation, and the relative increases in funding for biodiversity and land degradation;
  • increasing the weight of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Index; and
  • increasing the marginal adjustments across focal areas, while ensuring that no more than 30% of total STAR country allocations are subject to flexibility, which translates into an upper limit on marginal adjustments of 15% of countries’ STAR allocations.

Several Members highlighted that the STAR should account for levels of vulnerability and exposure to environmental degradation and climate change in the allocation of resources, with some lamenting that an increase in GDP reduces STAR allocations but does not necessarily reduce vulnerabilities and exposure.

Several Members asked for clarification regarding the rationale for changing the methodology to determine marginal flexibility from GEF-6, which would reduce marginal flexibility for approximately 50 countries. GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii responded that the proposal to increase flexibility, including the related methodology, had been discussed several times, but that unintended negative consequences had only been recently discovered. She therefore proposed to keep: the marginal adjustments at 15%, for recipient countries whose STAR allocations exceed US$7 million, and the US$2 million flexibility threshold (which is the upper limit on marginal adjustments) from GEF-6 for the approximately 50 countries that would be negatively affected. She said this would mean the 30% STAR flexibility limit would increase to 31%. Several Members highlighted that they did not want to change what was agreed in the replenishment negotiations, with several others opposing increasing the already agreed 30% limit. Ishii requested continuing discussion on this matter the following day.

When discussions on this item resumed on Monday, Ishii presented the rationale for the proposed revised policy and said that to ensure that no countries are prejudiced, the policy would translate into an upper limit on marginal adjustments of US$2 million or 13% of countries’ STAR allocations, whichever is higher.

One Member questioned the logic of the different “levels” of flexibility and whether it is the best solution. Another Member re-emphasized that the different country classifications related to GDP per capita used to determine STAR allocations do not reflect the realities on the ground.

Decision: The Council approves the STAR Policy, which replaces and supersedes all relevant previous Council decisions regarding STAR. The Council also requests that the IEO evaluate STAR as part of the Seventh Overall Performance Study (OPS7), and share its findings, conclusions and recommendations in sufficient time to inform the GEF-8 negotiations.

GEF Business Plan and Corporate Budget

On Sunday, GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii introduced the GEF Business Plan and Corporate Budget for 2019 (GEF/C.54/18), highlighting that the proposed budget saves over US$300,000 in human resource costs, which translates to over US$1 million in savings over four years. Some Council Members called for a 2% reduction in the budget. One Member noted that any reduction in the Secretariat budget would adversely impact the human resources needed for implementation of programmes and projects, with another stating that a reduction in staff costs could have implications for staff morale and retention. Other Members called on the Secretariat to look into possible savings in variable (which include costs related to travel, consultants, outreach, staff training and representation), rather than staff remuneration, costs.

Ishii noted that a 2% cost cut is equivalent to two staff positions and stressed that a decrease in variable costs would affect implementation effectiveness.

Decision: The Council, inter alia, takes note of the business plan and approves a corporate budget from the GEF Trust Fund of US$27.971 million for 2019, comprising:

  • US$22.466 million for the GEF Secretariat;
  • US$2.725 million for STAP; and
  • US$2.780 million for the World Bank.

The Council also approves a total administrative budget of: US$20,300  for the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund for 2019; and US$517,000 for the CBIT Trust Fund.

Terms of Reference and Membership of the Working Group on Governance

On Sunday, the Council considered the ToR and Membership of the Working Group on Governance (GEF/C.54/17) on the establishment of an ad hoc working group to follow up on the findings of OPS6 with regard to the governance of the GEF Partnership, and to make recommendations for consideration by the Council to further improve efficiency, accountability and transparency.

Many Members and other participants welcomed the establishment of the working group, with several expressing interest in participating in the group. Others stressed the need for regional balance, gender sensitivity and full participation of all constituencies. One Member suggested incorporating the role and responsibilities of the OFPs to be reviewed by the group. Another Member called for the group to assist in addressing the challenge of the “ever increasing power of some Agencies.”  The revised decision was adopted by the Council on Monday, with the ToR including:

  • the roles and functions of, and interaction with, the GEF OFPs in the scope of review of the Working Group mandate; and
  • text stating that the Working Group will conduct its work independently and consult with other stakeholders regarding its composition and modalities of work.

Decision: The Council endorses the ToR and establishes an Ad Hoc Working Group on Governance with extended membership to follow up on the findings of OPS6 on the governance of the GEF Partnership and to make recommendations for the Council’s consideration between June 2018 and December 2019.

Identification of Issues Related to Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism

On Sunday, 24 June, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced the document on the Identification of Issues Related to Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (GEF/C.54/09/Rev.01). She noted that, despite the lack of an explicit policy, there are three “lines of defense,” namely screening of donors, Agencies and third-party recipients, to ensure funds are used for their intended purpose.

Explaining that the Secretariat’s preliminary stocktaking suggests a further review to identify potential risks regarding financial flows from Agencies to third parties, Clottes explained the Secretariat’s proposal to present an update to the Minimum Fiduciary Standards for consideration by the 55th meeting of the Council.

Council Members expressed support for the proposal. Two Members encouraged the Secretariat to work with institutions already active in the area, including the GCF. Responding to a question by a Member regarding the approach in situations in which Agencies either lack standards or have policies that are more advanced than those of the GEF, Clottes said the former case presents an opportunity for Agencies to improve the general financial security of their operations, citing safeguards as an example of adaptation to GEF minimum requirements in a new policy context.

Decision: The Council takes note of the issues identified in document GEF/C.54/09/Rev.01 and requests the Secretariat, in collaboration with the Trustee, to present to the 55th meeting of the Council a proposal to update the Minimum Fiduciary Standards to close any immediate gaps related to anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism in accordance with principles outlined in the same document.

Updated Results Architecture for GEF-7

On Sunday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced the document on the Updated Results Architecture for GEF-7 (GEF/C.54/11/Rev.01), noting participants had requested the Secretariat to present a simplified and streamlined architecture with, inter alia: clear technical definitions and methodological guidance; timely data on results; capturing of relevant socioeconomic benefits; and indicators for gender-responsive approaches. She announced that an update would be presented to the 55th meeting of the GEF Council, while stressing the need to enable the deployment of the architecture from 1 July 2018 onwards.

Several Members welcomed the new results architecture and commended the Secretariat for its work. Members also called for: timely data; data on projects under implementation; continued work on identifying socioeconomic benefits; outreach activities with the OFPs; and reporting systems that allow for communication of results to taxpayers. One Member, supported by a number of others, called for the inclusion of a GEF-7 Sub-Indicator on “quantity of plastic litter in marine environment avoided.” One Member called for including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Core Indicator on waste.

A number of Members commended an annex containing a mapping of GEF Core Indicators to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting important interlinkages. Stating that supporting the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) is the priority for the GEF and expressing concern that such “tracking” could lead to prioritizing the SDGs over the MEAs, one Member called for removal of the annex and related text in the main document.

Noting a lack of consensus on the issue, Ishii suggested continuing consultations.

When the discussions on this issue resumed, the Secretariat circulated a revised decision text and a proposal to remove the annex and related textual references, as proposed by one Member, but to make the annex available as a Guidance Note. Members agreed to this proposal.

Three Members enquired about the request to include HFCs under the waste Core Indicator. Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, noted difficulties in setting a baseline but assured the Secretariat will monitor, and will be able to report on, HFCs as relevant countries join the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Decision: In an updated document (GEF/C.54/11/Rev.02), the Council:

  • notes with appreciation the proposed measures to enhance the capture, monitoring and reporting of results across the GEF portfolio;
  • further notes that the work done through the GEF also contributes to the achievement of the SDGs and asks the Secretariat to develop a Guidance Note related to this item for information following the 54th Council meeting; and
  • approves monitoring and reporting requirements contained in a box in the report and requests the Secretariat and IEO to include these in an updated version of the 2010 Monitoring and Evaluation Policy.

Report of the Chairperson of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP)

On Monday, STAP Chair Rosina Bierbaum presented the Report of the Chairperson of the STAP (GEF/STAP/C.54/Inf.01), noting that the STAP had completed five reports for the GEF Assembly with a further three being completed by the 55th Council meeting. She said the reports relate to three themes, namely integration, innovation and learning, and stated that systems thinking, conscious technological innovation, and knowledge management are necessary to achieve the transformational changes required to stay within planetary boundaries. She highlighted that addressing environmental security is relevant to all GEF focal areas as, since the inception of the GEF, 97 member countries have experienced conflicts.

With respect to future work that could be conducted during GEF-7, she outlined plans to produce reports related to, inter alia: climate risk screening; stakeholder engagement in socio-ecological transformations; Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) guidelines; remote sensing to assess and monitor global environmental change; and guidance on how to estimate the environmental impacts of chemicals and waste projects.

On a question related to who the STAP works with and how much work and time it spends on project screening, Bierbaum responded that the STAP works mostly with the Agencies and sometimes relevant scientists and that the panel screened 150 projects in 2017. One Member highlighted that the Integrated Approach Pilot (IAPs) Programs were not “perfect” especially with respect to integration and asked how the STAP can help produce well-designed child projects in GEF-7. Bierbaum responded that the design and integration of IAPs, especially their theories of change, should be considered upfront whilst the details could be developed between the Project Identification Forms (PIFs) and the project document stage. One Member highlighted that the STAP’s knowledge management work is important in promoting transparency, with Bierbaum responding that the panel is encouraging the GEF to have an open data policy.

Semi-Annual Evaluation Report June 2018

On Monday, Juha Uitto, Director of the GEF IEO, presented the Semi-Annual Evaluation Report for June 2018 (GEF/ME/C.54/01), with a focus on:

  • project sustainability in the Annual Performance Report 2018;
  • a geospatial analysis for measuring environmental impacts and ecological forecasting; and
  • a management action record on the status of the implementation of IEO evaluation recommendations.

He also introduced ongoing IEO evaluations on: the GEF’s approach to mainstreaming biodiversity; the clean technology programme; support for scaling up impacts; the additionality measurement framework; a monitoring and evaluation policy update; strategic country clusters for LDCs, SIDS and African Biomes; medium-sized projects; and knowledge management activities. Council Members also heard the proposed IEO budget for fiscal year 2019 and work programme for GEF-7.

Despite the conclusion that 62% of the completed GEF projects are rated as “likely” on outcome sustainability and that such a rating is “not shockingly low” compared with other multilateral organizations, many Members urged for improving the sustainability performance of the GEF. Several Members expressed concern over the “lack of harmonization” of evaluation methodologies across GEF Agencies, and over the “big absence” of the UNDP in the comparative analysis.

On the evaluation of the GEF’s additionality and scaling up impacts of GEF support, several Members encouraged the IEO to expand the evaluation to other areas, such as GEF innovative projects, and private sector engagement, including those incentivized by a conducive regulatory environment at the national level.

A few Members also called for gender-disaggregated data for all GEF projects, and on cost saving effects for IEO’s work programme.

Moving forward, GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii suggested a full sustainability report be made available for the next meeting of the Council.

Decision: The Council approves the IEO Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 of US$4.571 million in total.

Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions

On Monday, GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii introduced the report Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions (GEF/C.54/15) and invited executive secretaries of the conventions to reflect on GEF-6 results and GEF-7 priorities.

CBD Executive Secretary Cristiana Pașca Palmer said GEF-6 had provided an opportunity for alignment between the CBD’s and GEF’s long-term strategic plans. On GEF-7, she welcomed increased financing for biodiversity and called for continued implementation support for the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. She further called for an integrated approach to biodiversity and a focus on mobilizing private finance for funding the post-2020 biodiversity agenda.

Minamata Convention Executive Secretary Rossana Silva Repetto commended GEF support for early action and ratification and highlighted an artisanal-scale gold mining programme approved in 2016. On GEF-7, she noted plans regarding new areas of activities, including large users of mercury, and the key role of the GEF in this regard.

Members welcomed the report and commended the GEF Secretariat’s efforts to strengthen synergies with the conventions and other international institutions, including consultations during the GEF-7 negotiations. Many encouraged the Secretariat to continue dialogue with other climate funds, in particular the GCF and Adaptation Fund, in light of the reduced GEF-7 allocation for climate change and called for complementarity and coherence.

The GEF-CSO Network called for, inter alia, financial mechanisms to ensure support to capacity building and education for the conventions, and more attention to restoration of contaminated sites.

One Member looked forward to the adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the GEF by the Minamata Convention Conference of the Parties (COP). Lamenting the lack of agreement on the MoU, Silva Repetto noted that, however, COP 1 provided guidance to the GEF and that an MoU would not be necessary from a legal point of view, even if it has become customary to sign one. She said parties will need to decide whether to continue such negotiations.

Decision: The Council 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.

The Council also having considered the MoU between the COP to the UNCCD in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly Africa and the Council of the GEF (GEF/C.54/16):

  • approves the MoU as adopted by COP 13 to the UNCCD; and
  • requests the Secretariat of the GEF and invites the Secretariat of the UNCCD to make appropriate arrangements to sign the MoU on behalf of the GEF Council and the COP.

Work Programme

On Monday, Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, introduced the Work Programme for GEF Trust Fund (GEF/C.54/14), explaining that it:

  • contains a request for a total of US$58.0 million from the GEF Trust Fund and US$5.4 million in associated Agency fees, which reflect the limited availability of funds for programming;
  • incorporates an indicative US$300 million in co-financing;
  • includes a request for US$19.2 million from the STAR allocations for eight countries and a request for US$36.1 million from the International Waters focal area for LDCs and SIDS;
  • emphasizes funding for LDCs and SIDS and promotes balanced programming among the focal areas; and
  • will benefit 33 recipient countries.

A number of Members indicated they would submit written comments to the Secretariat after the meeting. One Member lamented that three Agencies have captured 69% of GEF-6 resources while 11 have captured less than 2%, and called for making the partnership more balanced. He also emphasized the need for PIFs to have a better contextualization of the projects and more information on co-financing investments.

On an “umbrella programme” on developing country reporting to the UNFCCC, one Member called for more information on coordination with other transparency initiatives, to which Fonseca responded that the Secretariat is working with relevant Agencies to ensure alignment.

Two Members enquired about projects that have been validated under GEF-6 but not approved for funding, with one Member asking for these projects to be given priority in GEF-7. GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii noted that, as per the rules, these projects will need to be resubmitted to the new investment cycle.

The GEF-CSO Network lamented a lack of CSO and stakeholder involvement in funded projects, noting that a more formal and organized engagement would generate multiple benefits for implementing partners.

Decision: The Council approves the Work Programme, subject to comments made during the Council meeting and additional comments submitted in writing to the Secretariat by 24 July 2018, with total resources of US$63.4 million.

GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP): Implementation Arrangements for GEF-7

On Monday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced the document related to the implementation arrangements for the GEF-7 SGP (GEF/C.54/05).

A number of Council Members lauded the SGP for enabling activities at the local level, and lamented the decrease in funds available for the SGP, calling to maintain the GEF-6 funding level for the Programme.

One Member queried the double-payments when accessing funds through the SGP via an Implementing Agency, with the Secretariat noting that this may be due to the addition of administrative fees by individual Implementing Agencies.

One Council Member requested clarification on the link between UNDP’s Equator Prize and the SGP and, with others, queried the SGP’s reporting requirements.

Several others expressed concern over the 10% ceiling to STAR country allocations to participate in the SGP, with the Secretariat proposing to remove the percentage cap (of 10%) and keep the absolute cap (of US$2 million).

On Tuesday, Clottes introduced a revised proposal on the ceiling for the use of STAR allocations of US$3 million for graduating countries and no more than 10% of their STAR allocations or US$1 million for non-graduating countries. She stressed the need to strike a balance between the benefits brought by the SGP and delivering on the GEF-7 results framework.

Three Members called for maintaining the GEF-6 guidelines, stressing the SGP’s unique role in channeling funding to the grassroots level, with one Member stressing the need to give flexibility to recipients in allocation decisions. Others called for decision text on closer alignment with GEF Indicators.

GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii proposed, and Members agreed, to maintain the GEF-6 ceilings and seek closer alignment of projects with the overall GEF-7 targets.

Decision: In the revised document (GEF/C.54/05/Rev.1), the Council:

  • takes note of the implementation arrangements and approves the proposed financing structure for the GEF-7 SGP;
  • requests the Secretariat and the UNDP to keep under review the criteria for eligibility to core funds and propose any changes with a view to ensuring an equitable deployment of SGP support over time; and
  • requests the UNDP to prepare a paper for the 55th Council meeting describing the approach and criteria for the retained allocation of core funds to countries, and the results framework for the GEF-7 SGP and associated targets for global environmental benefits aligned with the overall GEF-7 results architecture.

Country Support ProgramME (CSP) Implementation Arrangements for GEF-7

On Monday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, introduced the proposed CSP Implementation Arrangements for GEF-7 (GEF/C.54/04), which includes a total allocation of US$21 million funded by the GEF Trust Fund for GEF national dialogues, workshops, constituency meetings, introduction seminars, and pre-Council meetings for recipient country Council Members or Alternates.

Several Council Members stressed the strategic importance of National Dialogues to enable planned programming for GEF-7, and questioned the rationale behind limiting the allocation to US$1.7 million for ten dialogues a year. Other Members noted the role of National Portfolio Formulation Exercise (NPFE), further noting all recipient countries can assess GEF resources for NPFEs, particularly in the context of encouraging more integrated programming in GEF-7.

Some Members observed that as part of the NPFE process, a National Portfolio Formulation Document is required but many recipient countries lack the capacity to prepare such a complex document in order to formulate eligible projects. In response to this challenge, several Members suggested simplifying the documentation requirements for the NPFE process, and allocating resources for core experts and consultants in the country or region to save costs.

Highlighting the GCF’s Readiness Programme, another Council Member requested more information from the Secretariat on the success of the CSP in programme prioritization in recipient countries. She also called for mainstreaming private sector engagement throughout GEF-7. 

The GEF CSO-Network suggested engaging with more members of the civil society and local communities in the Results Architecture for GEF-7. 

In response, Clottes acknowledged the importance of National Dialogues, constrains of recipient country capacity, and stronger private sector engagement in GEF-7, pointing to the IEO’s future work including a more systemic evaluation of the CSP.

Saying the composition and objectives of the CSP under the GEF and the GCF’s Readiness Programme are different, William Ehlers, GEF Secretariat, clarified that the interaction between the GEF and GCF started a year ago and “is a work in progress.” One Council Member insisted that the budget for the CSP is “not quite well cooked.”

GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii suggested further consultation on this issue. When the discussion resumed on Tuesday morning, Council Members considered a revised recommended decision that merged the budget allocated for GEF National Dialogues and workshops into a joint category of GEF programming and training activities while retaining a budget for constituency meetings, induction seminars and pre-Council meetings. The revised decision also incorporated the prioritization of support for early country programming, and the role of OFPs in achieving greater resource efficiency.

One Member welcomed the revision and emphasized that the continuation of the CSP under GEF-7 can help her region enhance their capacity to identify national priorities while contributing to greater global impacts. Members then approved the revised proposal (GEF/C.54/04/Rev.01).

Decision: The Council approves the proposal for the GEF Secretariat to execute the CSP with a total allocation of US$21 million, funded by the GEF Trust Fund, and allocated for the following activities:

  • GEF programming and training activities: US$14.7 million;
  • GEF constituency meetings: US$5 million;
  • GEF introduction seminars: US$1 million; and
  • Pre-Council meetings for recipient country Council Members/Alternates: US$300,000.

The Council also directs the Trustee to set aside US$21 million in GEF Trust Fund resources for use by the Secretariat to fund these activities.

Strengthening Consultations with Civil Society

On Monday, Clottes, GEF Secretariat, presented the document on Strengthening Consultations with Civil Society: Proposed Topic for Discussion at the Consultations of the 55th GEF Council meeting (GEF/C.54/07), which proposes the topic “connecting environmental impact and gender equality.” She said the document includes an annex which summarizes actions taken to date by the GEF Secretariat in an effort to guarantee a process that is transparent in terms of the selection of CSO representatives at the 54th Council meeting and the sixth GEF Assembly.

One Member strongly supported the choice of discussion topic. The GEF CSO-Network suggested that the extensive CSO outreach process associated with this Council meeting and the Assembly would likely result in new GEF CSO-Network members. He also urged for wide and diverse representation from women constituencies, especially indigenous women, during the “connecting environmental impact and gender equality” discussions and proposed pre-conference training for new attendees.

Decision: The Council selects the following topic to be addressed as part of the consultations in the next Council meeting in December 2018: “connecting environmental impact and gender equality.”

Membership of the Ethics Committee

On Tuesday, Co-Chair Peter Elder introduced, and Council Members agreed on, the document Membership of the Ethics Committee (GEF/C.54/12) that presents the successors in the Ethics Committee to Council Members that no longer serve on the Council.

Decision: The Council approves the updated Membership of the Ethics Committee as follows:

  • Marita Olson, Sweden, to replace Mitchell Silk, US, as Member of the Ethics Committee for the remainder of his term (Spring 2020); and
  • Martha Cuba, Peru, to replace José Antonio González Norris, Peru, as Member of the Committee, and also to serve as the new Chair of the Committee, for the remainder of his term (Spring 2019).

Other Business

On Tuesday, one Council Member reiterated his concern over politicization of the allocation of project funds for his country since GEF-5, including with regard to STAR allocations and approved SGP funds, and requested that this be reflected in the proceedings of the meeting. Co-Chair Elder responded that such request would be duly noted in the highlights document of the meeting.

On the Ad-hoc Working Group on Governance, a Member reported, and the Council agreed to, the membership of the Working Group, with Members representing: Mexico, Botswana, India, Grenada, Japan, US, Germany and Switzerland.

A Council Member requested, and the Council agreed to, an extension of the sunset clause of the CBIT Trust Fund to 31 October 2018.

India announced, and the Council welcomed, a 25% increase of the country’s contribution to the GEF Trust Fund.

On dates for future sessions, the Council agreed to: convene the 55th meeting of the GEF Council on 17-20 December 2018 and the 57th Council meeting on 9-12 December 2019; and communicate a decision on the dates of the 56th Council meeting by email following the 54th meeting.

Joint Summary of the Chairs

On Tuesday, Co-Chair Elder presented the draft joint summary of the Chairs. Responding to a Member’s enquiry on how her constituency’s suggestion to include marine debris as a Sub-Indicator in the Updated Results Architecture for GEF-7 would be reflected, Elder clarified it would be included in the highlights report, to be issued after the meeting. Similarly, he explained to another Member that his statement on his country’s inability to access to support under GEF-5 and GEF-6 would be reflected in the highlights document. The Council then approved the summary with minor editorial changes. GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii closed the meeting at 1:25 pm.

Report of the 24th LDCF/SCCF Council Meeting

Opening of the Meeting and Adoption of the Agenda

On Tuesday, 26 June, GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii opened the meeting, stressing the urgency brought about by recent extreme weather events, including in the host city Da Nang, and noting that there remains a “huge gap between demand and supply” in climate finance.

The LDCF/SCCF Council adopted the agenda for the meeting (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24.01).

In his opening remarks, LDC Chair Gebru Jember Endalew, Ethiopia, highlighted the importance of the LDCF to the LDCs’ climate change-related challenges and commended the new LDCF/SCCF programming strategy. He acknowledged the voluntary contributions to the Fund, but noted a large remaining gap in support needed, including to the formulation and implementation of UNFCCC national plans, which he said includes more than US$200 billion for implementation identified in 30 LDCs’ nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Project Showcase

Ato Kare Chawicha Debessa, State Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ethiopia, presented on the results of a LDCF-supported sustainable land management project that is part of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel initiative. He reported “impressive results so far” in Ethiopia, including 500 hectares of degraded land restored with the help of climate-smart agricultural practices.

GEF 2018-2022 LDCF/SCCF Programming Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change and Operational Improvements

Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, presented the proposed 2018-2022 Programming Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change for the LDCF and SCCF and Operational Improvements (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24/03), explaining that the preparation process had included three consultation meetings and a technical review, and highlighting that the strategy:

  • aligns its overarching goal with the Paris Agreement on climate change and sets three strategic objectives that relate to innovation and technology transfer, mainstreaming for systemic impact, and enabling conditions;
  • builds on, and seeks to ensure, the complementarities of the LDCF and SCCF;
  • seeks to enhance private sector engagement through catalytic grants and non-grant investments; and
  • contains measures aimed at enhancing strategic prioritization and delivery.

Donor Members commended the strategy, highlighting in particular: the strategic objectives; adjustments in the LDCF project selection and approval process; enhanced gender responsiveness; and emphasis on complementarity with other funds. On private sector engagement, three Members called for targeting the local private sector.

Responding to a question on the operationalization of the selection criteria, Fonseca said the Secretariat would need to “learn as we go along.” On queries regarding fund allocation between the strategic objectives, Chizuru Aoki, GEF Secretariat, noted the document contains two scenarios but stressed that the ultimate decision lies with the countries.

Three donor Members confirmed their continued support to the funds, with Sweden indicating her county’s intention to provide an additional contribution of SEK50 million (equivalent to US$5.65 million) to the LDCF in 2018.

Decision: The Council welcomes the strategy and endorses it as a basis for programming resources under the LDCF and SCCF from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2022.

LDCF and SCCF Progress Reports

Aoki introduced the Progress Report on the LDCF and SCCF (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24/04) including: a financial summary; expected results of projects approved or endorsed; and project examples for the LDCF and SCCF during the reporting period from October 2017 to April 2018.

On the LDCF, Aoki noted that cumulative pledges amounted to US$1.327 billion, of which 95% or US$1.27 billion had been paid, highlighting that 144 out of 172 projects endorsed or approved under the LDCF contributed to the direct reduction of vulnerability affecting more than 20 million people. She also observed that the demand for LDCF resources continues to exceed the funds available for new approvals. On the SCCF, Aoki noted that the cumulative pledges had reached US$3.523 billion for 78 projects, of which 99% or US$3.473 billion had been paid.

Decision: The Council welcomes the report and takes note with appreciation of the progress made under the LDCF and SCCF.

Fiscal Year 2017 Annual LDCF and SCCF Monitoring Review and Evaluation Report 2017

Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Secretariat, introduced the Annual Monitoring Review for the LDCF and the SCCF (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24/05) on the performance, results and lessons learned from the active portfolio projects beginning on or before 30 June 2016 and under implementation during at least part of the fiscal year 2017. He noted that, of 88 LDCF projects reviewed, 86% were rated “moderately satisfactory” or higher on progress towards development objectives, and 87% on implementation progress. Among 36 SCCF projects reviewed, 97% of projects were rated “moderately satisfactory,” or higher on development objectives, and all projects were rated “moderately satisfactory,” or higher on implementation progress.

Fonseca reflected on key challenges faced by both funds, including relating to: the clarity of executive arrangements and level of political buy-in; influx of migrants in recipient countries resulting in severe restructuring of projects under implementation; and ability of national executing partners to meet financial management requirements.

Welcoming the review based on actual project results, a number of Members suggested that: elements affecting sustainability be included in project selection criteria; more data be publicized to inform decision making in donor countries; and the level of gender mainstreaming be increased, especially under the LDCF. Fonseca, in response, explained that, due to the limited sample, the review results were not indicative of the overall project portfolio under the LDCF and SCCF, and suggested expanding the review period to a longer time period.

On the LDCF/SCCF Annual Evaluation Report 2017, Juha Uitto, IEO Director, invited Members to consider document GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24/ME/01. Presenting the document, Anna Birgitta Viggh, explained that it focused on the outcome, sustainability, monitoring and evaluation ratings, innovation approaches, gender consideration and lessons learnt from 19 completed projects amounting to US$2.5 billion. She highlighted that about 70% of projects had outcome ratings in the satisfactory range, 60% received sustainability ratings in the likely range, and all LDCF projects were aligned with the priority interventions in the National Adaptation Programme of Action reports.

Several Members commended the report, with one Member calling for more specific stories on livelihood improvements to be included. Asked about the modest gender rating results, Fonseca explained that the projects evaluated in the report targeted those that had been implemented before the adoption of the GEF gender mainstreaming policy and said he expected the gender rating to be significantly improved in future evaluations.

Decision: The Council welcomes the review and appreciates the progress made in reporting portfolio-level performance, results and lessons learned under the LDCF and SCCF, along with the overall finding that 86% of the LDCF projects and 97% of the SCCF projects under implementation in fiscal year 2017 were rated in the satisfactory range and above for their progress towards development objectives.

Fiscal Year 2019 Administrative Budget

Aoki introduced the 2019 Administrative Budget for the LDCF and SCCF (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24/06), including a review of the outcome of the 2018 LDCF/SCCF Council-approved budget and proposed administrative budget for the GEF Secretariat, the STAP, the Trustee and the IEO for their services to the LDCF and the SCCF for fiscal year 2019. Members considered and approved the proposal.

Decision: The LDCF/SCCF Council approves the proposed budget for the GEF Secretariat, STAP, the Trustee and the GEF IEO, as follows:

  • US$1,042,797 for the GEF Secretariat, US$128,000 for the STAP, US$337,000 for the World Bank as Trustee, and US$26,000 for the GEF IEO, from the LDCF; and
  • US$481,576 for the GEF Secretariat, US$128,000 for the STAP, US$118,000 for the World Bank as Trustee, and US$26,000 for the GEF IEO, from the SCCF.

2019 Work ProgramME and Budget for the LDCF/SCCF IEO

Juha Uitto, IEO Director, introduced the Work Program and Budget for the IEO under LDCF and SCCF (GEF/LDCF.SCCF.24/ME/02). He outlined progress on the activities completed by the IEO in fiscal year 2018 and proposed a work programme and a budget to cover the costs of implementing the evaluation work for the LDCF and the SCCF for fiscal year 2019. Council Members considered and approved the proposal.

Decision: The LDCF/SCCF Council approves an annual budget of US$52,000 for the IEO for 2019 for the proposed work programme, including: US$26,000 from the LDCF; and US$26,000 from the SCCF.

Report of the 6th GEF Assembly

Opening of the Assembly

The sixth GEF Assembly took place on Wednesday and Thursday, 27-28 June 2018. Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, welcomed delegates to the Assembly. The Assembly elected, by acclamation, Trần Hồng Hà, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam, as Chair. Members also elected as Kéïta Aïda M'Bo, Minister of Environment, Sanitation and Sustainable Development, Mali, and Atle Hamar, State Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Norway as Vice-Chairs respectively for recipient and donor countries. Chair Trần stressed that a transformation in our economies, societies and lifestyles is necessary to achieve a resilient and sustainable Earth. 

The Assembly then adopted the agenda (GEF/A.6/01). Chair Trần explained that statements by heads of delegations would take place in parallel to the roundtable discussions on Wednesday and Thursday.

In his opening address, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Viet Nam, called for integrated solutions for a “resilient, sustainable and life-affirming planet,” and highlighted the country’s role in championing a plastic waste-free ocean initiative with the GEF. The Prime Minister called on delegates to: identify key environmental challenges and formulate effective solutions; evaluate the effectiveness of existing cooperation mechanisms; and propose interregional and interdisciplinary projects to address underlying causes of environmental degradation.

GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii said that ecosystems, which are at the very foundation of economies and societies, must be restored, and that transformations are not only needed but possible and “good for all of our lives.” Asking why progress towards transformation is so slow, she said that this is because societies are locked into the current economic system and rely on “politically safe options.” She suggested that a new stakeholder coalition is needed to change this.

President Hilda Heine, the Marshall Islands, said the GEF is at the forefront of efforts to overcome the environment and climate crises. She outlined national efforts to tackle environmental problems such as implementing a total ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam, applying hard catch limits on fisheries, and implementing a 3% “blue fee” on annual fisheries revenues to fund conservation efforts. She invited delegates to a virtual Climate Vulnerable Forum leaders’ summit on the 22 November 2018 to help raise political momentum and amplify awareness for urgently needed action to enable the most vulnerable to survive and thrive.

Michelle Bachelet, Former President of Chile, underscored that addressing environmental challenges in her country has led to improved understanding of the cross-sectoral nature of environmental issues. She also reflected on the importance of: public participation and inclusiveness at all levels; long-term strategic plans in key economic sectors for sustainable production and consumption; quality information and science-based decision making; and persistent leadership for transformational change towards sustainable development.

Opening Plenary Sessions

Message from Science: Warning that humanity can no longer exclude the possibility of crossing a planetary disaster threshold and noting that we are already transgressing four of the nine planetary boundaries, namely climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, and altered biogeochemical cycles, Johan Rockström, Executive Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre, called for creating a safe operating space for human well-being. He outlined six global transformations necessary for reaching the SDGs: energy and decarbonization; food, biosphere, water, and oceans; smart cities; sustainable consumption and production; digital revolution; and human capacity and demography. Stressing that the Venn diagram model (illustrating the three pillars of sustainable development) has not delivered sustainable development, he proposed a concentric, three-layered “wedding cake approach” that places environment-related SDGs as a non-negotiable base layer, underpinning SDGs related to social inclusion and economic growth, respectively.

Noting the message from science that the pace of environmental change is accelerating and that science can help in designing pathways to achieve system transformations, Rosina Bierbaum, Chair, STAP, outlined three ways that the GEF Partnership can “harness acceleration” towards these transformations, namely: adopting integrated approaches, such as the circular economy; harnessing innovation in technologies, finance, government and institutions; and making best practices available for learning and rapid scaling up of solutions. 

Delivering Transformation: Andrew Steer, President, WRI, moderated a panel, which considered how to deliver transformational change to address environmental concerns. Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, said business should move away from the focus on increasing shareholder value and concentrate on a purpose-driven mandate, underpinned by leadership and willpower to achieve sustainable transformations.

Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment (UNEP), argued for the need to follow, and learn from, the example of plastic pollution where awareness has rapidly accelerated to a point where “everyone is talking about it.” He further said that it is not enough to describe the problem anymore but a more positive narrative and “can-do attitude” instead.

Former President of Chile Bachelet said it is necessary to calculate the cost of inaction instead of focusing on the cost of environmental actions and emphasized the role of children and youth as drivers of change.

Takehiko Nakao, President, ADB, outlined opportunities to enhance collaboration with the GEF on matters such as natural capital, disaster resilience, and forest protection. In response to a question on what positive tipping points are required and how to achieve them:

  • Solheim said its necessary to see environmental action as a social and economic opportunity;
  • Nakao highlighted the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs as examples of positive tipping points;
  • Polman stressed the need to “have the right people in the room”; and
  • Bachelet underscored the importance of employing planetary, rather than political, timelines.

GEF-7 and Systems Change: Steer then moderated a discussion on the role of GEF funding in catalyzing systemic and transformational interventions. Stating that the global food and agriculture system is broken, Sunny Verghese, Co-Founder and Group CEO, Olam International, called for increasing agriculture productivity with less resources consumed and catalyzed by public financing. Suma Chakrabarti, President, EBRD, stressed the importance of a consistent policy framework over a long period of time to build confidence among multilateral development banks and attract private sector investments in sustainability technologies and solutions.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary, CBD, underscored the role of governments in setting the right incentives to direct and accelerate the transition towards planetary stewardship, and internalize biodiversity as natural capital in the decision-making processes across all sectors. Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP, called for reconnecting the life-supporting ecosystem with the socio-economic system, and addressing the financing that underpinned the conflicts between the two parallel systems.

Parallel High-level Round Tables

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, 14 parallel roundtable discussions were held, during which delegates took part in interactive exchanges of views and lively dialogues. The following contains a summary of 12 of the roundtables.

Food, Land Use and Restoration: Moderator Jeremy Oppenheim, Food and Land-Use Coalition, invited participants to reflect on the learnings and opportunities for embedding sustainability in food and land-use systems based on experiences from Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, said food security and land-use systems are under-financed despite their tremendous potential to contribute to all SDGs, and highlighted the successful mobilization of US$500 million for scaling and speeding up food production and land-use projects under GEF-7.

Ato Kare, State Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ethiopia, reported on a sustainable land management programme on highly degraded land with close engagement of local communities, which has contributed to food security, climate resilience and increased income in his country. Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), observed that an increase in farmland productivity and biodiversity conservation are not mutually exclusive, and noted the significance of access to both finance and markets to local farmers. 

Introducing an experience with a deforestation moratorium in the Amazon, Carter Roberts, WWF-US, emphasized the role of partnerships between companies, civil society and governments in identifying and implementing constructive solutions for sustainable land use. Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International, presented on an agro-biodiversity index developed by her organization that led to increased yields while putting into practice environmental protection measures in Brazil, Peru, and Ethiopia.

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, FAO, said agroecology could be part of the solution in addressing the growing challenge of global hunger and food insecurity, while calling for increasing the benefits for small farmers. Representatives from Colombia, Burkina Faso, and Burundi announced commitments and national plans related to sustainable food systems and land use, and called for development partners’ support for swift action and scaling up impacts.

Sunny Verghese, Co-Founder and Group CEO, Olam International, underscored the importance of trust building between the public and private sectors and civil society. CBD Executive Secretary Palmer highlighted that the CBD COP 14 in November 2018 will continue to consider how to mainstream biodiversity into key economic sectors, and discuss the role of partnerships in the post-2020 biodiversity architecture. Ajay Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj (a farmers’ organization), stated that increased yields might be counter-productive for smallholder farmers if they lack access to markets.

Margarita Astralaga, Director, Environment and Climate Change, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Shri C.K. Mishra, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India, called for sustainable technologies and resources to enable a sustainable food and land-use pathway for wider rural prosperity. Shenggen Fan, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute, stressed the need to move smallholders out of hunger poverty, and to reform subsidies that affect farmers’ income.

Steven Collet, Operational Director, Member of Board, IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, highlighted the role of public-private partnerships and innovative institutional arrangements to de-risk market finance in supporting sustainable agriculture. Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN), underscored the need of long-term sustainable land-use planning taking into account changing external trade environments.

Sustainable Cities: The first sustainable cities roundtable session considered how cities can deliver sustainable urban growth where Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40, outlined that cities can do a great deal, but that mayors alone cannot deliver low carbon cities.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, stressed the importance of translating the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs into language that mayors understand and developing tools that can aid implementation. Anna Wellenstein, World Bank, presented on the GEF-funded Global Platform for Sustainable Cities which will be scaled up during GEF-7.

Archana Mittal, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India, highlighted smart cities related projects and measures in India, saying these demonstrate an integrated approach to creating sustainable cities. Beatrice Maser Mallor, Ambassador of Switzerland to Viet Nam, said that in Switzerland citizens vote on how to spend tax money related to urban investments which increases local ownership and accountability.

Coletha Ruhamya, Director General, Rwanda Environmental Management Authority, outlined plans to green and improve secondary cities with the aim to reduce migration pressure on the city of Kigali. Aparna Subramani, World Bank, said success in generating sustainable cities depends on whether cities have clear mandates and legislative backing.

Julie Greenwalt, Cities Alliance, said that opportunities for collaboration with the private sector might be missed due to lack of awareness regarding their interests in creating sustainable cities. Ralph Sims, STAP, asked how climate change adaptation and resilience fits with respect to building and managing cities, who pays when cities are damaged due to sea-level rise and who regulates such issues.   

The second roundtable focused on financing sustainable cities, where Ani Dasgupta, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, said the combination of domestic and international public finance is not sufficient to fill the infrastructure gap to develop sustainable cities. Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister of Planning, Indonesia, outlined the country’s experiences in financing sustainable cities, highlighting the importance of local governments collecting and maximizing local tax revenue.

Josué Tanaka, Managing Director, Operational Strategy and Planning, Energy Efficiency and Climate Change, EBRD, outlined efforts to improve financing tools to promote sustainable cities.

Tomasz Dominik Kotecki Golasinska, Deputy Director-General, National Housing Commission, Mexico, outlined programmes to stop overcomplicating cities and instead break it down into smaller and more manageable sections to promote sustainability.

Juan Pablo Bonilla, Inter-American Development Bank, highlighted work to establish an SDG network for over 100 Mayors in Latin America and the Caribbean. With respect to financing sustainable cities, Milag San Jose-Ballesteros, C40, outlined the need to both improve the quantity and quality of finance.

Rodrigo Corradi, Municipality of Porto Alegre, Brazil, highlighted how through the support of ICLEI, they have created a new sustainable energy strategy. Mariana Daza von Boeck, Municipal Government of La Paz, Bolivia, outlined a new national planning system based around risk management and climate change.

Partnerships for Implementing the Agenda 2030: Moderator Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director, UNSDSN, observed that the SDGs are at the core of policy discussions in every capital city, and that the discussion has moved from “what this agenda is” to “what we can do about this agenda.” He underscored the significant role of multilateral financing mechanisms in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Minister Brodjonegoro, Indonesia, presented on his country’s strategies and governance frameworks for implementing the 2030 Agenda, highlighting as key elements: transparency and accountability at all levels; a multisectoral SDG platform; and a strong culture of giving, which has enabled innovation in Islamic finance for development. UNDP Administrator Steiner, described the interdependence of the SDGs as a strength from a financing perspective, as investments in one Goal allow benefits under others as well.

Speaking about 2020 as a near-term milestone for the Convention, CBD Executive Secretary Palmer, said countries are not on track to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, describing this as a collective failure.

On cooperation between the GEF and the GCF, Howard Bamsey, GCF Executive Director, noted a clear message from countries on the need for the two funds to work together in the spirit of “coordinated engagement.” He emphasized that allowing countries to suggest ways in which the GCF and the GEF can cooperate would create more coordinated action and country ownership.

HRH Princess Abze Djigma, Special Envoy of the President for SDGs and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, identified as high rates of employment in the informal sector as her country’s main development challenge, noting that the lack of information on the benefits of formal employment hinders efforts to bring people in. Among other challenges, she identified difficulties in upgrading industries to enable manufacturing of products that meet international standards.

Axel van Trotsenburg, Vice President, Development Finance, World Bank, cautioned that concessional financial resources are scarce and multilateral funds are under threat. He called for a discussion on a fair distribution of these resources, and stressed the need to leverage private sector financing, including through de-risking investments. He described the GEF-7 replenishment as a “success under the circumstances but not successful if needs are considered.” While noting that the GEF has value as a convener, he lamented the stagnation in the number of donors, which stands at 29.

Participants from Costa Rica and Viet Nam shared experiences, highlighting, respectively, the lack of policy coherence and good governance as the main obstacles to implementing the SDGs and stressing the need to understand better how the private sector can support implementation.

Science-based Targets for the Earth: Moderator Dominic Waughray, Director of Partnerships, World Economic Forum, invited speakers to focus on exploring how new collaborations and partnerships can support raising awareness on planetary boundaries.

Johan Röckstrom, Executive Director, Stockholm Resilience Center, presented plans for an “Earth Commission,” which he described as an “IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) for the planet, inspired by the Lancet Commissions” that would deliver “the equivalent of the 2°C target for the planet.” He said the Commission, hosted by the IUCN, together with research initiative Future Earth, would: provide a review of the scientific “state-of-the-art” on different planetary boundaries; engage heavily with the science-policy processes under the Rio Conventions, among others; deliver science-based targets for all planetary boundaries, with tailored targets for different sectors; and leverage 100 million people to support delivery by acting as “planetary stewards.”

Andrew Steer, WRI, reflected on the Science Based Targets initiative for measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which engages more than 100 companies and which he said was largely driven by businesses asking what scale of reductions would be “enough.” He said companies are now requesting science-based targets for other areas, including biodiversity, land, and water. On motives for businesses’ engagement, he noted a will to be part of the solution, increasing pressure from institutional and other investors, and demand from employees and customers.

Sunny Verghese, Chair, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said the Council works with science-based targets because it wants to ensure it contributes to required systems changes, and stressed the importance of including such targets in investment decisions.

Lamenting that the MEAs on biodiversity “are not working,” Cyriaque Sendashonga, IUCN, suggested that something akin to the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement could be “an empowering formulation” to enable a “step change.” She outlined the need for a biodiversity mission that is aligned with a science-based target, from which all actors can “find something to support reaching the target.”

CBD Executive Secretary Palmer called for aspirational targets that gain the buy-in of everyone, saying “everyone needs to understand that we are going down fast.” She suggested a 2050 target of “having the whole earth sustainably managed.”

Participants asked questions about: the appropriateness of the IPCC as an analogy; which planetary boundaries to address first beyond GHGs; and a strategy for communications and reaching out to the public. Rockström explained that, instead of being another IPCC, the Earth Commission is envisaged “a light-footed, much more rapid and independent scientific machinery.” He said that five of the nine planetary boundaries are emerging as the focal areas. Verghese suggested framing the environmental problem at hand as an existential crisis, which he said, “will move anyone.”

Circular Economy: This event was moderated by Dominic Waughray, World Economic Forum. Jocelyn Blériot, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, noted that there is strong private sector buy-in for the circular economy due to its profitability and pointed to the circular economy as a good delivery mechanism for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Noting that circular economy is included in GEF-7, including in the chemicals and wastes focal area, among others, Leah Carrer, GEF, suggested that the circular economy is an opportunity to engage directly with the private sector to generate sustainable solutions to environmental challenges.

Highlighting his organization’s role in preparing the Finnish Roadmap to a Circular Economy, Timo Mäkelä, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, noted that the circular economy is a promising avenue to address the growing demand for electricity, steel, arable land, and water. He also informed participants that, within the EU alone, a shift to a circular economy would save EUR600 billion, increase employment opportunities, and address climate change.

Describing national legislation that institutes the extended producer responsibility principle and the lifecycle approach to production, Lawrence Anukam, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, Nigeria, highlighted that there was a realization in government that the best way to cater to the economy would be to transition to a circular economy, pointing to the recent formation of the African Alliance on Circular Economy.

Shri C.K. Mishra, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India, shared that the country’s population of 1.3 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity. He stressed that we have moved from “why” to “how” in the debate on the circular economy and underscored the critical importance of this approach to the delivery of the SDGs.

Highlighting that the aviation industry’s enthusiasm for light-weight carbon fibre composites, Steve Yurich, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp, outlined that this presents an opportunity for the automotive sector of his company to recycle this material, thus keeping it within a closed loop. Stating that waste is an error of design and drawing attention to the importance of local waste pickers, Gonzalo Muñoz Abogabir, CEO, TriCilos, highlighted four elements in post-consumer waste streams which complicate the business of recycling: textiles, electronics, drugs and plastics. He also described multilayer plastics, which are not recyclable, but could be transformed into other items like toys, noting that this model could incentivize companies to change while also generating a conversation in households about sustainable consumption.

Sharing that 15% of the company’s revenue will come from circular production models by 2030, Diederik Zeven, Market Leader for Asia Pacific, Royal Philips, described that, by 2025, closed-loop systems will be established for certain production streams, including for medical equipment. María Shaw-Barragan, European Investment Bank, noted that the bank has a record in investing in circular economy-based projects, stating that the bank “lends, blends finance for, and advises on” circular economy innovations.

Marine Plastics: Moderator Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ, noted that now could be the “Tesla moment” for addressing plastic pollution, with materials such as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) coming to the fore as replacements for plastics. UNEP Executive Director Solheim called for getting rid of single-use plastics, collecting plastics already in circulation and integrating them in the circular economy, and stressed the need to encourage innovative solutions based on science and private sector engagement.

Safri Burhanuddin, Deputy Minister, Maritime Affairs and Resources, Indonesia, stressed that good marine governance can be achieved, and called for smarter policies, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and political will at the national, regional and global levels to address marine plastic litter. Underscoring his country’s connection to the ocean due to its interests in shipping and offshore oil exploitation, Atle Hamar, State Secretary, Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway, welcomed the GEF’s investments in marine plastics, highlighted his country’s work on reducing microplastics, and called for a global strategy on marine litter and microplastics.

Tạ Đình Thi, Director General, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam, noted that strong coordinated global partnerships are needed to mitigate marine plastic pollution, describing efforts in the East Sea, which promotes cooperation, strengthens regional collaboration, and encourages a circular economy model through knowledge sharing. Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank, highlighted the importance of regional approaches to address marine litter, as well as multi-disciplinary thinking, which she said will require work across silos in order to consider the issue more holistically. She noted the significance of leveraging private finance and underscored the importance of bringing like-minded actors together, under the coordination of the World Bank, to finance projects and programmes dealing with marine plastic litter.

Dini Trisyanti, Founder and Director, Sustainable Waste Indonesia, outlined her company’s work with multiple players on municipal waste management, highlighting the following gaps: lack of capacity of local governments in the management of plastic pollution; weak business models in the collection stream; and an uneven playing field among industry actors. Highlighting the power of citizens to drive change quickly, Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, underlined the need for collective action to deal with marine plastics and called for a global standard on alternatives to plastics.

Susan Ruffo, Ocean Conservancy, highlighted solutions to marine plastic waste including:

  • addressing waste collection and recycling challenges in developing countries;
  • initiating implementable policies at the local, national, and global levels;
  • encouraging alliances with local governments; and
  • channeling private sector finance to catalyze public sector investment.

Transforming the Chemicals Industry: Moderator Izabella Teixeira, Co-Chair, International Resource Panel, encouraged participants to envision the future of the chemicals regime and not repeat past mistakes. 

Lida Tan, ESD China Ltd., spoke about the data availability challenge and the need for the private sector to shift from products to supply-chain compliance with safer alternatives considered and applied from the design phase. Mitch Krauss, Sustainable Production Manager, Burton Snowboards, called for using brand power for raising public awareness on chemicals safety, and breaking down long-term visions like the SDGs in the 2030 Agenda into actionable terms and plans at the company level.

Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Hazardous Substances, lamented the lack of synergies between sound chemicals management and human rights, and called on the chemical industry to respect the public’s right-to-know and protect workers’ occupational safety and health from exposures and risks in the workplace and in households.

Gale Rigobert, Minister of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, Saint Lucia, urged for transparency and making resources available, noting that the GEF can play a critical role in empowering developing countries’ capacity to address the toxic chemicals challenge. Li Yong, Director General, UNIDO, stressed the importance of local and urban community and non-governmental organization (NGO) participation, pointing to the need to innovate to create safe alternatives in industry.

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, lamented that the chemicals agenda has been “crowed into climate change discussions and the 2030 Agenda,” rather than being considered as a core issue related to human and environmental health, and suggested leveraging 1% of the chemical industry’s revenue to address the multidimensional challenges posed by toxic chemicals.

Rossana Silva Repetto, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention, and Virginie Bahon, Valcambi Suisse, suggested legislation and innovative policies with market incentives be developed in partnership with civil society, while keeping in mind the role of small-scale miners and their livelihoods.

Yutaka Ichihashi, Nomura Kohsan, presented on a new mercury waste disposal technology that complies with the Minamata Convention and called on the GEF to support such mercury disposal technology. 

Jacob Duer, Principal Coordinator, Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), introduced the on-going negotiations on the post-2020 framework for sound chemicals management under SAICM, noting that these negotiations have centered on strengthening SAICM’s convening power as a voluntary framework.

Johanna Lissinger Peitz, UNFCCC Chief Negotiator, Sweden, presented the efforts to initiate a high-ambitions alliance as a progressive force driving the post-2020 regime towards an overarching and forwarding looking chemicals management framework, evolving from a substance-based approach to addressing the chemical challenge.

Gertrud Sahler, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Germany and President of the fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management, shared her aspirations for an enhanced SAICM multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach complementing the legally-binding instruments under the chemicals Conventions.

Wildlife: This roundtable consisted of two parts, the first on illegal wildlife trade (IWT) and the second on wildlife tourism. Claudia McMurray, President and CEO, Mainstream Green Solutions LLC, moderated the IWT session. Highlighting the opportunities to address complementary issues like illegal mining and logging alongside IWT, Judy Garber, Department of State, US, stated that being able to address IWT as a global security threat has actually been an opportunity to scale up implementation of a broad range of solutions.

Drawing attention to the IWT Conference in London in October 2018, John Dennis, UK, noted that there is a need for systemic change on the demand-side to eradicate IWT, highlighting as international progress countries effecting ivory-sale bans. Noting the ever-evolving nature of international wildlife crime, Nik Sekhran, WWF-US, highlighted key ingredients from the supply-side countries including: empowering local communities and ensuring ranger welfare; using deterrent technologies to disrupt poaching; setting up cooperation networks between law enforcement and conservation entities; ensuring all arms of law enforcement are on board; and enhancing global cooperation.

Noting that the ivory ban in China has “only opened up new markets” outside the country, Scott Roberton, World Conservation Society, Viet Nam, said that the enhanced political focus on wildlife has led to stronger judicial measures to address IWT, but lamented that the wildlife community is not yet a threat to the IWT community.

Highlighting a study on public awareness levels in China regarding ivory, Grace Ge Gabriel, International Fund for Animal Welfare, said that demand-reduction must be done alongside supply-reduction, but stressing that public awareness alone does not deter greed.

Jillian Blackbeard, Botswana Tourism Organization, moderated the session on wildlife tourism. Kaddu Sebunya, President, African Wildlife Foundation, stated that high-level decision-making on economic development in Africa must include the significance of wildlife and wildlands, highlighting the role of government as the “estate managers” in tourism.

On the financial benefits of tourism, Anna Spencely, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, noted that there is a range of guidance on concessional partnerships in protected areas, and highlighted the process governing these partnerships as well as the financial revenues these can bring in to perpetuate best tourism practices.

Stressing that wildlife without communities is not wildlife, Lucy Mulunkei, Indigenous Information Network, described the challenges that occur when communities are denied their rights, and called for equitable sharing of the gains of tourism. She reiterated the role of indigenous and local communities in the management of wildlife, stressing the importance of both learning from these communities and supporting their efforts.

Launching a US$120 million equity fund to train members of local communities to run their own conservation lodges, Dereck Joubert, CEO and Co-Founder, Great Plains Conservation, called for looking “beyond the ticket sales” in tourism and analyzing the intrinsic value of nature. He highlighted that Great Plains Conservation focuses on leasing land from communities to conserve wildlife as well as to enhance their livelihoods.

Gender and the Environment: Keynote speaker Anna-Karin Jatfors, UN Women, shared data on ways in which women are disadvantaged in the face of environmental challenges and suggested that advancing gender equality “is about having smart and effective solutions that can bring concrete environmental dividends.”

UN-Habitat Executive Director Sharif advocated bringing women to the decision-making table in urban planning, stressing they should be seen as an asset, not a liability. She further shared experiences from the city of Penang, Malaysia, in gender-responsive participatory planning during her tenure as mayor.

On the GCF’s new gender policy, Howard Bamsey, GCF Executive Director, said that the fact that fund is new provided an opportunity to “rethink the question,” but stressed that following best practice will require a constant re-examination of the policy going forward. He explained that the GCF requires its Accredited Entities to have gender policies and its projects to incorporate gender considerations.

Maria-Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, FAO, said her agency considers women not only as beneficiaries but also as entrepreneurs. She explained that ensuring women access to land, investments and technologies could lift 100 million people out of food insecurity.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Deputy Prime Minister, Samoa, delivered advice to women running for a political office: “do it seriously, know your competition and do not only get in but stay in.” She said that, in her region, which has the lowest rates of political participation by women, representation in politics correlates strongly with economic development.

Giving the business perspective, Amy Luinstra, International Finance Corporation, said that gender equality increases efficiency and profitability, and emphasized the need to ensure financing for innovation by women.

Sue Szabo, Global Affairs Canada, presented her country’s ‘Feminist International Assistance Policy,’ which puts gender equality and empowerment at the forefront of development cooperation, and said her country also focuses on providing technical tools for women’s empowerment and on ensuring that women’s participation is built into relevant partner-side policies.

Edna Kaptoyo, Executive Secretary, International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, shared experiences from working with indigenous women in Kenya. She stressed the importance of land rights for successful climate action, noting that forest tenure rights enable better protection.

Tran Thu Thuy Ma, Viet Nam Women’s Union, outlined her organization’s three priority areas of work, namely, gender policy advocacy, women’s leadership, and education and training. She said her Union had played a key role in delivering a national gender equality law and in the incorporation of gender equality in environmental protection legislation.

Bernadette Resurrection, Stockholm Environment Institute, shared results of research on women’s participation and leadership in communities, noting the need to involve women at levels where major decisions are made regarding their resources and to enhance regional cooperation among NGOs on gender and environment.

Innovation in Clean Energy: Noting that over 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity and about 2.8 billion are subject to indoor air pollution, moderator Kevin Braithwaite, Vice President of Global Programs, Cleantech Open, invited speakers to share innovations to address this challenge and advance the clean energy agenda.

Li Yong, Director General, UNIDO, highlighted the Vienna Energy Forum and UNIDO’s Regional Sustainable Energy Centres as major initiatives through which his organization promotes clean energy. He shared results from UNIDO’s GEF-supported Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP), implemented in eight countries, including the acceleration of 856 cleantech innovations by small and medium-size enterprises  that have demonstrated the potential for market success alongside positive environmental and social impacts.

David Turk, Acting Director, Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks, International Energy Agency (IEA), presented on the IEA’s energy system research, highlighting a major gap between the IEA’s central scenario and its new ‘Sustainable Development Scenario,’ which incorporates the below 2°C temperature increase target, SDG 7 (clean energy), and efforts related to sustainable cities and reducing air pollution. He noted that only four energy technologies are on track to deliver against the latter scenario: solar photovoltaics; electric vehicles; LEDs in lighting; and data centers and networks.

Mark Lister, Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency, said increasing energy efficiency “is not a technology problem” but requires process innovation. He identified public street lighting, water supply facilities, and heating and cooling as areas where standardized procurement and project development methodologies can be developed given a high degree of similarity in related solutions across cities and countries.

Josué Tanaka, EBRD, outlined areas for innovation to enable matching financing with investment needs at scale as: policy and regulation; combining technical and financial understanding in financial products; access channels for new technologies to new markets; and financial instruments, including green bonds.

Sarquis J. B. Sarquis, Vice President, New Development Bank, explained that a third of his bank’s projects are dedicated to energy across its member countries China, Brazil, India, Russia, and South Africa. He underlined monitoring as a key area for innovation that can help unlock both financing flows and private sector engagement.

Two speakers presented on GEF/UNIDO GCIP-supported project innovations. Atchara Poomee, Founder and Managing Director, PAC Corporation, Thailand, introduced a device that transfers heat from air conditioning equipment to water heaters and delivers energy and cost savings for consumers. Hari Rao, Founder, Agnisumukh Energy Solutions, India, presented on his company’s energy-efficient biogas-fueled cook stoves. These speakers highlighted challenges for small- and medium-sized enterprises as: the definition of visionary goals; access to finance; and connecting with prospective partners and consumers.

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, stated that the new economic paradigm begins with institutional transformation, describing his country’s experience in integrating environment and energy under one ministry, which has led to zero emissions from electricity and land use.

Conservation Finance: This panel, moderated by Kenneth Lay, Senior Managing Director, The Rock Creek Group, focused on the potential for private investments in conservation and ecosystem management.

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank, highlighted that efforts to address the SDGs compete for finance. He also said that environmental action often has no or low return for investment and due to this  “what is good for the planet is not always good for finance.” Lorenzo Bernasconi, Senior Associate Director, the Rockefeller Foundation, emphasized the success of green bonds as an innovative finance mechanism with over US$160 billion issued last year, and that such innovative finance efforts need to be replicated.

Kruskaia Sierra-Escalante, International Finance Corporation, underlined the importance of partnerships in finance and project development, as well as the need to view projects “as part of a strategic conservation movement.”

Patrick Dlamini, CEO, Development Bank of Southern Africa, emphasized the need to ask the private sector how it is going to ensure protection of the environment through their investments.

Jay Koh, Co-Founder and Managing Director, the Lightsmith Group, highlighted the need to bridge the gap between the SDG community and the Internal Rates of Return community, calling for a greater understanding of each of these communities to implement adequate conservation measures.

Jennifer Morris, President, Conservation International, said the role of NGOs in enhancing conservation finance includes being translators of environmental science and agreements for the private sector and bringing together blended capitals in innovative ways.

Justin Mundy, Prince’s Charities - International Sustainability Unit, suggested that the “biggest bang for the buck” to conserve the oceans would be to buy out those that engage in high seas fishing, which would cost US$4 billion, and then invest US$1 billion in marine protected areas.

Bey Soo Khiang, APRIL Chairman, presented on his company’s pulp and paper production protection model, which involves creating a ring of plantations around conservation forest with the commitment to protect a hectare of forest for every hectare of plantation, explaining that forests and plantations are now almost at parity.

Steven Collet, Operational Director, Executive Board Member, IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, said his initiative works with supply chain companies to create a business case to make conservation profitable and bankable and to stretch these business cases beyond single-actor responsibilities.

Sustainable Drylands: In this roundtable, which focused on potential opportunities for helping dryland countries advance Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), Dennis Garrity, Drylands Ambassador, UNCCD, presented on scaling up solutions for drylands and highlighted some promising trends related to an increase in tree cover on agricultural land and in effective and financially sustainable methods to dramatically increase carbon stocks in drylands.

Juan Carlos Mendoza, Managing Director, UNCCD Global Mechanism, said that with support from the Global Mechanism, 118 countries are currently creating commitments to achieve LDN through reversing, slowing or counter-balancing land degradation.

As a representative of the management of the LDN Fund Gautier Queru, Mirova, highlighted that the LDN Fund focuses on: supporting activities that have positive environmental impacts and are economically viable; bringing proven pilot projects to scale; and providing technical assistance to help promising projects become investment-ready.

Mariem Dkhil, Morocco Agricultural Credit, highlighted the projects work in supporting and financing over 10,000 farmers, especially through cooperatives, to plant date trees for the restoration of oasis in deserts.

Joy Tukahirwa, Uganda Landcare Network, said small-scale farmers should instead be called “significant-scale farmers” due to their important role in promoting land conservation, and highlighted that land is the lifeline of farmers as they use it as their supermarkets, medical clinics, gyms, mosques or churches, and meeting places.

Paula Coelho, Minister of Environment, Angola, highlighted work in Angola related to studying how plants in drylands can protect the soil and provide food for farmers, and drew attention to a large protected areas programme.

Andre Kouassi Ablom Johnson, Minister of Environment and Forest Resources, Togo, outlined national efforts to develop LDN targets, organize a forest inventory, and implement an afforestation programme. He further presented political, technical and social challenges to address land degradation.

In conclusion, Annette Cowie, STAP Advisory Panel, said land degradation needs to be considered at the land use planning stage to avoid maladaptation. She encouraged countries to identify national indicators to monitor land degradation, and ensure safeguard principles are in place to help guide land degradation efforts.

Discussions revolved around, inter alia: what is missing to achieve LDN; ways of building trust within smallholder communities; and seeing CSOs as a resource and partner in promoting LDN.

Roundtable Wrap-up Session: On Thursday afternoon, GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii invited panelists to report back on the roundtable discussions and answer the question: what is holding us back from delivering transformational change to safeguard the global commons? Jan Piotrowski, Environment Correspondent, The Economist, moderated.

On communication-related challenges, panelists highlighted the need to communicate effectively and for GEF stakeholders to act as “translators” between people and decisionmakers. One speaker suggested that “language used needs to be more palatable” and called for “humanizing science.” Another panelist highlighted the need to “change the narrative,” citing as an example the need to emphasize the economic value of marine protected areas.

On finance, panelists called for: quantified data on environmental externalities to enable better investment decisions by governments; more granular data on world ocean economics and the economic benefits of wildlife conservation; blended financing, risk mitigation, and creating certainty for the finance community; and streamlined access mechanisms for small jurisdictions.

On partnerships, speakers converged on the need to create a diverse platform with actors from different stakeholder groups that empowers these to push forward transformations. They also called for “systems change leadership” and for switching from a small-project mindset to a “coalition for transformation.” Speakers further stressed the need for a buy-in from both “the top and the bottom,” with one underscoring the need to also win over voters “in the middle” and another saying the focus should not be on bringing all but “enough” decisionmakers on board. They further called for knowledge exchange between the public and private sectors, and for all players to jointly ensure sufficient funding for implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Panelists also called for: public education; context-sensitive implementation of science-based solutions; recognition of local competencies in developing countries; and innovative ways to use public procurement to stimulate climate-friendly measures.

Closing Sessions

On Thursday afternoon, David Granger, President of Guyana gave a keynote address. Noting that the GEF is the world’s formal institution for financing international environmental changes, he welcomed the Assembly’s achievements and lauded participants on their commitment to delivering transformative change to address global environmental challenges, and called for a stronger and more effective environmental cooperation model at sub-regional and local levels, including the GEF support to multistate- and sub-regional organizations.

Report on the Seventh Replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund: GEF CEO and Chairperson Ishii introduced the Report on the GEF-7 Replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF/A.6/05), including a summary of negotiations, programming directions and resource allocation, policy recommendations for GEF-7, along with a draft GEF-7 replenishment resolution for approval by the World Bank Executive Directors. She said that the US$4.1 million GEF-7 replenishment is the “best possible outcome,” and is the result of long negotiations, reminding the Assembly that these resources must be maximized to yield the highest quality results. The Assembly took note of the report.

Report by the IEO: Juha Uitto, Director, IEO, addressed the plenary by noting that OPS6, which was completed last year, fed into the GEF-7 replenishment and showed a video which highlighted the key findings of the evaluation. The video outlined that the GEF occupies a unique space in the global environmental financial architecture, especially for the focal areas on international waters, chemicals and waste, and land use. He noted that the climate change focal area was becoming more crowded and the focus of the GEF should be on upstream activities to develop enabling environments that can drive transformational change. The Assembly took note of the document, Sixth Overall Performance Study of the GEF (GEF/A.6/07).

Report by the STAP: Rosina Bierbaum, Chair of the STAP, provided examples presented in the Assembly Roundtables which reflected that three main themes of the STAP, namely, integration, innovation and learning are taking place in practice. She emphasized work by the STAP to conduct research on emerging issues for the next assembly, especially related to novel entities and their effects on Earth systems such as synthetic organic pollutants, genetically modified organisms, and microplastics. The Assembly took note of the STAP Report (GEF/A.6/08).

Statement by a Representative of Civil Society Organizations: Priscilla Achakpa, Women Environmental Programme, Nigeria, presented the outcomes of the discussions held during the Civil Society Forum. She highlighted recommendations to the GEF Secretariat and the wider Partnership from the 120 CSOs present at the Assembly, and 538 CSOs in the wider GEF-CSO Network on, inter alia:

  • the need to recognize that partnerships between the GEF and CSOs are key for achieving transformational change;
  • establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform to build trust and collaborative approaches;
  • that the GEF agencies and OFPs should have greater inclusion of CSOs in project development and implementation; and
  • enhanced support to the GEF-CSO network to help achieve the GEF-7 replenishment targets.

Final Plenary

Naoko Ishii, in her closing remarks emphasized that the Assembly roundtables had clearly brought forward the message that “we need to de-silo ourselves” and create broad coalitions of stakeholders to address global environmental change. She re-stated her belief that the GEF can play an extremely useful role in catalyzing the change needed to address environmental challenges and thanked the Government of Viet Nam, the city of Da Nang, the GEF Secretariat, volunteers and participants for their contributions to the Assembly.

Assembly Chair Trần urged participants to turn their commitment to address environmental hazards into action, thanked the GEF Secretariat and Da Nang planning committee for the success of the conference, and closed the meeting at 4:33 pm.

Upcoming Meetings

20th GCF Board Meeting: The 20th Meeting of the GCF Board will consider, inter alia: policies and procedures for the formal replenishment process and for contributions from philanthropic foundations and other non-public and alternative sources; the gender policy; policy matters related to and consideration of funding proposals; the status of the initial resource mobilization process; and country programming and readiness.  dates: 1-4 July 2018  location: Incheon, Republic of Korea  contact: GCF Secretariat  phone: +82-32-458-6059   email:  www:

CBD SBI-2: The second meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation will address, inter alia: review of progress on the implementation of the Convention and the Strategic Plan; biodiversity mainstreaming; resource mobilization; cooperation with other conventions; mechanisms for review of implementation; national reporting, and assessment and review, under the Convention and its Protocols; enhancing integration of Article 8(j) under the Convention and its Protocols; review of effectiveness of the processes under the CBD and its Protocols; and preparation for the follow up to the Strategic Plan.  dates: 9-13 July 2018  location: Montreal, Canada  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  fax: +1-514-288-6588  email:  www:

40th Montreal Protocol OEWG Meeting: The 40th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (OEWG40) will take place in Vienna, Austria.  dates: 9-14 July 2018  location: Vienna, Austria  contact: Ozone Secretariat phone: +254-20-762-3851/3611  fax: +254-20-762-0335  email:  www:

UNFCCC Bangkok Climate Change Conference: This conference will resume the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) 1-5, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) 48, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) 48 for issues related to the Paris Agreement Work Programme.  dates: 3-8 September 2018  location: Bangkok, Thailand  contact: UNFCCC Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-1000  fax: +49-228-815-1999  email:  www:

Global Climate Action Summit: Convened by California Governor Jerry Brown and the US State of California, the Global Climate Action Summit will bring leaders from government, business, and the global community to inspire greater global ambition to act on climate change. The Summit will be co-chaired by Governor Brown, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg, and Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra.  dates: 12-14 September 2018  location: California, US  www:

Global Land Forum 2018: The Global Land Forum (GLF) will convene International Land Coalition (ILC) members, government representatives, and other stakeholders from around the world to advance understanding of the complex linkages between land governance, food security, poverty and democracy.  dates: 22-27 September 2018  location: Bandung, Indonesia  contact: ILC  phone: +39-06-5459-2445  fax: +39-06-5459-3445  email:  www:

Stockholm Convention POPRC-14: The 14th Meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee will review the possible listing of hazardous chemicals under the various annexes of the Stockholm Convention. The meeting will take place back-to-back with the 14th Meeting of the Rotterdam Convention Chemical Review Committee (CRC-14).  dates: 17-21 September 2018  location: Rome, Italy  contact: BRS Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-8271  fax: +41-22-917-8098  email:  www:

32nd AFB Meeting: The 32nd Meeting of the Adaptation Fund Board will convene in Bonn, Germany.  dates: 9-12 October 2018  location: Bonn, Germany  contact: Adaptation Fund Secretariat  phone: +1-202-458-7347  fax: +1-202-522-3240  www:

Water Convention Eight Meeting of the Parties: The Meeting of the Parties is the main governing body of the Water Convention, mandated to keep under continuous review the implementation of the Convention and take the necessary measures required to achieve its purposes.  dates: 10-12 October 2018  location: Astana, Kazakhstan  contact: UNECE Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-1032  email:  www:

Montreal Protocol MOP 30: The 30th Meeting of the Parties (MOP 30) to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is scheduled to convene from 5-9 November 2018. The meeting will be preceded, on 3 November 2018, by the 61st Meeting of the Implementation Committee under the Non-Compliance Procedure of the Montreal Protocol, and on 4 November, by the Bureau Meeting of the Twenty-Ninth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.  dates: 3-9 November 2018  location: Quito, Ecuador  contact: Ozone Secretariat  phone: +254-20-762-3851/3611  fax: +254-20-762-0335 email:  www:

2018 UN Biodiversity Conference: The 14th meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties, the 9th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and the 3rd Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (CBD COP 14, Cartagena Protocol COP/MOP 9, and Nagoya Protocol COP/MOP 3) are expected to address a series of issues related to implementation of the Convention and its Protocols. A High-Level Segment is expected to convene from 14-15 November 2018. The CBD COP 14 and COP/MOPs are expected to meet in parallel from 17-29 November 2018.  dates: 14-29 November 2018  location: Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  email:  www:

Minamata Convention COP2: The Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) is expected to convene from 19-23 November 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland.  dates: 19-23 November 2018  location: Geneva, Switzerland  fax: +41-22-797-34-60 email:  www:

Katowice Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 24): Katowice Climate Change Conference will include the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC, along with meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.  dates: 3-14 December 2018  location: Katowice, Slaskie, Poland  contact: UNFCCC Secretariat  phone: (49-228) 815-1000  fax: (49-228) 815-1999  email:  www:

55th GEF Council Meeting: This meeting will also include a CSO Forum.  dates: 17-20 December 2018  location: Washington D.C., US  contact: GEF Secretariat  www:

56th GEF Council Meeting: This meeting is scheduled to take place in mid-2019.  dates: 3-6 June 2019  location: Washington D.C., US  contact: GEF Secretariat  www:

57th GEF Council Meeting: This meeting is scheduled to take place at the end of 2019.  dates: 9-12 December 2019 location: Washington D.C., US  contact: GEF Secretariat  www:

Further information