Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, opened the 58th meeting of the GEF Council with reflections on changes to the GEF since she became its CEO in 2012. These changes included adoption of the GEF 2020 Strategy, more results-oriented management, improved policies on safeguards, stakeholder engagement and gender, and a more integrated approach to addressing the drivers of environmental degradation. She also observed that the COVID-19 crisis shows the need for the GEF more than ever, since it highlights the health-environment nexus, the importance of science-based policy, the fragility of economic and social systems, the need to adopt global solutions to address global problems, and the need to restore a balance between human and natural systems.
The 58th meeting of the Council took two major decisions on its first day: it elected a new CEO and Chairperson to lead the GEF for a four-year term, and approved a Work Program comprising 63 projects and five programs, with total resources amounting to USD 645.4 million.
The new CEO and Chairperson will be Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, a post he also held in 2002-2006. He also served for many years as Vice President for global policy at Conservation International.
The approved Work Program includes programs on marine biodiversity, artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM), wildlife, electric mobility, and food systems, land use, and restoration (FOLUR), as well as four Non-Grant Instruments (NGIs). It will benefit 72 recipient countries, including 20 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 10 small island developing States (SIDS).
The GEF Council also approved the GEF Business Plan and Corporate budget for FY2021 and the Work Program and Budget for the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) for FY2021.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Council met for the first time virtually. To deal with the challenge of a virtual meeting involving Members from many different time zones, the meeting was cut to two shortened workdays, the agenda was slimmed and the customary full-day prior consultation with civil society organizations (CSOs) was not held. Also, unlike most Council sessions, this meeting did not hear a separate report from the Chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) and a customary discussion session on relations with the international agreements for which GEF serves as financial mechanism will not be held.