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Global Environment Facility

Global Environment Facility
Founded October, 1991
Type Fund
Focus Environment
Area served
Key people
Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson
Slogan Investing in Our Planet
Website Official website

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 183 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.

Since 1991, the GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $12.5 billion in grants and leveraging $58 billion in co-financing for over 3,690 projects[1] in over 165 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), the GEF has also made more than 20,000 small grants directly to civil society and community-based organizations, totaling $653.2 million.[2]

The GEF also serves as financial mechanism for the following conventions:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
  • Minamata Convention on Mercury

The GEF, although not linked formally to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MP), supports implementation of the Protocol in countries with economies in transition.

The Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured GEF is the document that established the GEF after an initial pilot phase. It was accepted by the member countries and adopted by the Implementing Agencies in 1994. The Instrument may be considered the statutes and by-laws of the GEF, and contains provisions for the governance, participation, replenishment, and fiduciary and administrative operations of the GEF. It also lays out the roles and responsibilities of different actors in the GEF.


  • Structure 1
  • History 2
  • Areas of work 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes and references 5
  • External links 6


The GEF Assembly is the governing body of the GEF in which representatives of all member countries participate. It meets every three to four years, and is responsible for reviewing and evaluating the GEF's general policies, the operation of the GEF, and its membership. The Assembly is also responsible for considering and approving proposed amendments to the GEF Instrument, the document that established the GEF and set the rules by which the GEF operates.

Ministers and high-level government delegations of all GEF member countries take part in the meetings. The Assembly combines plenary meetings and high-level panels, exhibits, side events and GEF project site visits. Prominent environmentalists, parliamentarians, business leaders, scientists, and NGO leaders discuss global environmental challenges within the context of sustainable development and other international development goals.

The GEF Council is the main governing body of the GEF. It functions as an independent board of directors, with primary responsibility for developing, adopting, and evaluating GEF programs. Council members representing 32 constituencies (16 from developing countries, 14 from developed countries, and two from countries with transitional economies) meet twice each year for three days and also conduct business by mail. All decisions are by consensus. Council meetings are attended regularly by civil society organizations.

  • List of GEF Constituencies, Council Members & Alternates
  • Council Meetings & Documents
  • Rules of Procedure for the GEF Council

The GEF Secretariat is based in Washington, D.C. and reports directly to the GEF Council and Assembly, ensuring that their decisions are translated into effective actions. The secretariat coordinates the formulation of projects included in the work programs, oversees its implementation, and makes certain that operational strategy and policies are followed.

The GEF CEO and Chairperson, Dr. Naoko Ishii heads the Secretariat.

The GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) provides technical and scientific advice on the GEF’s policies and projects.

An independent GEF Evaluation Office is also in Washington, D.C. and reports directly to the GEF Council. Its goal is to improve accountability of GEF projects and programs and to promote learning, feedback, and knowledge sharing.

The Office has responsibilities in three main areas:

  • Evaluation – independently evaluating the effectiveness of GEF projects and programs
  • Norms – establishing monitoring and evaluation standards
  • Oversight - providing quality control for monitoring and evaluation by Implementing and Executing Agencies of GEF projects and programs.

GEF Agencies are responsible for creating project proposals and for managing GEF projects. GEF Agencies play key roles in managing GEF projects on the ground. More specifically GEF Agencies assist eligible governments and NGOs in the development, implementation, and management of GEF projects.

GEF Agencies are requested to focus their involvement in GEF project activities within their respective comparative advantages. In specific cases of integrated projects that include components where the expertise and experience of a GEF agency is lacking or weak, the agency is invited to partner with another agency and to establish clear complementary roles so that all aspects of the project can be well managed (GEF Instrument, Paragraph 28). The list below describes 10 GEF agencies that currently operating and their comparative advantage specifically related to adaptation to climate change:


The Global Environment Facility was established in October 1991 as a $1 billion pilot program in the World Bank to assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmental sustainable development. The GEF would provide new and additional grants and concessional funding to cover the "incremental" or additional costs associated with transforming a project with national benefits into one with global environmental benefits.

The United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Program, and the World Bank were the three initial partners implementing GEF projects.

In 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, the GEF was restructured and moved out of the World Bank system to become a permanent, separate institution. The decision to make the GEF an independent organization enhanced the involvement of developing countries in the decision-making process and in implementation of the projects. Since 1994, however, the World Bank has served as the Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund and provided administrative services.

As part of the restructuring, the GEF was entrusted to become the financial mechanism for both the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In partnership with the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on Ozone Layer Depleting Substances, the GEF started funding projects that enable the Russian Federation and nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to phase out their use of ozone-destroying chemicals.

The GEF subsequently was also selected to serve as financial mechanism for three more international conventions: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2003), and the Minamata Convention on Mercury (2013).

Areas of work

The GEF work focuses on seven main areas, including biodiversity, climate change (mitigation and adaptation), chemicals, international waters, land degradation, sustainable forest management/REDD+,Ozone layer depletion.

Biodiversity: Biodiversity is under heavy threat. Reducing and preventing further biodiversity loss are considered among the most critical challenges to humankind. Of all the problems the world faces in managing “global goods,” only the loss of biodiversity is irreversible. The GEF supports projects that address the key drivers of biodiversity loss which focus on the highest leveraging opportunities to achieve sustainable biodiversity conservation.

Climate change: Climate change from human-induced emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) is a critical global issue, requiring substantial action. These actions include investment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and adaptation to climate changes including variability. The early impacts of climate change have already appeared, and scientists believe that further impacts are inevitable. Many of the most serious and negative impacts of climate change will be disproportionately borne by the poorest people in developing countries. The GEF supports projects in

  • Climate change mitigation: Reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions in the areas of renewable energy; energy efficiency; sustainable transport; and management of land use, land-use change, and forestry.
  • Climate change adaptation: Aiming at developing countries to become climate-resilient by promoting immediate and longer-term adaptation measures in development policies, plans, programs, projects, and actions.

Chemicals: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are pesticides, industrial chemicals, or unwanted by-products of industrial processes that have been used for decades but have more recently been found to share a number of disturbing characteristics, including:

  • Persistence — they resist degradation in air, water, and sediments;
  • Bio-accumulation — they accumulate in living tissues at concentrations higher than those in the surrounding environment;
  • Long-range transport — they can travel great distances from the source of release through air, water, and migratory animals, often contaminating areas thousands of kilometers away from any known source.

The GEF supports projects in eliminating the production and use of specific POPs, taking measures to ensure that POPs wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner, identifying the sources and reducing releases of POPs byproducts.

International waters: Diversions of water for irrigation, bulk supply, and potable use, together with the pollution of common water bodies are creating cross-border tensions. These tensions also persist across the oceans, with three-quarters of fish stocks being overfished, fished at their maximum, or in a depleted state. The GEF supports projects in helping countries work together to overcome these tensions in large water systems and to collectively manage their transboundary surface water basins, groundwater basins, and coastal and marine systems in order to share the benefits from them.

Land degradation: Land degradation is a major threat to biodiversity, ecosystem stability, and society’s ability to function. Because of the interconnectivity between ecosystems across scales, land degradation triggers destructive processes that can have cascading effects across the entire biosphere. Loss of biomass through vegetation clearance and increased soil erosion produces greenhouse gases that contribute global warming and climate change. The GEF supports projects in reversing and preventing desertification/land degradation and in mitigating the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

Sustainable forest management / REDD+: Forests cover almost one-third of the world’s land area. They have a unique potential to produce multiple global environmental benefits such as biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, and protection against desertification. Sustainably managed forests can enhance the provision of wood and non-timber forest products for about 1.6 billion people depending on forests for their livelihoods. Forest ecosystems are also expected to play a key role in helping people in developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change. The GEF supports projects in forest conservation (primarily protected areas and buffer zones), sustainable use of forests (forest production landscapes, sustainable forest management), and addressing forests and trees in the wider landscape.

Ozone depletion: Increased UV-B radiation reaching the Earth would pose risks to human health and the environment. In response, countries negotiated and adopted the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985, and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. The GEF supports projects in developing countries and countries with economies in transition (CEITs) that are not eligible for funding under the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol, to implement activities to phase out ozone depleting substances (ODS) in a manner consistent with these countries’ obligations under the Montreal Protocol.

Beside the seven focal areas, the GEF also works on several cross-cutting issue and programs:

  • Results and learning
  • Earth fund and public-private partnerships
  • Capacity development
  • Small grants programme
  • Country support programme
  • Gender Mainstreaming
  • Small Island Developing States

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^
  2. ^

External links

  • GEF official website
  • GEF International Waters Resource Center
  • Independent academic research-based critiques of the GEF
  • Global Environment Facility Profile on database of market governance mechanisms
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