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GEF: Gift Horse or Force for Change?

15 January 1998


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A critical study prepared for a meeting to discuss replenishing the Global Environment Facility, an international fund for environmental, criticises the World Bank’s use of the resources. When governments handed over GEF operations to the World Bank and UNDP, they hoped it would ‘mainstream’ (integrate) global environmental issues into all their operations.

The recent Study of GEF‘s Overall Performance, carried out by independent consultants, reaches disturbing conclusions. It found:

  • ‘ … with greater focus the World Bank could have increased lending for biodiversity conservation and … increased targeted spending on energy efficiency and renewables substantially.’
  • ‘Bank management failed to recognize and reward work on GEF as equal in importance to its regular business.’
  • ‘… neither the global environment nor GEF have been integrated systematically into the Country Assistance Strategy process.’

This and other recent studies have found that the environment is generally dealt with in a compartmentalised manner, and biodiversity is not yet viewed as a concern affecting multiple aspects of national development.

The RSPB, EDF and other NGOs tracking the Facility are demanding that the GEF Council, should:

communicate the Performance Study to the Bank and UNDP governing bodies and request them to report within 6 months on mainstreaming plans, with explicit commitments and timetables;

  • require information on links with all relevant mainstream Bank/UNDP activities to be highlighted in project documents submitted to Council.

The Performance Study’s main weakness is its lack of analysis of how the GEF generates knowledge and absorbs lessons, one of the purposes for establishing it. The problems appear to be caused by poor internal mechanisms and the extensive use of short-term consultants to prepare projects.

The GEF Council’s Monitoring and Evaluation Unit needs the staff and financial resources to act independently of the Bank and UNDP and assess projects objectively and fearlessly.

Contact: Korinna Horta, EDF, 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW,Suite 1016, Washington DC 20009, USA, Tel: 001-202 387 3500, Fax: 001-202 234 6049, korinna@edf.org.