The Global Environment Facility
The First Ten Years – Growing Pains or Inherent Flaws?

a report by environmental defence and halifax initiative - August 2002

1. Introduction

For many, the most significant outcome of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit was the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a publicly funded multi-billion-dollar green aid fund. The GEF was created by Northern governments in 1991 and formally established by a World Bank resolution. The GEF was charged with financing protection of the ‘global environment’ by transferring resources North to South to meet commitments to the new Rio environmental conventions.

The GEF received nowhere near the hundreds of billions of dollars that speakers at the Rio Earth Summit had suggested would be needed to protect the global environment. Over its first decade, however, the GEF has spent in excess of US $4 billion in support of over 1,000 environmental projects in 160 countries. It has helped develop the environmental capacity for governments to meet their obligations under the multilateral climate change, biodiversity and ozone depletions agreements. It has tested new relationships between the Bretton Woods and the United Nations organizations - and tried the patience of all involved.

Yet, after ten years, what has the GEF achieved? The 2002 GEF Performance Study attempted to reach conclusions about GEF’s real-world effectiveness, without threatening replenishment negotiations. Evaluators stated that GEF funds have, to some extent, promoted energy efficiency and renewable technologies, improved management standards in protected areas, and supported agreements on international waters and ozone depletion.