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'The GEF in practise'

Raising and Spending Money

GEF funds promised to be ‘additional’ to other aid flows, but would pay only the ‘incremental costs’ of achieving ‘global’ environmental benefits through actions taken under the Conventions. Essentially, the GEF pays only for the extra costs of development projects that protect international waters, atmospheric ozone, biodiversity and the climate system: environments deemed to be of ‘global’ value.

In the ten years since it was created, the GEF has channeled $4.1 billion from mostly North American, Western European and Japanese treasuries to over a thousand projects in over 150 Southern and former communist countries. To put its work in context however, GEF funds constitute less than 1 percent of total international aid flows to the South, and offer the equivalent of one day’s global spending on military ‘defence’ for each year of protecting the global environment. Even so, the Washington DC-based GEF currently has about three times as much money to spend each year as UNEP – based faraway from donor treasuries in Nairobi, Kenya. GEF’s well-funded arrival on the international scene therefore led one UN official to liken GEF to ‘a new wife for the donor governments, favoured over old, tired UN bodies’. The initial, ‘pilot’ phase of GEF funding ran from 1991-4; it was promised $1.6 billion. Major donors to the pilot phase were the French and German governments with nearly $150 million each;the US and Japan contributed similar amounts indirectly through ‘co-financing’ (see Chapter three). A small group of Southern governments also paid up to $6 million each at the start – their ‘fee’ to join a new conservation club and share in the $733 million actually spent on GEF projects run by the World Bank, UNDP and UNEP.