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'Governing Access'

Agreement on what exactly to fund with limited project aid is always difficult to secure when there are conflicting agendas and interests at stake. This has been especially true in GEF negotiations, in which ministries including environment, foreign affairs, technical assistance and overseas development all have roles to play alongside numerous other interested bodies. The GEF is formally governed by a 32-strong governing Council, divided more or less equally between donor and recipient government representatives and officially overseen by a three-yearly Participants' Assembly of all the governments involved. The Council receives guidance from and reports to the governing bodies of the UN treaties on Climate Change and Biodiversity, but just as UN bodies cannot effectively challenge trade and investment policies agreed in the more powerful Bretton Woods institutions, Conferences of the Parties to the UN Conventions cannot override GEF Council decisions.

Despite complex voting arrangements having been negotiated, the Council makes decisions by consensus guided by the powerful chairman and CEO of the GEF, Mohamed El-Ashry. Appointed from the World Bank’s environment department, he also heads the GEF’s thirty-strong administering Secretariat (see Chapter four). In Council meetings El-Ashry treats Southern representatives ‘like kings’ (interview, CBD secretariat, 1997), but cannot offend GEF’s major donor governments who in the end, pay his wages. Aware of these dynamics, most other people and organisations involved in the GEF seek less to upset this balance than to use it, lobby it, attract funds with minimal strings attached and find employment in the GEF system for their people.
Sources: Banuri and Spanger-Siegfried, (2000) and Imber, (1994).