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Simplifying Tools

A member of the GEF’s semi-secret Senior Advisory Panel may be right in thinking that using simplistic and economists’ language is the only way to get environmental concerns recognised where it counts in today’s global context, but as a result, both real-world ecosystems and the livelihoods of people based on non-acquisitive values lack representation in official processes. For as one critical student of the GEF observed reduction of non-linear and complex human situations to the simple sums and choices of neo-liberal and managerial thinking removes decision-making further from the detail of other people’s lived environments.
(McAfee, 1999)

Many conservationists conclude that people who interact daily and directly with nature need to participate fully in decision-making if conservation of local, interlocking and transcendent ecologies is to be assured. GEF’s self-descriptions seem to promise this kind of conservation with language of transparency, accountability and participation, but in practice the political negotiation of ‘efficient’ solutions to faraway problems has implied reductionism - democratic as well as natural and social scientific. In GEF as in many international bodies, much of the real deal making takes place behind closed doors. But then, politically loaded issues are easier treated as ‘technical’ matters and ‘solved’ from above without too many conflicting values and perspectives engaging in the discussion on equal terms.

In creating a mechanism that sought both to define and to protect ‘environmental value’ effectively through money distributed ‘from above’, donors empowered small groups of bureaucrats and technical experts to manipulate legal guidance,