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Simplifying Tools

Apolitical hostilities and institutional alliances to ensure that nature would be defined and protected only on their terms. They have little opportunity to listen to local realities even when they know how, because time and funds are limited, and sustaining GEF’s public image, institutional framework and financial flows takes precedence because without them, they could not do the work at all.

Management of both the inevitable internal conflicts and the public face of the GEF has benefited from the forceful charm and persuasiveness of its chairman/CEO (environmental engineer Mohamed El-Ashry) and his political, personal and institutional allies. Overall, democratic inputs to GEF’s direction have effectively been limited by a variety of factors, among them green rhetoric as moral persuasion: GEF promises to deliver environmental benefits, transfer technology, assist sustainable development in poorer countries – so any criticism can seem anti-environment and/or anti-poor. The terms of GEF’s promises generally represent ‘fuzzy concepts’ that that can be agreed upon in principle but are usually applied with difficulty, even bias; they include ‘transparency’, ‘participation’, ‘country-driven’, ‘mainstreaming’, ‘guidance’, ‘sustainability’, ‘prevention of climate change’ and ‘conservation of biodiversity’.

Shaping the translation of these terms into real world impacts are ideological as well as practical constraints which limit the scope of debate, for example commodification and business values as norms defining economic ‘efficiency’, and econometric formulae disguising the politics underlying ‘sustainable development’ or carbon emission reduction (see Chapters four and five). Among other factors limiting democratic access to the terms and products of global environmental debates