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Understanding the GEF

· Peanuts (another World Bank environmental lawyer)
· Crumbs from the table of the rich North (Indian NGO)
· Green wash for the World Bank’s destructive practices (Northern NGO)
· Helps the World Bank to externalize environmental costs (critical historian)
· Sweetener for international loans adding to Southern debt (German researcher)
· Green subsidy for transnational science and investment (North American researcher)
· A mechanism for international cooperation for the purpose of providing new, and additional, grant and concessional funding to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures to achieve agreed global environmental benefits in the areas of biological diversity, climate change, international waters and ozone depletion (GEF Operational Strategy).

Unresolved questions lie at the heart of the conflicting accounts of GEF outlined above. Here is one: is it a beneficent science-based ‘green virus’, propagating environmental values inside the institutional edifices of a benevolent Anglo-Saxon led New World Order - announced in the US the same year the GEF entered operations? Or is it more like ‘greenwash’, sustaining an unjust and unsustainable economic system by distracting environmentalists from tackling the unaccountable power of banks, corporations and governments - whose obsession with expansion and domination of international trade at all costs produces so many environmental - and political - problems in the first place? The answer to this as so many other questions about the GEF maybe one, or the other, or neither, or both, or something else again - for ‘where you stand depends on where you sit’ (Athanasiou, 1997).