Klaus Toepfer
United Nations Under-Secretary
General and Executive Director, UNEP

Over the last decade, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has emerged as a major actor addressing the global environmental challenges of sustainable development. Since its establishment in 1991, it has allocated some $4 billion – supplemented by $12.4 billion in co-financing – for more than 1,000 projects in 160 countries.

The recent independent evaluation of its performance provided ample evidence that this unique and innovative financial mechanism is working well – and that, as a result, its operations are achieving discernible impacts in the field.

The recent decision on the replenishment of the Facility for its third phase is a clear message of confidence, from both donors and beneficiaries, that it is fulfilling the objectives for which it was established. The decision reaffirms the confidence earlier demonstrated by the international community, in asking it to manage three new climate change funds established in Marrakech; to act as the financial mechanism of new legal instruments such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants; and to include land degradation as a separate and distinct focal area of its interventions.

This renewed confidence is a timely recognition of the GEF’s significant achievements – and a challenge to do more, and to do it better in response to the evolving needs and increased expectations of recipient countries, and particularly the poorest of the poor.

The Second GEF Assembly thus offers a unique opportunity, not just to assess what has been achieved – but even more importantly – to shape the policy directions that will allow the Facility to continue playing a catalytic role in mobilizing financial resources to address global environmental threats.

For UNEP, the convening of the Assembly in Beijing is of great significance. The meeting is being held just a few months after the celebration of World Environment Day in China coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the creation of UNEP. Through this celebration, the international community recognized the people and the Government of China’s unique contribution in promoting the environmental dimension of sustainable development. This recognition has also led to the establishment of a UNEP-Tongji Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development in May this year, with a view to enhancing research, technical and managerial capacities in China and other countries of the region.

As an implementing agency of the GEF, UNEP is at work in China through 14 diverse and innovative initiatives. These include the finalization of the Action Plan on biodiversity and the reports to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. They also include a demonstration project to support the implementation of the national biosafety framework of China: this was developed through another Biosafety Pilot project which pioneered GEF’s global programme in biosafety which is at work, through UNEP, in more than 100 countries globally.
This unique and innovative financial mechanism is working well
UNEP is also implementing a $32 million project for protecting the South China Sea. By developing a regional Strategic Action Programme and through remedial actions and demonstration activities, it will support the countries of the region to address the environmental challenges facing the sea and Gulf of Thailand. China is also a partner in the UNEP/GEF global assessments of land degradation and solar and wind energy resources, and an important stakeholder in the global assessments of international waters, mountain ecosystems and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

In a major development, the Second GEF Assembly is expected to amend the instrument that governs the Facility’s operation, to designate land degradation and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as two new and separate focal areas. UNEP as an implementing agency is fully prepared to meet the challenges arising from the expansion of GEF’s original mandate. Indeed, it is already implementing 19 projects that focus directly on POPs or other persistent toxic substances – involving the participation of 42 countries and financing of $47 million, including $28 million of GEF resources. Less than 15 months after the signature of the Stockholm Convention, UNEP – through approved GEF resources – is assisting 23 countries in developing their national implementation plans to phase out the POPs covered by the Convention, and is assisting many other countries to prepare proposals for GEF funding. To maximize interagency collaboration, UNEP entered recently into a partnership arrangement with the World Bank for supporting the implementation of the Stockholm Convention.

UNEP is also implementing 17 activities aimed at combating desertification, together worth $90 million, including $32 million approved GEF resources. They focus predominantly on the degradation of transboundary dryland ecosystems spanning 26 countries, mainly in Africa.

UNEP has always given high priority, in implementing its work programme, to responding to the environmental challenges facing Africa. Combating desertification is one of the major environmental, economic and social challenges facing the continent as evidenced by the Framework of the Action Plan on the Environmental Component of the New Partnership for African Development adopted by the African Ministerial Conference on Environment at its meeting held in Kampala in July 2002 with the support of UNEP through GEF resources.

UNEP is proud of its role and responsibility as an implementing agency of the GEF. Less than six years after its GEF Division was established, it is implementing a GEF work programme of $500 million, including more than $270 million in GEF resources, comprising 278 projects in more than 140 countries.

Strengthened further by the enhanced mandate on capacity-building at national, regional and international levels, entrusted to it by the last meeting of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum held in Cartagena in February 2002, UNEP is fully committed to continuing to enhance its role as an implementing agency to assist the GEF family to meet the challenges of the third, exciting phase of its existence


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Unmatched opportunities | Global priority | Partnerships for change | Rising to new challenges | Much achieved, more to do | Message to the Second GEF Assembly | Africa Environment Outlook | Critical energy | Mapping the health of the planet | Regaining ground | Two to tango | Linking knowledge to action | Globalizing benefits | Unpopular POPs | Message to the Second GEF Assembly

Complementary articles in other issues:
Special supplement to coincide with the Global
Environment Facility Assembly
(Fresh Water) 1998
Issue on Biodiversity, 2000
Klaus Toepfer: Editorial (WSSD) 2002

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