Reports and Publications

Achieving more enduring outcomes from GEF investment

Investment in GEF-7 is increasingly seeking greater integration and more innovation, and for investments to be scaled to deliver transformational change and consequently much more impact. The GEF needs to be confident that global environmental benefits will endure. 

The extensive literature on achieving project outcomes and impact increasingly emphasises success factors focused specifically on durability. The simple logic chain here is that engaging key stakeholders and incentivising them will build stakeholder trust and motivation; building the capacity of stakeholders and institutions as part of incentivising them as well as emphasising diversity of inputs will help ensure enduring capacity and financing; emphasising diversity and adaptability along with a good application of systems thinking and learning will build resilience in the outcomes.

In an earlier paper, STAP made recommendations on how to improve integration in the design of GEF projects. There are common elements in this paper on durability which builds on and extends those recommendations, and other previous STAP analysis, to show how to embed the requirement to consider long-term durability more explicitly in project outcomes and impacts.

This paper also sets out principles for securing durability in project outcomes and impacts built round four themes: engaging the right stakeholders; building the incentives for these key actors to act; incorporating adequate diversity and flexibility in project design and implementation; and underpinning it all with a systems-thinking approach. Enduring transformational change will require consideration of new stakeholders, new partnerships, and multi-stakeholder platforms.

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STAP guidance on climate risk screening

GEF investments are increasingly exposed to risks associated with climate change and natural disasters. At the same time, GEF funding contributes to the resilience of human and natural systems in the face of these risks. The need to systematically identify and address climate and disaster-related risks across GEF investments was identified by STAP and recognized by the GEF Council in 2010 (GEF/C.39/Inf.18, Enhancing Resilience to Reduce Climate Risks: Scientific Rationale for the Sustained Delivery of Global Environmental Benefits in GEF Focal Areas). The GEF Council asked STAP to examine the effects of climate change on GEF projects. More recently, the UNFCCC COP requested the GEF to “to take into consideration climate risks in all its programs and operations, as appropriate, keeping in mind lessons learned and best practices” (2016).

In December 2018, the GEF Council approved a new Environmental and Social Safeguards policy. On climate change and disaster risks, the new policy states that, “short- and long-term risks posed by climate change and other natural hazards are considered systematically in the screening, assessment and planning processes…. based on established methodologies, and significant risks and potential impacts are addressed throughout the design and implementation of projects and programs”.

This STAP guidance proposes a common standard for climate risk screening of GEF projects based on the scientific literature and builds on earlier work undertaken over the last several years in response to the Council’s request that STAP examine the effects of climate change on GEF projects.  At a minimum, each agency should use a risk screening process that includes four steps (hazard identification, assessment of vulnerability and exposure, risk classification, risk mitigation plan), ranks risks according to a clearly defined scale, and uses the best available data.

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Appendix to STAP’s paper, “Achieving enduring outcomes from GEF investment”: a short literature review

This appendix reviews literature on sustainability and durability in project outcomes, coupled with scaling of impact and sustainability of projects in the face of future change.  About 100 sources were reviewed, including mostly peer-reviewed literature but also assessments of project portfolios by a range of development funders and foundations.  This appendix summarizes key findings from this literature outside the GEF family of reports from STAP and the IEO.  The main text draws selectively on this appendix, and also links it to findings framed by GEF publications.

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DRAFT: Guidelines for Land Degradation Neutrality

In 2015 the UNCCD introduced the new concept of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), which was later adopted as a target of Goal 15 of the SDGs, Life on Land: 120 countries have committed to pursue voluntary LDN targets.

The objectives of LDN are to: maintain or improve the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services; maintain or improve productivity, in order to enhance food security; increase resilience of the land and populations dependent on the land; seek synergies with other social, economic and environmental objectives; and reinforce responsible and inclusive governance of land.

The fundamental aim of LDN is to preserve the land resource base, by ensuring no net loss of healthy and productive land, at national level. This goal is to be achieved through a combination of measures that avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation. Achieving LDN requires estimating the likely cumulative impacts of land use and land management decisions, and counterbalancing anticipated losses through strategically-planned rehabilitation or restoration of degraded land, within the same land type.

These guidelines offer practical help to those developing projects which contribute to Land Degradation Neutrality.

Each of the five modules presents key concepts, principles, and practical steps for implementation.

The complete guidelines will be presented in September 2019 at the UNCCD COP 14 in Delhi.

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Local commons for global benefits: indigenous and community-based management of wild species, forests and drylands

A large proportion – up to half – of the world’s land area is used or communally-managed by indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs). This includes a large share of the planet’s remaining high-quality, high-biodiversity ecosystems. These lands are critical for achieving global environmental benefits related to biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and addressing land degradation through the management and conservation of wild species, forests, and drylands – here collectively referred to as “wild resources”.

However, governance over much of these lands is weak. Communities have no legally recognized tenure – a fundamental basis for robust governance – over around 80% of this area. At the same time, central governments often lack the capacity and resources to effectively manage these vast and often remote lands. This creates de facto “open access” areas susceptible to uncontrolled and destructive exploitation, which may be via mining, logging, agricultural encroachment, hunting, or wildlife trafficking.

Strengthening community rights to manage land and resources is showing promise as an approach to deliver on biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and land degradation objectives. Clear principles and fundamental design characteristics have emerged from extensive research to guide interventions to support and establish robust governance of local “commons” – and interventions often fail when these are not followed.

There is a clear need and opportunity for the GEF to stimulate transformational change through restoring, strengthening, or establishing sound and inclusive community-based governance of traditional “commons”, promoting achievement of global environmental benefits.

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Innovation and the GEF

The GEF was created to be innovative in its design, governance, and operation. Determining how the GEF would be "innovative" in technology, promoting policies, sector transformation, and business models, has been a central debate ever since. The GEF has evolved in many ways -- expanding its scope, adding more agency partners, testing new modalities, and more. Nevertheless, the world in which it operates has changed even more dramatically.

The GEF invests about $1 billion each year. Public expenditure will never be enough to solve major environmental problems. This means doing much more with the funds available: finding ways to leverage more investment for each GEF dollar, identifying creative uses of emerging technologies, and engaging a wider range of partners to promote policy and institutional reform.

All of the GEF agencies have extensive experience in supporting technological, institutional, and business innovations. The incentives for greater innovation in the GEF are clear: increased environmental effectiveness (to achieve deeper and wider changes), economic efficiency (to achieve more benefits for the same amount of investment), and the longevity of results (to secure self-sustaining mechanisms with durable outcomes).

This paper reviews the GEF's experience with innovation in technology, finance, business models, policy, and institutional change, and makes a number of recommendations in each of these contexts. In addition, it makes a number of cross-cutting recommendations on: defining a risk appetite; responsibility for innovation; cultivating innovation in design; and encouraging adaptive implementation and the exchange of lessons.

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Novel entities

A valuable lesson from past ‘innovative’ or ‘novel’ solutions to human challenges is the later realization that some choices led to unintended harm to the Earth’s system. For instance, chlorofluorocarbons -  introduced for use in the manufacture of aerosol sprays, blowing agents, solvents, and as replacements for toxic refrigerants -  were later discovered to deplete stratospheric ozone. Similarly, several chemicals intended to improve agriculture and industrial processes, such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), were later found to be persistent pollutants that harm the ecosystem and human health. One of the challenges for the GEF is deciding which new technologies offer solutions that can increase global environmental benefits while minimizing  potential adverse  impacts, how these technologies relate to its mission, in what time frame, and what strategies will capture the most benefits. STAP therefore, commissioned a study to identify new and upcoming technological advances relevant to GEF’s work and to develop an approach for responding to them. These so-called ‘novel entities,’ are defined as “things created and introduced into the environment by human beings that could have positive or negative disruptive effects on the Earth’s system.”

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Sustainable Land Management for Environmental Benefits and Food Security: A synthesis report for the GEF

This report examines sustainable land management (SLM) and its potential as an integrative strategy to address multiple environmental and sustainable development objectives. It highlights the linkages between SLM and soil health, land degradation, food security, climate changes mitigation and adaptation. The report is intended to provide information and guidance on fostering SLM, to a wide range of stakeholders involved in agriculture, environmental management and sustainable development. It aims to support investment in SLM by the GEF, particularly investments in pursuit of Land Degradation Neutrality. This report:

  • explores the anthropogenic and natural drivers of land degradation, and the potential environmental and socioeconomic benefits of SLM;
  • examines the role of SLM in addressing the critical challenge of global food security
  • describes the key processes of land degradation and their impacts, as the basis for developing good practice guidance on SLM that is scientifically sound and robust;
  • proposes principles for SLM that promote soil health, productivity and ecosystem services;
  • presents a framework for identifying SLM practices suited to the context and objectives;
  • provides guidance on identifying indicators for evaluation of a site in terms of land potential and soil condition, and indicators for monitoring outcomes of SLM investments;
  • discusses the barriers to adoption of good practice for SLM; and
  • provides recommendations for developing and implementing SLM programs in ways that optimise global environmental benefits.

Recommendations are provided to guide GEF investment in support of SLM, and planning of SLM programs.



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Financing Innovation: Opportunities for the GEF

Ahead of the GEF’s 7th replenishment cycle, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the GEF is interested in exploring ways that innovation contributes to GEF objectives, and the GEF may promote innovation more effectively.  This review is also timely insofar as the opportunities and challenges related to innovative approaches have changed dramatically since the GEF’s creation, starting as a pilot in 1991 and formalized by an Instrument in 1994.  GEF responsibilities have greatly expanded, many additional agencies have been given access to GEF resources, and much has been learned about what does – and doesn’t work in response to global environmental challenges.  Advances in technologies have created opportunities for new solutions.  Perhaps most dramatically, the world of global finance has expanded enormously, particularly in the form of private investments and support for new technologies.  The deliberations associated with GEF 7 thus call for a fresh look at the role of the GEF in this rapidly evolving financial landscape.  This paper looks specifically at how GEF might identify and support innovative approaches for the GEF in relation to technology, business models, and policy, as well as opportunities associated with more creative use of financial instruments, particularly non-grant support.

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Managing knowledge for a sustainable future

Knowledge management is the systematic processes, or range of practices, used by organizations to identify, capture, store, create, update, represent, and distribute knowledge for use, awareness and learning across and beyond the organization. To make effective use of the knowledge and learning, the GEF has accumulated from its previous investments, and applying that to its current and future projects, the GEF requires establishing a robust knowledge management system. A knowledge system is integral to the GEF achieving its objectives on maximizing global environmental benefits, and delivering transformational change at scale. This STAP paper outlines the science of knowledge management, why knowledge management is important to the GEF, and recommends how the GEF can strengthen knowledge management in the organization and projects.

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