The Fifth GEF Assembly comes at a critical but exciting juncture of the Facility. In two decades, the GEF partnership has made demonstrable contributions to delivering global environmental benefits (GEBs) in accord with its mandate as the financial mechanism for the Rio Conventions. Yet threats to the global commons continue to grow – driven by human activities and lifestyle choices – resulting in pollution, biodiversity loss, degradation of land and water, fragmentation of ecosystems, and climate change. Responses to manage common pool resources and improve governance have tended to be fragmentary, partial, and only limited in success. STAP believes that the linkages with sustainable development have to be central in GEF approaches to the generation of GEBs. It is insufficient simply to track developmental co-benefits. Rather, an integrated approach has to be followed from the outset, where the synergy between development and environment is pursued, and the generation of multiple benefits is promoted vigorously. This requires new and innovative approaches, based upon an iterative process that emphasizes learning by doing – where design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation are connected through a robust knowledge management strategy. Sound understanding of social systems and governance will be key for the GEF moving forward. STAP has recently published a report entitled Delivering Global Environmental Benefits for Sustainable Development that highlights recent STAP achievements and outlines specific recommendations for the GEF in advancing environmentally sustainable development in GEF-6. The three key messages of this STAP Report to the Assembly are:
- Environmental degradation must be tackled in a more integrated and holistic way, addressing individual focal area concerns in ways that yield multiple benefits, enhance ecosystem services, and improve governance systems within and across national boundaries.
- Sustainable development should be at the core of GEF interventions, enabling improved human well-being, health, livelihoods and social equity at the same time as environmental protection.
- The GEF should continue to be catalytic and innovative while actively seeking to effect permanent and transformational change.
This will require effectively leveraging the best scientific knowledge from the design of projects through implementation and evaluation, as well as learning from the experiences of past interventions through successful knowledge management. These changes are also sought in the new GEF Strategy, but will require significant scientific and technical support, and a clear commitment by both the GEF and its partner agencies. Revising internal results-based management (RBM) systems and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) will provide opportunities to harmonize and integrate across focal areas. New systems of information and knowledge management are required for GEF-6. STAP has a key role to play in achieving the GEF-6 vision. The Panel stands ready to lead in gathering evidence from past projects, identifying lessons learned and best practices, and proposing ways to achieve multiple GEBs going forward. The urgency of an integrated response targeted at environmentally sustainable development has never been greater.