Global Environment Facility (GEF) Development Policy and Afghanistan

Academic Paper, 2022

27 Pages, Grade: 1.7


Table of contents

1.1 Introduction

2.1 Historical Background
2.2 Organizational Background

3.1 The GEF Strategy
3.2 The GEF Focal Areas Strategy
3.3 Funding Mechanism

4.1 GEF and Afghanistan
4.2 GEF Interventions

Conclusions and Recommendations



The Global Environment Facility has been actively contributing to solving climate change and environmental issues since 1994. World Bank is its administrative institution, while major UN institutions act as its agencies that implement projects in the recipient country in collaboration with governments, NGOs, and civil society organizations. The GEF's major focal strategy areas are biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, international water, chemical, and waste. Afghanistan came to the intervention area of GEF in 2002; various projects have been implemented on forest conservation, wildlife protection, water management, institutional capacity building, training human capital, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and climate-resilient communities. GEF has had a vital role in developing and implementing national strategies such as Afghanistan National Biodiversity Strategy and Action, the NCSA, and the NAPA.

The projects’ impact has not been significant in some locations due to weak institutions, corruption, insecurity, and regulations.

1.1 Introduction

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established after Rio Earth Summit in 1994 with a clear objective to act as a catalyst in collaboration with NGOs, international institutions, governments, and corporates to solve environmental issues globally and ensure sustainable development. GEF's financial contribution has been in over 5000 interventions with $21.5 billion in grants and $117 billion in co-financing. The GEF focus is on developing countries and economies transitioning to green economies. Areas such as biodiversity life, climate change mitigation, forests conservation, Ozone Layer, and chemical waste make GEF’s major development strategies and policies(GEF, 2021). The GEF funding comes from its Trust Fund that includes 40 donor countries, and the World Bank (WB) is in charge of funds administration in a broader picture(GEF, 2021). There are always challenges across countries' development sectors, such as environmental issues. Yet, an international financial institution like WB can actively mitigate these problems on the country, regional and global levels. Through such global financial institutions, there is always a flow of aid and lending to recipient countries to develop better interventions with the right political economy in tackling environmental issues with a major focus on good governance. Still, there is another belief that if institutions are not well equipped and developed, this flow of aid has less impact and decreases eventually(Ravallion, 2016). The GEF is considered a vertical fund and multilateral player, mobilizing financial sources from public and private sectors to tackle climate change. The GEF, with its vertical funding model, lack technical and implementing capacities and physical presence, and through its agencies such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and other development agencies facilitate funding in a respective developing country(OECD, 2020)

Afghanistan, a country of 37.1 million people in South Asia with a 647,500 km2 area, is landlocked with over four decades of instability and unstable economic growth followed by less development. Afghanistan's human development index score is 0.496, ranking 170 out of 189. The country’s GDP is 579$(Sabory, Senjyu, Danish, Zaheb, & Halim, 2021). Over 50% of the population is in poverty, and approximately 75% of the population lives in rural areas, and the remaining 25% in urban areas. Afghanistan is home to various species, such as the Snow Leopard, which its generation is in danger of extinction. 32.5% of GDP comes from the agriculture sector, which counts for 78.6% of all labor only in this sector and contributes to the livelihood of 85% in the country. Afghanistan has a high hydropower capacity, but due to instability, it imports 60.9% of its electrical power from Central Asia while supporting 35.2% through its local hydropower. The Hindukush Mountain originates about 80% sweet water for Afghanistan from 2000 m. Afghanistan has ecologically diversity with four key regions(UNEP, 2012):

1) Temperate coniferous forests in the east, 2) temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands in the northern region; 3) montane grasslands and shrublands in the northern, southern, and western parts of the mountainous regions; and 4) deserts and xeric shrublands in the southwest. (P.16)

The GEF has been a key funding partner for the government of Afghanistan in tackling environmental issues and has received $1.2 billion in funding from the GEF to date(GEF, 2021). The GEF development policy in tackling environmental issues in Afghanistan has been in areas such as preservation of snow leopard ecosystem, natural resource conservation and management, facilitating multilateral environmental agreement, capacity building for strong institution in climate change adaption and greenhouse gas emissions, forest management and sustainability, and preventing biodiversity loss(GEF, 2021).

This essay will be answering questions such as what is GEF? Why is GEF in the development sector? How does GEF work with its trust fund and agencies? It will illustrate GEF’s objective, policy, funding mechanism, resource distribution, and organizational structure. Next, this paper will explain the development policy of GEF in Afghanistan and the outcomes it has generated.

2.1 Historical Background

In the early 1980s, the world notices ecological problems and effects of human activity on the Ozone layer. Scientists warn the global community about climate change, global warming, and species extinction on Earth. The Montreal Protocol took place in 1987, and since then, different conventions such as UNFCC (UN Framework on Climate Change) and convention on forest and biological conservation were adopted in 1992. Now the world was seeking ways to find a systematic, organized, global, and well-defined financial mechanism to respond and facilitate on-time environmental issues along with agreed conventions(Lean, 2016). In 1991 the GEF was at first a pilot project for UNDP, UNEP, and the WB(GEF, 2011), and its concept background goes to the proposal in 1989, where France’s Ministry of Finance proposed to provide further funding to the WB in tackling climate change and environmental issues. Later, Germany supported this, and then 27 countries consisting of 9 developing countries seconded it. The GEF, in its pilot phase, received $1 billion in the first three years to work on global warming, ozone layer, biodiversity, and water issues in developing countries(Lean, 2016). The GEF funding process was initially criticized because it focused on short-term and capital-intensive projects, which created more criteria for designing later projects(McNeely, 1994).

GEF had three key enablers to ensure sustainable approaches in tackling environmental problems in the first three years. The WB played a significant role in its administration and trustee position. The UNEP directed the GEF to solve related issues with science and technology in a defined strategy. The UNDP assisted in proposals dealing with capacity-building interventions. In the 25 years with initial funding of $1 billion, the GEF development policy paved the ground for a $14.5 billion investment followed by $75.4 billion further resources in 167 countries within 4000 projects(Ishii, 2016).

In the Beijing Ministerial Declaration on Development and Environment, which happened in 1991, developing countries shared their concern for not having funding mechanisms for key other environmental topics such as desertification, land debasement, and freshwater management(Lean, 2016). Rio Earth Summit in Brazil gave the GEF an opportunity to become an independent financial mechanism and serve various international conventions on the environment by considering developing countries’ concerns. Later in 1994, the GEF’s governance, structure, administration, operations, and other organizational features were adopted, and GEF became an independent organization(GEF, 2011). Statistically, the GEF, through its 790 projects between 1991 and 2016 in 130 countries, has covered 860 hectares and has safeguarded over 3300 areas. The GEF has contributed to the conservation management of 350 million hectares, has decreased 2.7 billion tons of GHG emissions, has taken 15 million people out of environmental threats, and has taken a bold step in the disposal of 200,000 tons of waste(Ishii, 2016).

Between 1991 to 2009, the GEF funding allocation mainly was 33% biodiversity, 32% climate change, 13% international water and multifocal areas, 4% land degradation, and 2% ozone layer(GEF, 2011). In 2018 there has been significant change in allocations; 31.9% biodiversity, 19.8% climate change, 11.7 land degradation, 14.8% chemical waste, and 11.4% international water. The GEF geographical allocation has been 26% Asia, 23% Africa, 21% Latin America and the Caribbean, 13% Europe, and 13% Central Asia(GEF, 2018).

2.2 Organizational Background

The GEF organizational structure includes the secretariat, the council, assembly, 18 agencies, the independent evaluation office, and a Technical and Scientific Advisory Panel (STAP) (see Figure 1). The assembly consists of 184 member countries (GEF, 2021). It comes together every three/four years on ministries level to discuss 1) standard policies, 2) the council’s report evaluation, 3) revise on GEF sustainability, and 4) bringing changes to the GEF’s structure by majority approval and recommendation of the council(GEF, 2011). The Council is the core governing element of the GEF. It consists of 32 members from 16 developing countries, 14 developed countries, and two countries with economies in transition(GEF, 2021). The council meets two times a year with tasks on development, evaluation, and adoption of policies benefiting operations in GEF, and approving submitted project proposals after reviewing. The STAP comprises six expert members to advise GEF on interventions, policies, operations, and strategies. The Secretariat is the coordination body for all GEF operations. It is directed by a chief executive officer, who has four years' terms and is selected by the council. The secretariat ensures that the council and assembly resolutions are implemented, and policies coordinate with agencies(GEF, 2011). The coordination purpose is to integrate SDGs into the right intervention, pool capital and human resources with adequate knowledge and skills, save resources and time, and support stakeholders(Baumann, 2018).

The agencies are vital players in the GEF’s operations with tasks to design, develop, and run funded interventions in collaboration and coordination with government institutions, civil society, and other partners(GEF, 2021). NGOs and civil society organizations are actively taking part in policy development, advocacy for common causes, and development assistance in partnership and coordination with UN agencies and other international organizations focusing on community levels(Marshall, 2014). The OECD sets five criteria for the evaluation of international development projects, policies, and interventions such as, 1) relevance, 2) effectiveness, 3) efficiency, 4) impact, and 5) sustainability(OECD, 2019). The Evaluation Office is led by a director being selected by the council. This office's major work is the GEF’s projects impact evaluation in collaboration with the secretariat and agencies according to the significant part of OECD’s evaluation criteria(GEF, 2021).

Overall, GEF is a financial mechanism for developing countries to fulfill global environmental conventions. This approach assists the GEF with a clear strategy to align its operations and funding according to these conventions’ objectives. These conventions are 1) Biological Diversity, 2) UNFCC, 3) Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), 4) UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), and 5) Minamata Convention on Mercury(GEF, 2021).

This image has been removed for copyright reasons.

Figure 1. The GEF organizational structure. Adapted from “The GEF website organization page,” by GEF, (2021). Retrieved from,mechanism%20for%20several%20environmental%20conventions

3.1 The GEF Strategy

According to the latest replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund in April 2021, the GEF has funded $21.7 billion as grants and 119 billion in co-financing through 5,000 projects covering 170 countries(GEF, 2021). This includes 25,000 civil society organizations in 133 countries. Besides, the GEF has protected 3,300 conserved areas with a value of 860 million ha in biodiversity globally. The GEF contribution in GHG emissions contributed to mitigating 8 billion tons of GHG(WB & GEF, 2021).

The GEF’s theory of change (see Figure 2) is the core of this organization’s operations and transformation in our planet, Earth. It has identified five strategies for its projects, 1) mainstreaming gender in projects, 2) private sector involvement, 3) nature-friendly solutions, 4) circular economy for growth and 5) resilience. This strategy is supported by policies and governance, innovation, multi-stakeholder engagement, and financial support. Our life, livelihood, and ecosystem have been affected by the desertification of forests, water contamination due to chemical wastes, biodiversity loss in our wildlife, and climate change. Now we are facing another major threat as the Covid-19 pandemic. This reminds us that we are still not on the right path, and our nature is in a fight with our economic development. The GEF strategy aims to minimize these threats(GEF, 2021). The Covid-19 has resulted in the loss of jobs, disruption in supply chain and economic growth, and other effects originating from human negative resettlement in green areas by desertification and transforming it to urban areas. This has led to human close interaction with wildlife and the spread of various diseases(Chakrabortya & Maity, 2020). The GEF, with its Integrated Approach to Programming (IAP), has built a multidimensional governance framework to facilitate operations, integrate stakeholders, including the private sector, provide ownership and decision-making, balanced gender participation, and mitigate climate shocks. Through IAP, the GEF removed the deforestation context from the commodity logistic network, developed sustainable food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, promoting local interventions for global impacts, sustainable forest management considering land restoration, and sustainable cities(GEF, 2021).

The GEF vision is to increase efforts in changing and transforming human life in relation to energy and food production and consumption, urbanization, and business supply chain by sustainable development, low carbon, inclusive approaches, and nature-friendly economy. This will bring back the balance between human and nature. The GEF efforts will be within crucial interventions such as the Good Growth Platform, the Sustainable Cities Impact Project, The Food, The Land Use, and Restoration Impact Program, and the Wildlife Conservation for Development Project(WB & GEF, 2021). The GEF made a fast approach in mitigating Covid-19 risks in implementing its funded projects by the agencies. In addition, it worked with various groups to add and consider Covid-19 measures when implementing projects. This effort minimized risks of disruption in the process of interventions activity. With this approach, the GEF took part in sustaining sustainable development by 1) integrating local communities in the project to reduce the pandemic impact on the economy, 2) the number of projects used green recovery concept in their project design and process to make GEF investment more resilient, and 3) the number of projects incorporated alternative revenue streams to assist local communities’ livelihood(GEF, 2021). The GEF gender-responsive approach supports women's engagement and access to the GEF’s activities worldwide. It calls on agencies to consider an equal beneficiary, opportunity, and impact within project design and implementation for men and women. This approach calls on agencies to take bold action on qualified women experts recruitment, considering women participation assessment in the project evaluation, capacity building for women integration on institutional level, decreasing interventions’ negative impact on gender, and being solution for women related environmental issues(GEF, 2015).

Despite the GEF efforts on biodiversity, ecosystems, climate change and oceans conservation, according to the STAP’s report, wildlife extinction is increasing rapidly in our ecosystem, GHG emission is increasing , ice is melting faster than past, coral reefs are decreasing, overfishing is in increase, and water pollution is added to these issues. This is going to fail us in achieving sustainable development goals by 2030. The GEF requires more official development assistance (ODA) to be more efficient compared to the previous cycle (WB & GEF, 2021) in terms of economic growth and welfare in developing countries as the main objective. It is set to offer ODA in grants and soft loans with soft conditions(OECD, 2020). The GEF strategy in response to the above global issues is to bring healthy social and economic development by transforming economic growth, where human health and nature connection is safe, diverse, and inclusive. According to the GEF strategy, a healthy planet requires healthy humans with interconnections between functioning of our ecosystem and biodiversity, food security and our health, freshwater and inhabitable climate, and a clean environment from chemicals(WB & GEF, 2021). GEF is using its private sector engagement strategy for a green market transformation through climate resilient technology interventions. With nature-based solutions, it tries to address extinction of biodiversity and land degradation. Managing Watersheds for Enhanced Resilience of Communities to Climate Change project in Nepal is one of the projects that aim to support vulnerable communities in the Marin, that are at risk of climate change effects such as floods and landslides. The GEF supports this project with $4.4 million in finance and $25.8 million in co-finance to benefit 40,000 people in 10,000 ha by a climate-resilient project of nature-based solutions(GEF, 2021).

This image has been removed for copyright reasons.

Figure 2. The GEF Theory of Change. Adapted from “Strategic Positioning and Programming Directions,” by GEF, (2021).

3.2 GEF Focal Area Strategy

The GEF focal areas reflect its policies and approaches. These focal areas are reviewed every four years to get donors' agreement(GEF, 2011).

Biodiversity Focal Area: Climate change and biodiversity loss pave the ground in destroying our civilization(Martine & Alves, 2019). There are various factors causing biodiversity loss, such as overexploitation of sea and land, global warming, GHG, and pollution. These elements threaten the well-being of humans, wildlife, and our ecosystem(WB & GEF, 2021). The GEF has taken vital steps in preserving biodiversity. They are 1) increasing financial support for related projects, 2) institutional capacity building programs to ensure that biosafety framework is in place, 3) enabling governments to design and implement policies to mitigate biodiversity loss within a regulated framework, and 4) technical support for the private sector value chain to minimize their negative impact on biodiversity(GEF, 2011).

Climate Change Focal Area: Despite driven actions by governments and the private sector in mitigating its effects, we have failed to keep it at least to the pre-industrial level. This threat causes global warming, instability in countries’ economic growth, the rise of sea level, wildfires, drought, flood, unsustainable livelihood, food insecurity, and health problems. Mitigating climate change effects demand changes and transformations in energy, construction, transport, land, cities, and other industries through technology, innovation, and suitable policies(Martine & Alves, 2019). The GEF plans to assist developing countries in moving toward net-zero GHG emissions with sustainable development. GEF strategy is to 1) ensure systematic results by implementing interventions with the use of technology and innovation, 2) promote and support renewable and efficient energy, 3) increasing zero-emission and nature-based solutions, 3) capacity building programs for fulfilling developing countries conventions’ responsibility, and 4) supporting private sector through a science-based multi-stakeholder framework(WB & GEF, 2021).


Excerpt out of 27 pages


Global Environment Facility (GEF) Development Policy and Afghanistan
Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences
Sustainable Development Management MA
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
development, policy, environment, GEF, Global Environment Facility, afghanistan, climate change, governance, aid, forest conservation
Quote paper
Sayed Ahmad Fahim Masoumi (Author), 2022, Global Environment Facility (GEF) Development Policy and Afghanistan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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