Multi-Focal Area

Multi-stakeholder dialogue

The GEF is committed to enhancing integration across sectors, catalysing innovation to alter systems that degrade the global environment and leveraging multi-stakeholder coalitions to influence transformational change across scales. This Guidance Note offers advice on the principles and practices that contribute to effective design and implementation of multi-stakeholder dialogue (MSD) to address GEF priorities. The primary emphasis is on the use of MSD processes to contribute to regional or global coalitions for transformational change that integrate private sector actors, including multinational corporations, industry associations and private financial institutions.

The Note uses the term MSD to refer to sustained dialogue enabling collaborative action among diverse stakeholders at multiple scales, explicitly aiming for transformational change in systems that can generate global environmental benefits. Four models of transformation found in the GEF portfolio are outlined, along with the barriers to scaling that they face. MSD can address these barriers to achieve integration across sectors, international exchange and learning, increased policy commitment, enhanced private sector engagement and financing, and –ultimately – new levels of enduring outcome and impact. The Note offers a number of core principles which have been identified by researchers and seasoned practitioners to inform good practice.



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Earth Observation and the GEF

In the 28 years since the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was created, a digital revolution has taken place. Data from satellite remote sensing and other Earth observation technology have become much more regular, widespread, less costly and accessible. Together with scientific and technological advances such as cloud computing, machine learning, and data sharing, these data offer more opportunity to observe, monitor, and predict environmental and social phenomena with greater efficiency and precision.

Many GEF projects and programs are using Earth observation data to design, implement, monitor, and evaluate interventions. However, the uptake and use of Earth observation technology by GEF agencies is uneven. Since 2017, the Project Information Form (PIF) requires project proponents to provide a map and geo-coordinates of the project’s location.  A PIF map could benefit from being integrated with information derived from Earth observation, but there remains limited guidance on how this information should be provided.

This Primer addresses that gap and offers recommendations to advance Earth observation use within GEF programming. The accompanying Technical Guide provides more detailed explanation of Earth observation principles, data sources and platforms, GEF and non-GEF case studies to illustrate how these data and tools can be used, and guidance on how to meet the PIF requirements.

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Achieving 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.


Appendix to STAP 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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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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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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Integration: to solve complex environmental problems

Environmental challenges are complex and interlinked, not only in themselves but also with social and economic issues. Better human well-being, for example, poverty reduction, improved human health, energy access and economic growth, are linked to ecological factors. Solutions for one problem can lead to unintended negative consequences, or create new environmental or socio-economic problems. For example, increasing food production in ways that deplete soils, waste water, kill pollinators and increase desertification and deforestation, would eventually prove self-limiting. This STAP paper outlines the science of integration, why integration matters to the GEF, and recommends how to improve integration in the future design of GEF projects.

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STAP guidelines for screening GEF projects

The screening guidelines for GEF projects were developed by STAP, and follow the structure of the GEF’s Project Identification Form (PIF).  The guidelines answer the question, “what does STAP look for when it screens projects?”, and provide prompts for project proponents to address scientific and technical issues that are important for designing projects. For example, the guidelines assist with the problem analysis, and help develop an impact pathway (theory of change) to achieve the project objective. To help plan for change in the project’s social-ecological system, the guidelines assist with developing intervention options and alternative pathways to deal with the change required (incremental or transformational change) to achieve resilience.

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Novel Entities and the GEF

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) needs to be aware of the opportunities and potential benefits that new entities and technologies can offer in delivering global environmental benefits and should be mindful of the potential for new entities to become major global environmental problems. This report presents the findings of a study commissioned by the STAP, and implemented by the Environmental Law Institute, to identify novel entities of relevance to the GEF. For the study, novel entities are broadly defined as “things created and introduced into the environment by human beings that could have positive or negative disruptive effects on the earth system; and may include synthetic organic pollutants, radioactive materials, genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, micro-plastics”.  The study identified seven novel entities that could positively or negatively impact the work of the GEF including technology-critical elements, for example, rare earth elements; next-generation nanotechnology; blockchain technology; gene editing including Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR); cellular agriculture; engineered bio-based materials; and nano-enabled energy. This report presents a description of these novel entities and provides advice to the GEF on possible actions for harnessing the opportunities presented by the novel entities and preventing unintended negative impacts of the entities on the environment.

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