Global Environment Facility

Document Summary: 

Organization Profile:

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. GEF funds are available to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements. 

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 184 countries — in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. As an independent financial organization, the GEF provides grants to developing countries and countries with economies in transition for projects related to biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, land degradation, international waters, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. These projects benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods. 18 GEF Agencies are the operational arm of the GEF. They work closely with project proponents — government agencies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders — to design, develop and implement GEF-funded projects and programs. Since its inception, the GEF has provided more than $21.1 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $114 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 projects in 170 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme, the GEF has provided support to more than 25,000 civil society and community initiatives in 133 countries.

Support from the GEF helps developing countries, which often face an array of economic, ecological, and political challenges, comply with the three Rio Conventions on biodiversity, desertification, and climate change. As the unique financial mechanism of the conventions, the GEF focuses much of its effort on helping governments comply with convention requirements, providing subsequent environmental benefits in the biodiversity, climate, and land degradation areas. 

At the crossroad of several multilateral agreements, the GEF strategy on Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) constitutes a key area for the GEF to achieve its mandate. The GEF’s SFM strategy seeks to protect forest ecosystems and their ecological services by concentrating efforts, focus, and investments, as well as ensuring strong regional cross-border coordination. The GEF projects, including Integrated Programs address the drivers of forest loss and degradation through a combination of strategies aiming at creating a better enabling environment for forest governance; supporting rational land use planning across mixed-use landscapes; strengthening the management and financing of protected areas; clarifying land tenure and other relevant policies; supporting the management of commercial and subsistence agriculture lands to reduce pressure on adjoining forests; and utilizing financial mechanisms and incentives for sustainable forest management. Since its inception in 1992, the GEF has funded more than 500 forest-related projects, investing around $3.4 billion and leveraging an additional expected amount of $17 billion to promote SFM in developing countries around the world. Midway through GEF-7, the many projects and programs still underway are expected to sustainably improve the management of over 305 million hectares of forest landscapes for multiple benefits and services; restore more than 7.6 million hectares of forest lands; mitigate the emission of 1,294 million tCO2e and enhance the management of 28 million hectares of protected areas in forest landscapes.
The GEF has also a climate change adaptation strategy, which is financed through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), aims at supporting developing countries to move to a climate resilient development pathway while reducing exposure to the immediate risks posed by climate change. These projects can contribute to SFM. Since 2001, the GEF has financed 119 projects and provided close to $2.0 billion in grant financing and mobilized more than $13 billion from other sources for 386 adaptation projects in 130 countries, including all least developed countries (LDCs) and 33 small island developing states (SIDS).


Financing Instrument: 97% Grants, 3% Non-Grant (Equity, Subordinated Loans, Loans, Guarantees) 


Project Scale: The GEF provides financing to various types of projects ranging from several thousands to several million dollars from the GEF Trust Fund (GEFTF), Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).
- Full-sized Projects (FSPs)- more than US$2 million
- Medium-sized Projects (MSPs) - Up to US$2 million
- Enabling Activities (EAs) 


Recipient countries regions/country groups: Global


Recipient categories: GEF support is provided to government agencies, civil society organizations, private sector companies, and research institutions, among the broad diversity of potential partners, to implement projects and programs in recipient countries.


Eligibility Criteria: GEF funds are available to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements.

All projects or programs must fulfill the following criteria to be eligible for GEF funding.
- Eligible country: Countries may be eligible for GEF funding in one of two ways: a) if the country has ratified the conventions the GEF serves and conforms with the eligibility criteria decided by the Conference of the Parties of each convention; or b) if the country is eligible to receive World Bank (IBRD and/or IDA) financing or if it is an eligible recipient of UNDP technical assistance through its target for resource assignments from the core (specifically TRAC-1 and/or TRAC-2). 
- National priority: The project must be driven by the country (rather than by an external partner) and be consistent with national priorities that are aligned with the Multilateral Environmental Agreements and support sustainable development.
- GEF priorities: to achieve the objectives of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, it is required that the GEF support country priorities that are ultimately aimed at tackling the drivers of environmental degradation in an integrated fashion. For this reason, the focal areas (Biodiversity, Climate Change Mitigation, Land Degradation, International Waters and Chemicals and Waste), which remain the central organizing feature in the GEF-7 Programming Directions, provide countries with the opportunity to elaborate stand-alone projects or participate in selected Integrated Programs such as in GEF-7 the “Impact Programs” related to forests focusing on 1) Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration; and 2) Sustainable Forest Management (for more details, see annex A of the GEF-7 Programming Directions Documents).
- Financing: The project must seek GEF financing only for the agreed incremental costs on measures to achieve global environmental benefits.
- Participation: The project must involve the public in project design and implementation, following the Policy on Public Involvement in GEF-Financed Projects and the respective guidelines.

Application guidelines: The following application process applies to full-sized projects:
1. GEF Council Approval of Work Program 
- The project proposer in a recipient country agrees on the Project Identification Form (PIF) with the country Operational Focal Point (OFP) and the GEF Agency and seeks the endorsement by the country’s OFP. Once both the PIF and the endorsement letter by the OFP are completed, they can be formally submitted to the Secretariat through the GEF Agency. There are no deadlines for submissions, since PIFs are received on a rolling basis. The Secretariat reviews the PIF, and if approved, it is included in the Work Program for Council approval (twice a year). 
2. Endorsement of a Project by the CEO
- Since the PIF provides the overall outline of the proposal, a more detailed project document is required. Thus, after a PIF is approved by the Council, the project proponent and the Agency have a maximum of 18 months to prepare the project document for CEO Endorsement.
3. Approval of a Project by the GEF Agency
- After a project is endorsed by the CEO, and using the same project document, the GEF Agency follows its own internal procedures to approve the project and start project implementation.
4. Project Completion and Terminal Evaluation
- The GEF Agency is responsible for the completion, terminal evaluation and financial closure of the project.

Medium-sized projects can be approved through an expedited one-step approval process if they do not require project preparation grants. Otherwise, the two-step approval process involves:
1. GEF Council Agreement of Work Program
2. Approval of Projects under the Agreed Program

Publication Date
Monday, 20 April 2020
Applicable location
Biodiversity conservation
Forest conservation and management
Climate change
Forest landscape restoration
Financing opportunities