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Speech by Klaus Toepfer Executive Director of UNEP at the Second Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly, BEIJING, CHINA, 16 OCTOBER 2002


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our meeting today in Beijing is a landmark event not only for the GEF family but also the environment community as a whole in all its diversity. The second GEF Assembly is indeed a landmark event for at least five reasons.

First, the convening of our meeting here in Beijing, the capital of the largest country in the world is a clear demonstration of the commitment of China and its people to the cause of global environment management and its commitment to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) as evidenced by China's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

China is remarkable in that it has managed to de-couple economic development from the parallel growth in energy and carbon dioxide emissionms.

In my capacity as a member and as the Chairman for this year of the China Council on Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, I am fully aware of these efforts. The Tenth China Five-year plan for 2001 - 2005 reflects these efforts. The plan has set out phased targets for achieving sustainable development which will complement the objective of more than 120 laws, rules and regulations adopted by China. Addressing adequately the major environmental threats facing China, means also contributing to the global environment. The convening of this meeting is also a clear recognition by the international community of the distinct efforts of China in promoting the environmental pillar of sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations. This is right in line with our motto: Environment for Development.

It is based on such recognition that the World Environment Day was celebrated here in China last June. The celebration coincided with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme. It is also based on such recognition that a UNEP-Tongji Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development was established in May this year with a view of enhancing research, technical and managerial capacities in China and other countries of the region.

I would like therefore to take this opportunity to congratulate the people and the Government of China for their unique contribution to the protection of the environment and for hosting this important meeting.

Second, our meeting today is also important as it coincides with the end of a very successful phase in the existence of the GEF. During its second phase, the GEF has indeed consolidated its position as one of the most important multilateral financial institutions of the global environment and a key instrument in the fight against poverty.

Indeed, since your last meeting in New Delhi in April 1998, twenty additional countries have joined the GEF. The GEF/NGO network comprises now more than 460 groups and more than 771 additional projects have been approved. As a result the GEF has committed US$ 4 billion and mobilized US$ 12 billion in support to more than 1,000 projects in 160 countries and more than 3,000 small grant projects. 20% of the GEF activities are now implemented by NGOs. In order to enhance country ownership, more than 36 Country Dialogue Workshops including 4 regional and sub-regional, involving more than 3500 participants were organized and more than 14 will be convened in the near future. During the same period, three additional operational programmes have been adopted, a major capacity building initiative has been launched, expedited procedures for enabling activities have been promoted, the Medium-sized project track has become a major feature of the GEF activities, and the partnership has been extended to seven executing agencies including four Regional Development Banks. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the GEF has been reconstituted and its membership extended to accommodate new and emerging issues associated with enhanced responsibilities. The GEF is now the financial mechanism of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and last year in Marrakech, its mandate was extended to manage three additional climate change funds.

Indeed the partnership between the United Nations Organization represented by UNDP and UNEP and the Bretton Woods institutions represented by the World Bank Group is working well. This has been documented by the second Overall Performance Study on the agenda of your meeting.

If there is one person who is truly, personally, linked with the facility's success, then it is my friend Mr. Mohamed El-Ashry. I salute him for his courage, stewardship and the imaginative direction he has steered the good ship GEF through calm and sometimes choppy waters to the safe harbour of Beijing.

Some of you may know that the initials of his name, M.E.A, also stand for Multilateral Environmental Agreements. This is apt for the figure who is the CEO of one of the key financial mechanisms for the MEAs.

If this is the criterion for his successor, then we will have a difficult job!!

Third, our meeting today represents also the first major intergovernmental meeting since the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the largest-ever meeting convened by the United Nations, last month in South Africa. It offers a unique opportunity to agree on the contribution of the GEF to the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of relevance to its mandate as well as to the Type II Partnership initiatives. The contribution of the GEF to the global environmental dimensions of sustainable development has been fully and rightly acknowledged by the Johannesburg commitments including issues related to the follow-up of the Secretary General's Initiative on WEHAB.

It is the mechanism for providing new and additional funds to meet the incremental costs of delivering global environmental improvements.

WSSD was certainly a step forward. If you see all the targets and timetables including the date of 2004 for the ratification of the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) that emerged, linked to the decision before the summit to replenish the GEF, then you can come to no other conclusion.

And Fourth, your meeting will decide, for the first time, to amend the Instrument establishing the restructured GEF to include land degradation and POPs as new and distinct focal areas. By doing so, your Assembly will not only respond to one of the recommendations addressed to it by the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, but will also enhance its capacity to respond better to the specific needs of the poorest countries in the world and in particular the African countries. It will also contribute to the implementation of one of the major environmental threats identified in chapter 8 of the New Partnership for Africa Development and documented by the African Environment Outlook recently prepared by the African Ministerial Conference on Environment. The successful implementation of this decision will represent one of the major challenges facing the GEF in the year ahead.

Fifth, your meeting today coincides with the beginning of a new and exciting phase of the GEF. To this end, I should pay tribute to the 34 donors of the GEF for their recent decision to replenish the GEF for a third phase at the highest level since its establishment in 1991. This decision is a clear vote of confidence in the ability of our institution to meet the challenges ahead of us.

Here in China, the GEF is helping with a pioneering project on biosafety, a restoration of the Yangtze River project is proposed and there is a proposal for one on eco-tourism to name but three.

With its work programme worth more than US$ 500 million in total cost in support of more than 300 activities in 144 countries, UNEP, acting as one of the three Implementing Agencies of the GEF, is proud to be a partner in this innovative financial mechanism and is fully committed to play its role in assisting the GEF family to rise to the challenges of its third phase.

I thank you for your attention.