Global Environment Facility reveals WWF and IUCN alliance

Developing countries set to benefit from new funds protecting biodiversity hotspots and monitoring climate change


By John Upton in Cancun

Two of the biggest names in the worldwide conservation movement are growing in power and influence.

When developing countries want to use money provided through international environmental treaties to carry out projects – such as helping farmers adapt to changes in the weather, or to monitor biodiversity – they will be able to call on the World Wildlife Fund or the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to manage the work.

Both groups are becoming official project agencies of the Global Environment Facility.

They are joining the likes of the World Bank, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, and Asian Development Bank in helping to oversee billions of dollars in environmental spending made possible through contributions from richer countries.

The IUCN’s newfound powers were announced in Mexico on Sunday during GEF Council meetings.

It was also announced on Sunday that the Development Bank of South Africa would become a GEF project agency, taking the number of such agencies to 14. The WWF became certified as a GEF project agency late last year.

The GEF has the heady task of allocating money that wealthy countries pledge to provide assistance for poor and developing ones, helping to meet obligations under five environmental treaties.

It has funneled $12.5 billion to more than 3,500 projects in 165 developing countries since it was formed in 1991. Meetings were held in Cancun this week to help direct spending of more than $4 billion in new pledges made during the past year or so.

“We have quite a number of projects ready to roll,” Cyriaque Sendashonga, the global director of the IUCN’s programme and policy group, told RTCC.

“Most of the GEF focal areas as we know them today are areas in which the IUCN is active. When it comes to biodiversity, international waters, climate change, and sustainable forest management, those are things that the IUCN has been doing for the past 60 to 70 years.”

Sendashonga said the IUCN would take advantage of its new agency status to help as it works with other groups to meet the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands worldwide by 2020.

“This is one project where we see a huge potential to really work with the GEF,” she said. “It will have immediate benefits for climate change, particularly CO2 sequestration, food security, and land degradation improvement.”

As with the IUCN, the WWF had been working with GEF for years before being announced as an official project agency.

Carter Roberts, the president of the WWF in the U.S., said the group has worked on more than 100 projects with the GEF. But the group’s new certification, which followed an extensive vetting process, will help it raise that relationship to a new level.

“It took several years of process to get there,” Roberts told RTCC in Cancun. “We’re now really excited about the opportunity to work with country governments in advancing their sustainability agendas all around the world.”

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