Lessons Learned: Critique of the Global Environment Facility intervention framework

Excerpt from a report prepared for the Third GEF Assembly, Cape Town, August 2006 by the Forest Peoples Programme: "...For many years indigenous peoples and traditional communities have criticised large conservation projects supported by the GEF for being top-down interventions that violate
their rights and undermine their livelihoods. Many of these criticisms have now been vindicated in the recently published GEF evaluation study on Local Benefits in Global Environmental Programs (2006). The evaluation compiled by the GEF Evaluation Office confirms that in many medium-sized and full-size GEF projects: • Inadequate attention is given to poverty risks and the potential for negative social impacts • Affected communities are not involved in project design and preparation • The design is flawed due to defective participation and little understanding of local livelihoods • Traditional knowledge is often ignored or disregarded • Land tenure is often not addressed • Costs are imposed on indigenous peoples and local communities without adequate compensation
• Alternative livelihood and income generation activities often fail • Communities are sometimes impoverished and left worse off as a result of the project. The GEF Management response to the findings of the study accepts its main recommendations, but argues that the critical results of the study are based largely on an old sample of GEF projects, and that the GEF has since learned lessons on social issues and made improvements in more recent GEF-assisted biodiversity conservation activities. This briefing challenges this assertion and the complacency of the GEF reaction to the evaluation. The briefing (i) summarises some of the findings of the Local Benefits Study;
(ii) pinpoints some gaps in the evaluation; (iii) highlights the weakness of the GEF Management Response and; (iv) makes recommendations for essential GEF reforms to address the critical issues raised by this important review of local benefits. It is recommended that the GEF urgently: • Comply with CBD COP8 guidance to review and revise its policies in relation to protected areas and indigenous peoples and local communities, with their full and effective participation • Involve indigenous experts and representatives in the ongoing revision of the GEF project cycle review criteria • Adopt a rights-based approach to conservation and development • Develop and implement policies on indigenous peoples, land tenure and resettlement, including standards to respect the right to free and prior informed consent and secure land and territorial rights – ensuring such standards are consistent with the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples • Establish GEF oversight and accountability mechanisms for its projects and programmes independent of its implementing agencies.."

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