NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Global Environmental Facility Is Failing

October 3, 2013

The United States has joined a number of international treaties and financed several global initiatives that aim to benefit the environment. One of these efforts is the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The GEF funds international projects to preserve biodiversity, prevent global warming, protect international waters, stop land degradation, save the ozone layer and remove persistent organic pollutants, says Brent Pinero, a research associate with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

It is important to evaluate whether or not U.S. taxpayer dollars are used effectively. Though the GEF arguably pursues admirable goals, there is evidence the institution is highly ineffective, structurally flawed and possibly corrupt. It appears almost all of the money contributed to the GEF has been wasted.

  • A 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) evaluation of the GEF exposed several organizational flaws. The CRS said that the "GEF was set up mostly to finance grants. Grants have proven to be inefficient in many development contexts given the greater leveraging and enhanced financial sustainability obtained from loan[s]."
  • A 2004 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) evaluation concluded that GEF-funded projects have had no demonstrated results due to ineffective programs and poor management.
  • According to the OMB, "The Facility lacks strong anti-corruption mechanisms. These include, for example, setting high standards, independent audit functions, financial disclosure and codes of ethics, obtaining clean annual external financial audits, and implementing procurement based on best practices."

The GEF has been failing for two decades, yet American taxpayers continue to foot the bill. If the federal government wants to fund environmental programs abroad, it should invest directly in programs that have been shown to work. Before funds are spent, however, strict accounting standards, tough anticorruption rules and penalties, and clear guideposts for progress and success should be implemented.

Source: Brent Pinero, "The Global Environmental Facility: A Dismal Failure," National Center for Policy Analysis, October 3, 2013.


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