Three decades
of action for
the planet

30th Anniversary
of the Global Environment Facility

Thirty years ago, the Global Environment Facility (GEF)
was established to tackle the world’s most challenging environmental issues. What started as a pilot program on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit has developed today into a unique partnership that unites 184 countries, 18 partner agencies and a growing network of civil society and private sector representatives.

With $1 billion in funding for its first three years, money for the pilot GEF was allocated to support initiatives in developing countries and concentrated in four main areas: climate change, biodiversity, ozone depletion, and international waters.

Over the past three decades, the GEF has expanded its remit to meet the scale of challenges the planet is facing. In its early years, issues related to land degradation and deforestation became eligible for funding. The GEF later became the financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, adding chemical waste management as another focal area.

It is now the largest multilateral source of funds for environmental action in developing countries, providing about $1 billion per year for action across over-lapping areas including sustainable cities, forests, land use, illegal wildlife trade, and more.

To date, the GEF has provided more than $21.5 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $117 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 projects that have enabled developing countries to generate local, regional, and global environmental benefits.

Read how it all began and scroll through a timeline to see highlights from these 30 years of action for people
and the planet.

India 1998, First Assembly of the GEF stamp

India 1998, First Assembly of the GEF stamp

"Keeping international waters healthy and preserving their rich biodiversity have long been a challenge for these marine areas that do not fall under the responsibility of any one country.

The Program has brought together a broad and unique partnership to tackle this challenge by promoting the sustainable management
of fishery resources and ecosystem-based practices,
with some outstanding results."

~ Maria Helena Semedo, FAO's Deputy Director-General,
Climate and Natural Resources.

GEF-FAO fishery project makes remarkable progress in protecting international waters’ biodiversity

Source: Silent Roar

Source: Silent Roar

This video highlights the work of the GEF Small Grants Programme with Indigenous Peoples over the last 25+ years.

A new GEF program to reduce the use of mercury: "Global Opportunities for Long-term Development (GOLD) in the Artisanal Small Gold Mining Sector".

A new GEF program to reduce the use of mercury: "Global Opportunities for Long-term Development (GOLD) in the Artisanal Small Gold Mining Sector".

The story was prepared by the GEF Communications team.

Project lead: Alua Kennedy
Design: Alua Kennedy, Olivier Besson, Katrina Webster
Intro text: Geoffrey Lean
Video: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

Special thanks to the World Bank Archives team for assistance in locating historical material.