GEF Independent Evaluation Office

GEF Report: UNEP/CBD/COP/13/12/Add.1, 2016:
GEF ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REPORT 2014: Of the 378 completed biodiversity projects approved from GEF-1 through GEF-4, 85% had overall outcome ratings of moderately satisfactory or higher. However, a greater percentage of climate and chemical focal area projects had higher sustainability ratings than biodiversity, land degradation, and multifocal projects. Among focal areas, projects from the biodiversity focal area were slightly more likely to have terminal evaluation lessons noting overambitious objectives compared to projects from other focal areas (17 percent vs 11 percent), with the difference statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level.

JOINT GEF-UNDP EVALUATION OF THE SMALL GRANTS PROGRAMME: To date, the SGP has provided about 16,064 small grants, with a strategic preference historically given to biodiversity projects, which constitute the larger share of the global SGP portfolio. However, the percentage of resources allocated to biodiversity SGP projects has decreased (from 55 percent in the early phases, to 44 percent in Operational Phase 4 and 38 percent in Operational Phase 5 to date) in favor of increases in cross-cutting capacity development, land degradation, and climate change. The SGP evaluation team visited a wide selection of grant projects in the biodiversity focal area. Some interventions in Peru led to the restoration of populations that had been depleted due to their low economic value (e.g., color alpacas, native potatoes, native beans), overexploitation (Liza fish), or habitat destruction (river shrimp). In Jordan, projects in this focal area emphasized sustainable agriculture. For example, the two projects Sustainable Agriculture and Fifa Protected Area and Organic Crops Production and Environmental Conservation led to the establishment of community managed special conservation areas. In Mongolia, a community-based forest management project in Mandal Soum helped conserve 3,113 hectares of forest area by protecting it from illegal logging and establishing a tree nursery. An endangered species conservation project in Panama contributed to the conservation of sea turtles in Cambutal, Los Santos through a conservation awareness campaign, establishment of patrols during turtle arrival hours, and egg nesting facilities in selected beach areas.

COUNTRY PORTFOLIO EVALUATIONS: In 2014, the GEF country portfolios of Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Tanzania were evaluated. These included a total of 19 biodiversity projects across the three countries. In Eritrea, the research unit within the Ministry of Marine Resources established with support from the Conservation Management of Eritrea’s Coastal, Marine and Island Biodiversity project is now mainstreaming its research in other institutions, including universities abroad, providing valuable information exchange. The Eastern Arc Mountains forests project in Tanzania obtained SGP funding to promote butterfly farming as an income-generating activity around Amani Nature Reserves, in order to reduce pressure on forest products. This initiative promoted butterfly farming in the Eastern Usambara Mountains, resulting in butterfly farmers and their communities conserving natural forests to protect host plants for butterfly farming. This has been successfully replicated by the GEF full sized projects implemented near Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park. In Sierra Leone, interaction with other donor projects was particularly noted for biodiversity projects.
Since 1995, GEF has supported a number of strategic initiatives to preserve biodiversity and to strengthen the institutional capacities of Morocco through several enabling activities and nine biodiversity projects. Important legal, institutional, and technical changes were put in place for co-management of forest resources. GEF-supported protected areas were found to be better-protected relative to non-protected areas through remote sensing analysis.
Tajikistan has implemented nine biodiversity projects as well. The evaluation found that GEF support to Tajikistan to biodiversity conservation has been significantly more effective in protected areas management and biosafety legislation than in other focal areas. It has resulted in the strengthening protected area management system in Tajikistan; GEF-supported protected area management plans have been replicated in other PAs in the country. Biodiversity SGP projects have been effective specifically in exploring how to build links between the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development at the local level.
In all countries, GEF support contributed to the development of NBSAPs and the submission of their first national reports to the CBD.

IMPACT EVALUATION OF GEF SUPPORT TO PROTECTED AREAS AND PROTECTED AREA SYSTEMS: This evaluation assessed the impact of GEF investments in non-marine protected areas (PAs) and PA systems on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The GEF IEO and the UNDP IEO undertook this evaluation jointly. The evaluation combines new methods and approaches to assess the impact of GEF support. It found that over the past 24 years, the GEF has provided US$ 3.4 billion in grants to 618 projects, matched by US$ 12.0 billion in cofinancing, to help protect almost 2.8 million km2 of the world’s nonmarine ecosystems. Support has been given to at least 1,292 non-marine PAs in 137 countries, and to the PA systems or subsystems of 57 countries. Of the supported PAs, 58% are classified as key biodiversity areas—the highest scientific standard for designating global biodiversity significance; the remainder have other international designations for ecological and cultural value (31 %), or designations of local or national importance (11%).
Since the pilot phase, GEF strategies have increasingly targeted development pressures beyond the PAs. GEF support is contributing to biodiversity conservation by helping to lower habitat loss in PAs as indicated by less forest cover loss in GEF-supported PAs compared to PAs not supported by GEF. GEF-supported PAs also generally show positive trends in species populations, and reduced pressures to biodiversity at the site level. Through interventions at the PA level, GEF support is helping catalyze gradual changes in governance and management approaches that help to reduce biodiversity degradation. GEF is contributing to large-scale change in biodiversity governance in countries by investing in PA systems, including legal frameworks that increase community engagement. Interventions have helped build capacities that address key factors affecting biodiversity conservation in PAs, mainly in the areas of PA management, support from local populations, and sustainable financing. However, sustainable financing remains a concern. While sharing important characteristics with governments and other donors, GEF support allows adaptability and higher likelihood of broader adoption in cases where it pays particular attention to three key elements in combination: long-term engagement, financial sustainability, and creation of links across multiple approaches, stakeholders and scales.
The evaluation recommended that when deciding on which areas to support, GEF should consider not only biodiversity values as criteria, but also increasingly important considerations such as climate change vulnerability and ecological impacts of climate change. In terms of community engagement, it was recommended that when implementing interventions meant to generate socioeconomic benefits for communities affected by restrictive forest use, attention needs to be given to the risks of unequal distribution of costs and benefits of PA management interventions. Such inequity can create tension among communities as well as negative attitudes that result in more rather than less environmentally destructive behavior. Especially important are livelihood interventions that contribute to or do not undermine biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The aim of these interventions are specifically to reduce local pressures on biodiversity stemming from adverse local socioeconomic conditions.
Another recommendation was for GEF to invest more in interventions that enable dialogue and joint decision-making not only among multiple stakeholders directly affected at the site, but also representing different sectors and operating at different scales – local governments, national ministries, regional trade associations, etc. – that tend to have conflicting development priorities and management objectives with regards to forest conservation. At the minimum, these would be stakeholders undertaking activities that are the drivers of forest change, such as those involving environmental protection, natural resource use (e.g. water, land, and energy), economic development, and infrastructure development.
Finally, the evaluation also advised for GEF to reduce the monitoring burden on projects, countries and agencies by adopting a mixed methods approach to results monitoring that draws on geospatial technology, global databases, and locally gathered information. It recommended the establishment of long-term partnerships for biodiversity and socioeconomic monitoring with country institutions that already have this as their mandate. This would allow results of projects within a country to be monitored consistently and analyzed periodically before, during and beyond the life of a project. Local and national databases developed through these partnerships can then feed into global databases.

COP12: UNEP/CBD/COP/12/14/ADD1, 16 July 2014 (Report of the Global Environment Facility)
During the reporting period the GEF Independent Evaluation Office (GEF IEO) was involved in several evaluations that are of relevance to the biodiversity focal area. These include five Country Portfolio Evaluations, one Country Portfolio Study, two Annual Performance Reports, the STAR Midterm Evaluation, two technical papers from OPS5, and several Impact evaluations.
Country Portfolio Evaluations. The GEF IEO conducted five Country Portfolio Evaluations in India, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Tanzania, and Eritrea, and one Country Portfolio Study in Sierra Leone.11 The evaluations found that GEF support has played an important role in creating the enabling framework necessary for the development of environmental policy and laws. GEF support remains relevant to the countries’ environmental priorities and to their sustainable development needs, with few exceptions. In Tanzania, Eritrea and Sierra Leone, project design factors, particularly over-ambitious objectives, have often caused implementation over-runs. The likelihood of sustainability is mixed. Sustainability is most likely when institutional and individual capacity development is fostered and when livelihood activities are promoted through community-based approaches. In India, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and SPREP countries, effective communication and outreach and use of lessons learned facilitated broader adoption. Long preparation times and delayed implementation affected overall efficiency. The introduction of resource allocation mechanisms since GEF-4 stimulated country programming with varying degrees of success in the respective countries.
Performance Evaluations. The Annual Performance Report (APR) of the GEF IEO presents a detailed account of project results, including ratings for achievement of expected outcomes, ratings for the likelihood of outcome sustainability, and financial information.12 Of the 298 biodiversity projects rated for outcome achievements so far, 251 (84%) were rated moderately satisfactory or higher. Of the 285 biodiversity projects rated for sustainability, 159 (56%) were in the “likely” range. The last two APRs (APR 2012 and APR 2013) reported on 93 completed biodiversity projects. Of these, outcomes of 87% were rated to be in the satisfactory range and sustainability of 58% (out of 91 rated) was rated in the ‘likely’ range. Both the outcome ratings and sustainability ratings for the projects in the last two APRs are comparable to the long-term average.
The GEF invested $1,125 million dollars in the 299 completed biodiversity projects for which financial information is available so far. An aggregate co-financing of $2,472 million was promised at the start of these projects, at $2.2 dollars per dollar of GEF grant. Of the 260 completed biodiversity projects for which information on materialization of co-financing is available, a co-financing of $2,365 million materialized: a mean of $2.1 per dollar of GEF funding and a median of $1.7 per dollar of GEF funding. The mean materialization ratio per dollar of GEF funding was $2.5 in the cohort of completed projects reviewed in APR 2012 and $3.0 for the cohort of APR 2013, and the median materialization ratio per dollar of GEF funding was $1.9 for both APR years.
Mid Term Evaluation of STAR. The GEF IEO’s mid-term evaluation of STAR13 found that the Biodiversity global environmental benefit index is conceptually simple and based on scientific evidence. Indicators for biodiversity are directly linked with global environmental benefits pursued by the GEF. The Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) set aside has been effective in directing resources to SFM activities. The evaluation recommends improving the scientific and technical validity of the biodiversity GBI index by giving greater attention to ecosystem functions and freshwater species.
Relevance of the GEF to the Conventions. The OPS5’s Technical Paper #414 on the Relevance of the GEF to the Conventions found that the GEF’s Biodiversity GEF-5 Strategy reflects COP guidance closely and tries to incorporate the multitude of areas for GEF programming mandated by CBD guidance. The overall amount of CBD guidance issued to the GEF has been continuously high and slightly increasing over time and faces two challenges: consolidation and prioritization. Due to a lack of prioritization in CBD guidance, there is a certain level of fragmentation and lower strategic coherence of the Biodiversity Strategy. Approved resources under the BD Focal Area are focused almost exclusively on activities under objectives BD-1 and BD-2. The programmatic areas of biosafety under the Cartagena Protocol as well as on Access and Benefit-Sharing under the Nagoya Protocol are operationalized through the GEF-5 Focal Area Strategy objectives BD-3 and BD-4, but countries are not requesting corresponding resources from their STAR allocations.
Impact Evaluations. The OPS5’s Technical Paper #2, “Impact of the GEF”, reports that the “Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund” project effectively contributed to the creation or expansion of 9.4 million hectares of protected areas in 15 countries with globally significant biodiversity hotspots. The OPS5’s Technical Paper #12, “Progress Towards Impact”, reports that of 227 completed biodiversity projects, 70% (158 projects) showed environmental impacts; 50% (114 projects) achieved environmental stress reduction, and an additional 20% (45 projects) resulted in improved environmental status. Terminal evaluations of biodiversity projects reported environmental impacts mostly in the form of improved habitats at the site level (33%, 76 projects), but 11% (26 projects) also reported impacts at a landscape scale. The GEF IEO’s 2013 Annual Impact Report15 describes an ongoing evaluation jointly undertaken by the GEF IEO and UNDP that will assess GEF support to the protection of biodiversity through protected areas.