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  GEF Public Involvement Policy Workshop, The Melrose Hotel, Washington DC, 2 Nov 2013

Thirty-one CSO representatives from twenty-one countries attended a workshop on the review of the Public Involvement Policy (PIP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The PIP was adopted by the GEF Council in April 1996. To this end, the GEF-NGO Network has been conducting a review of the PIP in collaboration with the GEF Secretariat, inter alia through surveys of stakeholder groups and workshops conducted during the regional ECW meetings. This workshop was held before the meeting of the GEF 45th Council in Washington DC, USA to get the views of CSO representatives on how the PIP can be revised and updated as well as specific suggestions on the development of the specific guidelines. The workshop saw presentations by various members of the Network on the updates on the regional survey and case studies, and attendees were organized into breakout groups to discuss more concrete ways to update the policy.


Key highlights of the meeting include the following:

Session 1 – Introduction

Moderator : Mohamed Aly, RFP for West Asia

Mohamed Aly outlined the changes that have taken place in the GEF since 1996 and emphasized the role that civil society has played in GEF projects to date. He also mentioned about the ongoing review of the PIP by the Network in collaboration with the GEF Secretariat. This was followed with a presentation by Adelaine Tan, from the CFP, to introduce the PIP in some detail.

In the open discussion, the participants generally agreed that the workshop was a good idea. Some commented that it was implementation of the policy that was a problem, and not the policy itself, though being clear about definitions was important. Others suggested that the workshop focus on developing guidelines to the policy. Representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations (IPOs) emphasized the need for the recognition of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) principle for indigenous peoples (IPs). David McCauley of WWF-US brought up the fact that 40% of GEF resources are now invested in programs and hence there might be a need to look at public involvement on the programmatic, rather than on the project, level.


Session 2 : Review of Public Involvement Policy

Moderator : Victor Kawanga, RFP Southern Africa

Four RFPs from the regions of East Africa, the Caribbean, West Africa, North Africa, presented on the status of the PIP review in their regions (list of presentations in Annex 3).  The CFP then presented on the ongoing process and outputs of its surveys that it has sent out to Network members, SGP grantees as well as identified CSOs that have conducted FSPs/MSPs with the GEF. There was also a briefing by Ms. Baljit Wadhwa from the GEF Evaluation Office, who shared about the results of the EO’s OPS5 Sub-study on CSO Engagement that was to be presented to the GEF 45th Council in subsequent days. She mentioned that the greatest engagement of the GEF of CSOs is through the Small Grants Program (SGP), by number of projects executed. She referred to the RFPs’ mention in their presentations that national governments were constantly being flagged by CSOs as a significant barrier to their engagement, and noted that a recent report by the World Bank in August on civil society engagement raised the same issue. She suggested that proposed guidelines to the PIP could include a section for Operational Focal Points (OFPs). She also cautioned about the already-heavy burden of the Results-based Management (RBM) reporting framework on agencies on the ground, and that adding more monitoring and evaluation requirements on project executors might not be the best solution.


Session 3 : CSOs Involvement and Experience in GEF 

Moderator : Sydah Naigaga, RFP Eastern Africa

In this session, the RFP for South Asia region shared the discussion output from the Asia ECW held in Cambodia while the RFP for Central Africa highlighted the environmental problems in Central Africa, particularly in the Congo Basin. One Network member, SECCA from Tanzania, also presented on the work it was doing in Lake Victoria region, Tanzania.


Breakout Groups

Two breakout groups were organized to review the policy and identify the gaps and enhancement options of Public Involvement Policy. The output from the discussion is as follows:


Possible changes to the Policy

  • A human rights approach to stakeholder engagement
  • Development and implementation of standard PIP guidelines for various groups: agencies, OFPs, Secretariat, EO, GNN


Gaps in the PIP

  • Definition of civil society, especially whether business is included
  • We need to come up with indicators that agencies can be assessed on for public involvement – since agencies will respond to ratings in evaluations
  • Conflict resolution procedure is important to include
  • Information access – need to think beyond websites especially for IPs
  • Role for EO to evaluate compliance with the PIP, GNN as watchdog
  • PI budget to be included in all projects
  • Information dissemination should be timely, appropriate and understandable
  • Consultation: free, prior and informed consent
  • Stakeholder participation: Full and Effective participation; some elements/sections on rights of specific major groups recognized by UN such as IPs, women, youths, marginalized/vulnerable communities, etc.


To be included in guidelines to the PIP

  • Effectiveness and sustainability criteria of public involvement – what is meant by good practice or bad practice
  • Mechanism for grievances / conflict resolution
  • Allow GEF to withhold funds if governments are not following guidelines on the consultation of CSOs


The Way Forward

RFPs have indicated that they will continue the process of consultation with CSOs in their region, as well the OFPs in their respective countries, to get feedback on the updating of the PIP. These will be channeled to the CFP who will then compile a report by end December to the GEF Secretariat. Meanwhile, members of the Network as well as the CSOs who attended the workshop were encouraged to send in case studies of good and/or bad practice in public involvement to the Network.

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