Caught in legal limbo

A tussle over funding clouds issues of climate change a biodiversity.

Published: Friday 15 January 1993

-- THE GLOBAL Environmental Facility of UNEP, UNDP and the World Bank, administered by the latter and designated as an interim fund under the climate and biodiversity conventions'. has become the most contentious issue in international environmental negotiations, pushing issues of climate change and biodiversity into the background.

At a recent meeting in Abidjan, efforts were. made to restructure the GEF, where the ultimate veto lies with the donors and not with the group as a whole. The signatories of the biodiversity and climate conventions agreed to the GEF as an interim financial mechanism, provided its membership is made universal and it is "'appropriately restructured".

There are serious concerns about the governance of the GEF. Developing country participants and NGOs are worried that the GEF, which is in legal limbo, is taking a life of its own even before it has been activated under the conventions.

Developing countries have sought to m6ve the facility away from bank control and into.the United Nations' sphere of influence. But the developed countries have tried to preserve its institutional character, which would give them clear advantage. At Abidjan, options were presented to democratise" GEF.

' The participants' assembly in the proposed system will be split into a number of constituencies comprising two main groups of developed and developing counDies. Decisions will be made by a simple majority of both the constituencies. In cases involving allo=tion of ftinds where agreement is awt reached, a "last resort voting" will be used. This is the tricky Jow. The first option of the spechd vote leaves the "veto" to the donors who must represent a certain, as yet unspecified, percentage of the money behind GEF. The second option is to open the special vote to three-fourths of all constituencies. The meeting will reconvene mid-year to thrash out who is in control.

There is no indication of how much money the kitty will have. The three-year experimental phase of GIEF will be over in 1993 and donor countries are talking about replenishing the ftind with US$ 4.5 billion. But if this promise is anything like the rejected Earth Increment, then the North speaks with a forked tongue once again.

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