Strategic Priority on Adaptation


The Strategic Priority on Adaptation (SPA) was a 3-year pilot programme aimed to show how adaptation planning and assessment could be practically translated into full-scale projects. The Fund is now closed. The SPA overall objective was to address local adaptation needs and generate global environmental benefits in the focal areas in which the GEF works: biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants.

Basic Description

Name of Fund Strategic Priority on Adaptation (SPA): Piloting an Operational Approach to Adaptation
Date created Date fund proposed: November 2003.

Date fund made operational: Operational from July 2004.

Administrating organisation Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Objectives The overall objective of the SPA is to support pilot and demonstration projects that show how adaptation planning and assessment could be practically translated into full-scale projects. The SPA aims to address local adaptation needs and generate global environmental benefits in the focal areas in which the GEF works: biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants. Projects should be integrated into national policy and sustainable development planning, on the basis either of information provided in National Communications, or of in-depth national studies, including National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs).
Donor contributions Pledged: N/A

Deposited: $ 50 million via the GEF Trust Fund

Activities supported The activities supported by the SPA largely prioritise capacity building for managing the sustainable use of natural resources under climate change. Through this program, the GEF finances projects that implement measures for the specific purpose of reducing vulnerability and increasing the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities, and the ecosystems on which their lives depend.
Conditions and eligibility requirements In developing the SPA portfolio, the GEF focuses on particularly vulnerable regions, sectors, geographic areas, ecosystems and communities. The selection of particularly vulnerable sectors is based on information contained in National Communications to the UNFCCC, National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and other major national or regional studies.

 The SPA also offers an opportunity to promote synergies between the Rio Conventions:
  • Projects must generate global environmental benefits in one or more of the GEF’s focal areas of biodiversity, international waters, land degradation, persistent organic pollutants and climate change;
  • Global environmental benefits as defined by these GEF focal areas will apply and will be used as a criterion to screen eligibility of projects;
  • Multiple global environmental benefits across the focal areas are desirable, but not necessary.
Proposed life of fund Three years pilot phase completed (currently not operational after pilot phase).
Further information
  1. Report on the Completion of the Strategic Priority on Adaptation, 2008.
  2. GEF: Financing Adaptation Action, 2007.

Fund Governance

Decision-making structure for fund disbursement The Global Environment Facility (GEF) governing structure is composed of: the Assembly, the Council, the Secretariat, ten Agencies, a Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), and the Independent Office of Monitoring and Evaluation.

The Assembly is composed of all 176 member countries, or Participants. It meets every four years at the ministerial level to review the general policies, operations, membership and potential amendments of the GEF.

The Council is the main governing body of the GEF comprising 32 Members appointed by constituencies of GEF member countries: 14 from donor constituencies and 18 from recipient constituencies. The Council meets every six months and is responsible for developing, adopting and evaluating the operational policies and programs for GEF-financed activities, as well as reviewing and approving the work program (projects submitted for approval). As decisions are made by consensus, two-thirds of the Members of the Council constitute a quorum.

The GEF Secretariat coordinates the overall implementation of GEF activities. It services and reports to the Assembly and the Council. The Secretariat is headed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who is appointed to serve for three years, and may be reappointed by the Council.

The GEF Agencies are the operational arm of the GEF. The GEF develops its projects through ten Implementing Agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank,the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IAD), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) provides independent advice to recommend to the GEF on scientific and technical aspects of programs and policies. The members of STAP are appointed by the Executive Director of UNEP, in consultation with the GEF’s CEO, the Administrator of UNDP, and the President of the World Bank.

The Independent Office of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) provides a basis for decision-making on amendments and improvements of policies, strategies, program management, procedures and projects; promotes accountability for resource use against project objectives; and documents and provides feedback to subsequent activities, and promote knowledge management on results, performance and lessons learned.

The GEF Focal Points (Country Representatives) are government officials, designated by member countries, responsible for GEF activities and to ensure that GEF projects are country-driven and based on national priorities. The complete list of GEF Focal Points, including name, position, government agency, complete address, phone, fax and e-mail, can be accessed at:

The Project partners are organizations and entities implementing projects on the ground, including governments, national institutions, international organizations, local communities, non-governmental organizations, academic and research institutions and private sector entities.

The project cycle of full-size projects can be summarized by the following steps:

First step: Applying

Before drafting a project proposal, applicants have to contact the Country Operational Focal Point and verify that the proposal is aligned to the priorities of the respective country. Once these preparatory steps are taken the proponent then develops the Project Identification Form (PIF), in close coordination with the GEF Agency and following their internal project cycle procedures. Once the PIF is ready the Agency submits it to the GEF Secretariat for approval.

Second step: CEO Review of the PIF

The GEF Agencies submit to the GEF Secretariat on a rolling basis Project Identification Forms (PIFs), endorsed by the Country Operational Focal Point. The GEF Secretariat review of a PIF focuses on the following elements: country eligibility; consistency with GEF strategic objectives/programs; comparative advantage of GEF Agency submitting PIF; estimated cost of the project, including expected co-financing; availability of resources for the GEF grant request within the focal area and under the resource Allocation Framework; and milestones for further project processing.

Once the GEF Secretariat has completed its review and has circulated the PIF among all GEF Agencies, the CEO considers the PIF for inclusion in a work program. PIFs cleared for work program inclusion are sent to the Scientific & Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for screening, and comments by the STAP are posted on the web together with the PIF. All PIFs cleared for work program inclusion are eligible for a GEF project preparation grant. Agencies now have the option to request a fee advance based on the amount of the preparation grant.

Third step: Council Approval of the Work Program

The GEF Council then approves the work programs. The Council reviews the work programs during the two Council meetings held each year and through several inter-sessional work programs with decision by mail on a no-objection basis, between Council meetings. In approving a work program, the Council will provide guidance to the Secretariat and the Agencies on the strategic directions and programming framework for the GEF.  The Program Framework Document (PFD) that includes documentation for securing approval and guiding implementation of a specific Program is presented to the Council in a work program. The Council reviews the PFD and endorses the overall objective and scope of the Program. PFDs also identify, to the extent possible, all projects to be financed under the Program.

Fourth step: CEO Endorsement

The next step is the GEF CEO’s endorsement of the projects before such projects are approved by the GEF Agencies. The final GEF funding amount is confirmed by the CEO at this point. The Agencies transmit for CEO endorsement the same documentation that they had submitted for approval by their respective internal approving authorities, plus a Request for CEO Endorsement which summarizes key information of the project. The project proposals are reviewed by the Secretariat for compliance with the following conditions for endorsement:

1. High likelihood that the project, as designed, will deliver its outcomes and will generate appropriate global environmental benefits that are consistent with focal area strategies, with an adequate explanation for any changes in expected global benefits since PIF approval;
2. GEF funds are used cost-effectively, focusing on among others, the review of project budget, which includes project cost tables for project components, project management, and consultants;
3. Compliance with GEF’s M&E policy; and
4. Project preparation grant has been used in a cost effective way, as explained in the project preparation grant status report (which is included as an annex attached to the Request for CEO Endorsement).

Within ten business days of receiving a draft final project document for endorsement, the Secretariat reviews the proposal and the CEO determines whether the proposal is in compliance with the conditions for endorsement. As soon as the CEO has determined that the project proposal meets the conditions for endorsement, the Secretariat circulates to Council Members the draft final project document. Within four weeks of receiving such a document, Council Members may transmit to the CEO any concerns related to technical, procedural or policy issues or inconsistency with the GEF Instrument that they may have regarding the proposal prior to CEO endorsement and final approval by the Agency concerned. The CEO has discretion over whether to endorse a proposal or not.  The CEO takes into account any Council Member’s concerns prior to endorsement and works to address them with concerned parties, following which the CEO re-circulates the proposal, as needed. The CEO will post those concerns on the GEF website, will notify Council Members within two days and will update the status of the project proposal in the management information system to indicate that endorsement will be delayed pending resolution of the concern expressed by the Council Member. Endorsed final project documents are posted on the GEF website. The Trustee then makes commitments of funding to GEF Agencies for projects and fees upon CEO endorsement.

For Medium-Sized projects (MSP) the project cycle is shorter. The PIF has to be submitted to the GEF Secretariat for CEO approval. Once the PIF is approved, the Agency prepares the project document for CEO approval. A project preparation grant may be approved by CEO for the project, if necessary, upon CEO approval of PIF. After the CEO clears the MSP final project document, it is posted on the GEF website for a two-week period and a notification is sent to the Council for comments. At the end of the two-week circulation period, the CEO sends an approval letter to the Agency indicating the approval of the project, the grant amount and the associated Agency fee. If comments are provided by Council, Agencies need to address the comments and notify the GEF Secretariat on how the comments have been responded to and if these have any effect on the final project document. Where necessary, a revised project document maybe resubmitted and the CEO may approve the project based on the final submitted project document.

Enabling Activities (EA) under expedited procedures (up to $500,000 in GEF financing, but varies across focal areas) do not need to submit a PIF. EA project document will be approved by the CEO and will be accessible on the GEF database through the GEF website. For EAs that are not under expedited procedures, processing is the same as full-sized projects. The Secretariat asks Agencies to revise proposals that it deems not to be in compliance with the specified conditions for approval and resubmit them for review, with another 10-day review period being applicable. The CEO may also determine, in consultation with the country and the Agency concerned, to stop further project preparation and cancel the project from the GEF pipeline.

Fifth Step: Implementation Supervision, Monitoring and Final Evaluation

The fifth step in the GEF project cycle consists of implementation supervision, monitoring and final evaluation. The key issues to be monitored include: implementation progress, focal area strategic objectives’ performance indicators, projects at risk, actions to achieve sustainability and replicability, stakeholder involvement, and co-financing status. Agencies are required to submit the final evaluation reports to the GEF Evaluation Office. In addition, the GEF Evaluation Office also assesses the adequacy of the M&E system in the GEF, including compliance with the GEF M&E Policy. Upon financial closure of projects/activities, the GEF Agencies report to the Trustee on any unused funds.

Consultations with non-government stakeholders Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) participate in the GEF NGO Consultation and Council Meeting through the GEF-NGO network.

The GEF-NGO Network comprises all accredited NGOs to the GEF. For representation at the Council meetings, the network is divided into regions according to the GEF regional structure. Currently, some 600 NGOs are accredited to the GEF. The network aims to strengthen and influence the work of the GEF at all levels, its ideals, philosophy, as well as values and goals embedded in the Global Environment Conventions that are at the basis of the GEF, with an aim to integrate NGOs at appropriate levels of decision-making and implementation of programmes and projects in an accountable, transparent and participatory way to ensure a maximum degree of good governance. Also, its aim is to integrate NGOs’ interests in GEF operation and to influence and monitor GEF operations in general to be more effective and efficient in achieving the global environmental goals.

The GEF-NGO Consultation is a meeting attended by NGOs and the GEF Secretariat, together with the implementing and executing agencies. Council members are also invited to attend. NGOs voice concerns, comment on policies and projects, and present positions on substantive issues.

In GEF Council meetings, NGOs can make interventions as observers. The same NGO representative that has been selected to present an intervention during the Consultation will also be responsible for presenting the intervention during the Council meeting. NGOs share their passes to attend the Council meeting, to give everyone the chance to be in the room to make the interventions and follow the discussions. The rest of the NGOs are allowed to follow the discussions through TV circuit in the observer’s room.

A complete guide to the Global Environmental Facility for NGOs can be found here.

How fund disbursement is reported Online database and online GEF status reports.
Issues raised by the public

Relationship with Official Development Assistance

Is donor funding considered part of official development assistance? Yes.
Financial instrument/ delivery mechanism used (e.g. grant, loan) Grants.
Nature of recipient country involvement Developing countries are members of the GEF council, which is the main governing body of the GEF. In addition, each GEF member country has designated government officials responsible for GEF activities. These officials, known as GEF Focal Points, play a key role in ensuring that GEF projects are country-driven and based on national priorities. There are two types of GEF country Focal Points:

1. Political Focal Points, who are responsible for GEF governance issues and policies and communications with their constituencies. All member countries have Political Focal Points. Usually, the Political Focal Points are those who follow the Council discussions.

2. Operational Focal Points are responsible for reviewing project ideas and concepts, to endorse their consistency with respect to the national programs and priorities, to facilitate broad consultation among involved stakeholders, and to provide feedback on GEF activities in the country. The Operational Focal Points help ensure that projects arise from their country’s own priorities. Only countries eligible for GEF funding are expected to designate Operational Focal Points.

A project has to be endorsed by the country or countries where it will be implemented to be considered to receive GEF funding. The Operational Focal Point is responsible for the endorsement letter, except for global projects.

Overall consistency with the aid effectiveness agenda (i.e. the Paris Declaration) Unknown.