Least Developed Countries Fund

Least Developed Countries Fund


The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established at the 7th Conference of the Parties in 2001 (COP7) to meet the adaptation needs of least developed countries (LDCs). Specifically, the LDCF has financed the preparation and implementation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) to identify priority adaptation actions for a country based on existing information. LDCF is active in sectors including water, agriculture and food security, health, disaster risk management and prevention, infrastructure and fragile ecosystems and has the largest portfolio adaptation projects of its kind. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) administers the LDCF as a specialised trust fund and serves as a basis for programming resources.

Basic Description

Name of the Fund Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF)
Official Fund Website http://www.thegef.org/gef/ldcf
Date Created
Date fund proposed: 2001
Date fund made operational: 2002
Proposed Life of Fund Undetermined.
Objectives The LDCF aims to address the needs of the 51 LDCs which are particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. As a priority, the LDCF supports the preparation and the implementation of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), which are country-driven strategies that identify the immediate needs of LDCs in order to adapt to climate change.

The three main objectives are:

  1. Reduce vulnerability and increase resilience through innovation and technology transfer for climate change adaptation
  2. Mainstream climate change adaptation and resilience for systematic impact
  3. Foster enabling conditions for effective and integrated climate change adaptation.
Financial inputs and fund size As of November 2020, the cumulative pledges to the Fund amount to USD 1.6 billion.

The contributing countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

The contributions from donor countries are included as official development assistance (ODA).

Activities Supported The LDCF supports the preparation of NAPAs which require LDCs to identify priority activities that respond to their urgent and immediate needs to adapt to climate change. It can also fund NAPA implementation, including the design, development, and implementation of projects on the ground.

The LDCF targets sectors that are central to livelihoods and national development such as water, agriculture and food security, health, disaster risk management and prevention and infrastructure. As of November 2020, about 50 percent of LDCF projects have contributed to land degradation reduction and biodiversity management.

Administrating Organization

Secretariat or Administrative Unit LDCF is administered by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF Secretariat is based in Washington D.C. and is led by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO)-Chairperson, who is appointed for a four-year term by the GEF Council. The Secretariat has a staff of approximately 75 professionals and is divided into three administrative units: the Programs Unit, the Policy, Partnerships, and Operations Unit and the Front Office (http://www.thegef.org/staff).

The Secretariat’s responsibilities include:

  1. Coordinating and overseeing programmes
  2. Ensuring that policies are implemented in consultation with the GEF Agencies
  3. Chairing interagency group meetings to ensure effective collaboration among the GEF agencies
  4. Coordinating with Secretariats of the five conventions, which the GEF serves as part of their financial mechanism (Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and Minamata Convention on Mercury).

The Secretariat reports directly to the GEF Assembly and Council.

Trustee The World Bank is the permanent trustee.

Fund Finance and Access Modalities

Conditions and Eligibility Requirements Eligibility is not restricted to ODA eligible countries. All Least Developed Countries that are part of the UNFCCC are eligible.

The list of eligible countries can be found at: https://unfccc.int/topics/resilience/workstreams/national-adaptation-programmes-of-action/ldc-country-information

Accessing the Fund
Access Modalities – Before a LDCF Project Proponent can access financing for an adaptation project, a country National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) must be completed and sent to the UNFCCC Secretariat. Once a NAPA has been submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat, the LDCF Project Proponent can start the process of preparing for project implementation under the LDCF.

Project criteria are informed by guidance from the UNFCCC COP and include country ownership; programme and policy conformity; financing; institutional coordination and support; and monitoring and evaluation. These are understood as follows:

  1. Country ownership in that proposed projects must have been identified as priority activities in the NAPA and show evidence of stakeholder consultation and support
  2. Programme and policy conformity in terms of project design; sustainability, and stakeholder involvemen
  3. A financing plan must be developed, together with an assessment of cost-effectiveness
  4. Institutional coordination and support
  5. Monitoring and evaluation.

To submit project proposals, LDCs need to work with a GEF Partner Agency. The 18 GEF Agencies are the only institutions that access GEF funding directly on behalf of a government recipient. In addition, the LDCF Project Proponent needs to secure the endorsement of a national GEF operational focal point, which will confirm that the project proposals are consistent with national plans and priorities.

Finance is available for project preparation. Full-sized Projects (FSP, with GEF funding amount of more than USD 2 million) as well s some Medium-sized Projects (MSP, with GEF project financing of less than or equivalent to USD 2 million) must be cleared by the CEO of the GEF before they are formally approved by the SCCF/LDCF Council at which point funding is earmarked for their support. Projects are only considered to be approved after a Project Identification Form (PIF) that shows that the project meets certain criteria has been produced and then approved by the council. It then needs to be endorsed by the CEO before funding can be said to have been approved (although nearly 100 % of council approved projects are also endorsed by the CEO). Implementing agencies then also have to approve projects through their internal decision making processes. An Enabling Activity (EA), meaning a project for the preparation of a plan, strategy or report to fulfill commitments under a Convention, can also be supported.

Financial Instruments – Grants (as incremental cost finance to address climate change adaptation relative to a development baseline).
Accreditation process – Initially, only UN agencies and multilateral development banks were accredited as GEF Partner Agencies. As part of an effort to broaden the number of GEF implementation partners, 2011 a pilot programme to accredit “up to ten” new agencies was launched. Applicant entities were reviewed in a three-stage process with an independent GEF Accreditation Panel assessing whether they meet the GEF’s fiduciary standards, as well as the GEF’s environmental and social safeguards, including on gender mainstreaming. Of the initial applicants, eight have successfully completed the accreditation process and been added as fully-accredited GEF Partner Agencies. A recent review of the accreditation approach of the GEF confirmed that no further GEF Partner Agency expansion is planned for the foreseeable future.
Overview of implementing entities – The LDCF works through formally accredited GEF Agencies. Among them are UN agencies, multilateral and regional development banks, national government institutions, and international and non-governmental organisations.

The complete list of the 18 GEF Agencies is available at: https://www.thegef.org/partners/gef-agencies

Nature of recipient country involvement – National ownership is central to the conceptualisation of the LDCF which places a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement in the development of the NAPA and on country driven approaches to identifying priorities. A project has to be endorsed by the country or countries where it will be implemented to be considered to receive GEF funding.

In addition, all LDCF projects have a GEF Operational Focal Point (OFP) and a GEF Focal Point which work as liaison agencies.

  • The GEF Operational Focal Point is “designated by each country that receives GEF funding, and is responsible for operational aspects GEF activities such as, endorsing project proposals to affirm that they are consistent with national plans and priorities and facilitating GEF coordination, integration, and consultation at the country level.”
  • 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 is available at: http://www.thegef.org/focal_points_list
Allocation criteria – The total LDCF contribution for a Medium-sized Project (MSP) cannot exceed USD 2 million. If the total contribution from the LDCF is over USD 2 million, the project is considered a Full-sized project (FSPs) and needs to undergo a longer and more comprehensive review process under the SCCF/LDCF Council.
Safeguards, Gender and Indigenous Peoples
Safeguards – The GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards applies to all GEF-financed projects and programmes, including LDCF. The Policy sets out “mandatory requirements for identifying and addressing Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts in GEF-financed projects and programmes; and for documenting, monitoring and reporting on associated measures throughout the project and programme cycles, and at the portfolio level.”

Agencies need to demonstrate that they have in place the necessary policies, procedures, systems and capabilities to meet the minimum standards 1 to 9:

  1. Environmental and Social Assessment, Management and Monitoring
  2. Accountability, Grievance and Conflict Resolution
  3. Biodiversity Conservation and the Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources
  4. Restrictions on Land Use and Involuntary Resettlement
  5. Indigenous Peoples
  6. Cultural Heritage
  7. Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention
  8. Labour and Working Conditions
  9. Community Health, Safety and Security.
Gender – All projects are subject to the GEF Policy on Gender Equality. The objective of the Policy is to expose the “guiding principles and mandatory requirements for Mainstreaming Gender across the GEF’s governance and operations with a view to promoting Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls in support of the GEF’s mandate to achieve global environmental benefits”. The Policy sets outs mandatory requirements in four areas:

  1. Project and programme cycle
  2. Monitoring, learning and capacity development
  3. Agency policies, procedures and capabilities
  4. Compliance.
Indigenous Peoples – GEF requires its participants to respect the principles set out in GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards Standard 5, namely that they have the informed, free and formal consent of affected Indigenous Peoples when a project may cause reverse impacts on land, natural resources, an Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage or cause relocation of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, participants need to demonstrate that they have in place the necessary policies, procedures, systems and capabilities to ensure that Indigenous Peoples can have access to mitigation and compensation when adverse impacts are unavoidable, and that grievance and conflict resolution systems are appropriately established. Furthermore, GEF Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples provides the guidelines to operationalise GEF policies and enhance “GEF’s effectiveness and ensuring protection of rights and long-term benefits for Indigenous Peoples”.

A comprehensive overview of GEF Strategy related to Indigenous Peoples can be found at: https://www.thegef.org/sites/

Fund Governance

Decision Making Structure As a specialised trust fund, the LDCF falls under the governance structure of the GEF. The GEF governance structure is composed of the Assembly, the Council, the Secretariat, 18 Agencies and a Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel.

The Assembly is composed of all 184 member countries or Participants. It is responsible for reviewing general policies, reviewing and evaluating the GEF’s operation based on reports submitted to Council, reviewing the membership of the Facility and considering amendments to the Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured Global Environment Facility.

The GEF Council is the governing body for the LDCF. The Council is comprised of 14 members from donor constituencies and 18 from recipient constituencies (a total of 32 GEF members) and makes decisions by consensus. The Council meets as the SCCF/LDCF Council to specifically address issues under both trust funds. The Council adopts and evaluates the operational policies and programmes, and reviews / approves the projects submitted for approval. The list of Council Members and Alternates can be found at: https://www.thegef.org/council_members_alternates

The GEF Agencies work with project proponents to design, develop and implement GEF projects and programmes. The list of GEF Agencies is available at: https://www.thegef.org/partners/gef-agencies

Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP)
The STAP provides scientific and technical advice on policies, operational strategies, programmes and projects. It is composed by six internationally recognised experts who are supported by a global network of experts and institutions.

Accountability Mechanisms Independent Evaluation Office
LDCF impact and effectiveness is evaluated by the GEF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO). This office is headed by a Director responsible for coordinating a team of specialized evaluators. The Director is appointed by and reports directly to the Council. Further information can be found on the GEF IEO website.

A joint independent evaluation of the LDCF was completed in 2011. It highlighted the problems caused by a lack of predictable finance for the LDCF and its low levels of capitalisation. It further highlighted the need for streamlined project cycles and to make the fund easier to access. More generally, the actual inclusiveness and effectiveness of the NAPA process has been the topic of substantial critique and debate.

Complaints Procedures
Individuals and communities have the possibility to submit a complaint to a local or country-level dispute resolution system, a GEF Partner Agency or the GEF Resolution Commissioner if they feel concerned about a GEF-financed project or operation. The elements of the GEF conflict resolution system are set out in the GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards Standard 2, Grievance and Accountability Mechanism.

Participation of Observers and Stakeholders GEF presents itself as a country driven organisation that was “founded on the principles of collaboration and partnership”. Member countries are referred as Participants that are represented on the GEF Council by 32 Constituencies each one having a Council Member and an Alternate Council member.

In 2017, the Council approved an updated Policy on Stakeholder Engagement which sets out “the core principles and mandatory requirements for GEF agencies to meaningfully engage stakeholders in GEF programmes and projects to build on a broad base of local knowledge and expertise, and foster local engagement and ownership in support for positive global environment outcomes”. The Policy presents mandatory requirements for stakeholder engagement throughout the GEF project cycle.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are considered key partners for identifying, executing and monitoring GEF programmes and projects. GEF encourages civil society stakeholders to comment on project proposals, comment on policies, support and monitor project implementation, participate in GEF events. In addition, sponsored CSOs can attend the Council Meetings to relay the voices of CSOs from the field and maintain engagement on policy issues. Sponsored CSOs are selected in consultation with the CSO network, Operational Focal Points, the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group and the GEF Small Grants Program.

Indigenous Peoples have their own Advisory Group. This group was established in 2012 to enhance coordination between the GEF and Indigenous Peoples. The Group’s objective is to provide “advice to the GEF Indigenous Peoples Focal Point on the operationalization and reviewing of the Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples and to provide guidance on financing options for Indigenous Peoples”.

The Programming Paper for Funding the Implementation of NAPAs under the LDC Trust Fund further explicitly requires stakeholder consultation in the formulation of NAPAs and subsequent project implementation, which is supportive of a high level of local stakeholder involvement.

Transparency and Information Disclosure The GEF Policy on Access to Information sets out the principals and mandatory requirements for the public accessibility of Council Information and fully applies to the LDCF.

The Financial Status Report contains the information on the progress of donor contributions and is available with other Council documents (SCCF/LDCF Council Meetings) at: https://www.thegef.org/council-meetings

Detailed information about LDCF projects is included in the GEF project listing tool http://www.thegef.org/projects

Other Issues Raised