• Lead-organizer: Global Environment Facility (GEF)
  • 13:00 - 14:30
  • Date: 20 Jun 2012
  • Room: T-6

From Rio to Rio: A 20-year Journey to Green the World's Economies

Organizing partners

The Global Environment Facility (LEAD) and UNEP, UNDP, the World Bank, ADB, Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, UNFCCC, UNCCD and CBD Secretariats


An historic outcome of the 1992 Earth Summit, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established to assist developing nations incorporate global environmental benefits into their traditional development efforts. To reflect on the 20 years of GEF, a book that tells the story of a remarkable portfolio amounting to over $50 billion will be launched and discussed in this high-level event. The book features 20 initiatives that illustrate the strength and breadth of the GEF implemented by MDBs, UN agencies, country governments and NGOs. The event will celebrate the launch of this remarkable account and showcase environmental successes that trace their roots to the 1992 Earth Summit. The event will feature addresses from high-level representatives of initiatives highlighted in the publication and offer practical solutions to sustainable development, inspire attendees negotiating current conference outcomes, and offer new commitments by GEF and its partners for the next round of funding in 2014.

Detailed programme

We have come full circle in our journey from Rio to Rio in the span of 20 years. The community of nations went to Rio in 1992 with the conviction that the environment was inextricably linked to development. Urgent action was needed at the planetary scale to address the widespread loss of biodiversity, the rising threats posed by human-induced climate change, and increased insecurity faced by hundreds of millions of people due to land degradation and desertification. The 1992 Earth Summit became the cradle of the Rio environmental conventions dealing with biodiversity, climate change and desertification, for which the GEF would be the funding mechanism. The GEF started as an environmental fund in support of these three globally-agreed environmental priorities, but did not remain confined to these silos, at least no more than the economic and social development pillars remained isolated from their environmental connections.

In the 20 years since the UNCED, the GEF has become the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment. With over $10 billion invested, supplemented by more than $47 billion in cofinancing, for more than 2,800 projects and over 10,000 small grants in 168 developing countries and countries with economies in transition, the GEF and its 10 implementing agencies have accumulated a substantial wealth of knowledge over the last two decades. To commemorate the 20-year anniversary as well as showcase many of the lessons learned, a publication was commissioned by the GEF to tell the story of the first 20 years of the GEF, titled, From Rio to Rio: A 20-year Journey to Green the World?s Economies, which draws on an illustrative sample of 20 initiatives that show the strength and breadth of the portfolio. The lessons from the investments made by the GEF described in the publication reveal how intertwined the environmental, economic and social agendas are when put to work in the real world. Experience has shown that while some progress can be made with thematically-based international accords, the multifaceted nature of the threats to our planet?s life support systems requires more concerted and integrated efforts. Twenty years later, we have come to realize that biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable land management are integral parts of the same vital tissue that supports the emergence of green economies as the basis for lasting sustainable development. Because of its close relationship with the Rio environmental conventions and the Rio negotiations itself, no other organization is better positioned to share the real world experience of applying the decisions made at the UNCED with policy makers at this year?s UNCSD.

The proposed Rio Centro side event will be a unique opportunity to demonstrate practical solutions to global environmental issues that the GEF has learned over the last two decades while highlighting a key theme of the UNCSD - the integration of economic, social, and environmental dimensions to sustainable development. The event will feature high level speakers from initiatives showcased in the Rio to Rio publication as well as the CEO and Chairwoman of the GEF, and it is expected to be heavily attended by senior representatives involved in the negotiating processes of the UNCSD. Therefore, the side event will serve as an extremely valuable tool to aid decision makers towards potential outcomes of the UNCSD as they reflect on lessons learned from the first twenty years of sustainable development.

The event will consist of a moderator-led panel discussion with high-level representatives of GEF implementing agencies, recipient governments and Rio Conventions. Following a short film about the 20 years of GEF, panelists will be asked to reflect on both the positive as well as the challenging aspects of engagement with GEF-funded projects. During their interventions, a PowerPoint presentation will be used to continuously display pictures from the publication in a loop in the background. Hard copies of the Rio to Rio publication as well as other GEF publications will be made available to participants. Panelists will be prompted to present commitments from their respective agencies/governments on how they see GEF-funding being directed to sustainable development needs for the sixth replenishment cycle of the GEF Trust Fund.
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