Governing the Green Climate Fund

As world leaders gather in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, climate change will be at the forefront of the agenda. The UN hosts a high-level meeting on desertification and the Clinton Global Initiative highlights climate change with the Presidents of South Africa and Mexico, the countries that are co-chairing the development of the new Green Climate Fund (GCF). The process of designing the GCF is moving forward rapidly in preparation for the next round of climate change talks, to be held in Durban, South Africa this November. Just last week, the transitional committee responsible for designing the GCF highlighted the importance of private sector engagement as key to its success in mobilizing billions of dollars in resources. Yet the governance structure of the GCF is slated to be the Green Climate Board, on which only national governments will be represented. The enormous promise of the GCF is imperiled by its embrace of 20th century approaches to governance, which fail to fully engage the resources and energies of non-state actors. As we argue in a recent paper, the Green Climate Fund should instead borrow from the successful models of a new generation of global health institutions, which involve stakeholders through direct participation in governance.

International environmental institutions were once at the forefront of expanding participation for non-state actors, although most engage civil society only through limited consultation mechanisms that are segregated from actual decision-making. Yet many recently created environmental institutions, such as the Adaptation Fund, are not keeping pace with their predecessors, and none are on a par with participatory health institutions. In global health, international institutions are increasingly integrating the capacities of civil society and other stakeholders by opening space for their direct participation in institutional decision-making. For example, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have moved beyond the consultative procedures adopted by the United Nations Environment Program, the Commission on Sustainable Development, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). They embrace a multi-stakeholder model in which civil society, the private sector, foundations, and other constituencies – including populations directly affected by health threats – participate directly in governing bodies, deliberation and decision-making.

Rather than retreating to older models of governance, the designers of the GCF should learn from this new generation of participatory health institutions, which are successfully mobilizing public and private resources, connecting finance with results, and empowering country-level actors for policy-making and implementation. Leveraging significant private sector investment is likely to be a critical dimension if the GCF is to be successful, as Katherine Sierra has argued and the transitional committee now appears to accept. The global health institutions that embrace multi-stakeholder governance have realized significant successes in mobilizing both private and public resources, and have performed better than comparable environmental institutions on many important measures. A review of 43 multilateral organizations by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) found that GAVI and the Global Fund were among the few institutions offering “very good value for money,” while GEF and the Climate Investment Funds ranked lower, providing only “good value for money.” A recent review by the Brookings Institution and the Center for Global Development gave the Global Fund and GAVI top ratings for efficiency and for transparency and learning, while GEF was found to be below average on these dimensions.

The Green Climate Fund should build on the lessons of the leading 21st century international institutions by adopting a multi-stakeholder governance structure, including civil society and other private stakeholders as full partners in achieving the Fund’s objectives. Our recommendation faces procedural hurdles, because the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change has determined that the Green Climate Board will be made up of 24 state representatives. However, the transitional committee designing the Fund could at least recommend to the COP that it modify the GCF’s governance structure. Concerned governments and other stakeholders could also present such a recommendation for adoption in Durban later this year. A more participatory Green Climate Fund is a key step toward financing a robust response to the many challenges posed by climate change.