UN summit in Johannesburg agrees to expand mandate of global environment fund

In one of the first signs of progress at the United Nations World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, governments today agreed on key provisions regarding a global environment fund.During negotiations related to the Summit’s draft plan of action, governments decided to expand the mandate of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in order for it to serve as the funding mechanism for the Convention to Combat Desertification, which is of major interest to African countries. Today’s decision follows a recent move by 32 countries to replenish the GEF by $2.9 billion over the next four years.The GEF was established for a pilot phase in 1991 in the run-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to focus on biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer and, more recently, issues like the phasing out persistent organic pollutants.During its pilot phase the Facility was given $1.2 billion, and subsequently was replenished twice, for $2.02 billion and $2.75 billion, before it was re-structured in 1994. The third replenishment was due this year.In other news from the Summit, the Foreign Minister of South Africa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chaired the first of six plenary sessions aimed at building a framework for action in the areas where the Summit is expected to produce results – water, energy, health, agricultural productivity and biodiversity.Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy to the Summit, Jan Pronk, also moderated a second interactive discussion on health.So far, the UN has accredited 12,625 government delegates as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations and the media to the Summit.

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