02 Aug 2012 Press release Chemicals & waste

UNEP Welcomes Appointment of New Global Environment Facility CEO

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), today congratulated Dr. Naoko Ishii on her appointment as CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and stressed the facility's key role in supporting the transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy as one important way to realize a sustainable century.

Dr. Ishii, who previously served as Japan's Deputy Vice Minister of Finance, said that under her leadership, the GEF) - the world's largest public funder of environmental projects - would become a more vocal advocate for the innovative environmental finance that is needed to meet the development challenges of the 21st century.

Established in 1991, the GEF is a financial mechanism to support countries in efforts to achieve the goals of United Nations conventions covering biodiversity, climate change, international waters, ozone layer depletion, land degradation and persistent organic pollutants.

UNEP is one of several implementing agencies of the GEF, along with the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, other UN bodies and Regional Development Banks.

To date, the GEF has provided incremental grant financing totaling US$10.5 billion while leveraging US$51 billion in co-financing for over 2,700 projects in over 165 developing countries and economies in transition.

"The GEF has established a record of great achievement, yet the world remains on an unsustainable path and needs new ways to manage the global environment," said Dr. Ishii upon her appointment.

"It is urgent and critical to forge trusting and productive partnerships among governments, international partners, the private sector, and civil society organizations," she added.

UNEP is the only GEF implementing agency whose core business is the environment. In this role, UNEP supports the strategic and policy direction of the GEF, while also assisting countries in developing and executing GEF projects.

UNEP is directly involved in GEF projects in some 142 countries.

"From supporting new bus rapid transit systems in Brazil, to sustainable soybean production in Uganda, the GEF is successfully demonstrating the innovation while building the capacity of countries to make concrete contributions to sustainable development that improves lives and livelihoods and generates growth while keeping humanity's footprint within planetary boundaries," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"By using sound science to catalyze creative policies and strengthening environmental governance, the GEF has made a significant difference on the ground in countries across the world. UNEP looks forward to continuing our strong involvement with the GEF Partnership under Dr Ishii's leadership, and supporting the international community in accessing the financing needed to achieve a sustainable 21st century."

Some key achievements of the GEF include:

  • Identifying level of contaminants in Russian Arctic and supporting government and indigenous peoples to address health risks from these sources.
  • Improving method for geophysical exploration for geothermal energy, resulting in the lifting of economic barriers to the up-scaling of this renewable energy source in Eastern Africa
  • Protecting 30,000 hectares of peatlands worldwide and raising awareness of the importance of these areas in climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation
  • Demonstrating new technologies and approaches to combating malaria without using DDT and other persistent organic pollutants in Mexico.
  • A special publication highlighting 20 twenty flagship GEF projects to mark the facility's 20-year anniversary is available at http://www.unep.org/dgef/GEF20BestProjects/tabid/55715/Default.aspx

Notes to Editors:

Biographical information on Dr. Naoko Ishii:

Prior to becoming the fourth CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, Dr. Ishii, as Deputy Vice Minister of Finance, was responsible for Japan's international financial and development policies, and for its global policies on environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity. She led the Japanese delegation at the Transition Committee for designing the Green Climate Fund. Dr. Ishii's career at the Ministry of Finance began in 1981 with a focus on the international sphere, particularly development issues. Later in her career she was Japan's Director for Bilateral Development Finance (2004-2006) and for coordination with Multilateral Development Banks (2002-04).

She has published numerous papers and several books, two of which were awarded by Suntory Prize (1990) and Okita Memorial Prize for International Development Research (2004). She is the inaugural recipient of the 2006 Enjoji Jiro Memorial Prize. She holds BA and Ph.D. from University of Tokyo.

In June, GEF's Council unanimously selected Dr. Ishii to succeed Monique Barbut, who completed her second term as CEO in July 2012.