The Impact Evaluation of GEF Support to the South China Sea (SCS) and Adjacent Areas stems from a recommendation made in the Fourth Overall Performance Study of the GEF (OPS4) to carry out an in-depth assessment of progress towards impacts in the International Waters focal area. This evaluation was carried out from December 2010 to September 2012. The evaluation covered 34 projects in 7 countries, spanning almost 20 years of GEF support. It is the first impact evaluation to be done by the GEF on international waters initiatives, and posed several methodological challenges due to the complex nature of the linkages between the social and ecological systems involved. The following five conclusions were reached by the evaluation:
- Although environmental pressures in the SCS continue to increase, GEF has made important contributions that are relevant to addressing regional transboundary issues.
- GEF has become a critical player in the region by linking initiatives at multiple scales, and providing a channel for other donors and stakeholders to support these transboundary concerns.
- In 21 of 26 cases where comparative data could be obtained, GEF has supported initiatives that reduced environmental stress and, as a result, also improved or maintained socioeconomic conditions.
- A broader adoption of GEF-supported initiatives is taking place, and is critical to fully addressing environmental pressures at the appropriate scales, but faces constraints to further progress.
- GEF projects in the SCS and adjacent areas have major deficiencies in the accessibility, use for management, and reporting of environmental monitoring data.
The Impact Evaluation of GEF Support to the SCS and Adjacent Areas provides three sets of recommendations. The first refers to the GEF IW support in the SCS and adjacent areas, the second to impact monitoring and evaluation systems of GEF projects, and the third to the GEF IW Focal Area Strategy for GEF-6. The following eight recommendations are made by the evaluation:
- GEF support should more fully draw on the GEF partnership to mainstream transboundary concerns within countries and existing regional organizations.
- GEF should give more attention to supporting countries to work together to address concerns related to regional environmental goods and services.
- GEF should more clearly define the role and linkages of regional mechanism/s in the context of its broader regional strategy, and ensure country and donor commitments to increasing levels of cofinancing to cover the full cost of regional services by the end of the next phase of support.
- UNDP needs to ensure that the social risks of the projects it finances in the SCS are identified and addressed.
- A more robust programmatic approach should be developed for GEF IW support to the SCS and adjacent areas.
- Impact monitoring and related reporting systems supported by GEF should be consistent with local capacities and priorities. They should also be flexible to accommodate more user-friendly and affordable technologies that are rapidly emerging.
- Impact M&E data and information should be made available to the GEF Evaluation Office in a timely and transparent manner.
- The findings of this evaluation should be considered when developing the GEF 6 International Waters Focal Area and, when applicable, the strategies of other focal areas.
- [link:node/9239 text=Webinar: Impact of the GEF Support to the South China Sea and Adjacent Waters;]