The Impact Evaluation of the GEF Support to Protected Areas (PAs) and PA Systems was completed in October 2015. This joint impact evaluation was conducted by the Independent Evaluation Offices of the GEF and UNDP. From the GEF IEO perspective, this evaluation fits within an ongoing set of impact evaluations covering each of its focal areas, and provided an important set of findings for the GEF 5th Overall Performance Study (OPS5). For UNDP IEO, this constitutes the first in a set of impact evaluations of UNDP programming, and builds on the findings and conclusions of a recent thematic evaluation focused on the nexus of issues linking UNDP poverty and environmental protection support to countries. The following conclusions were reached by the evaluation:
- Loss of global biodiversity continues at an alarming rate, driven largely by habitat loss due to multiple development pressures. Since the pilot phase, GEF strategies have increasingly targeted these development pressures beyond the PAs.
- GEF support is contributing to biodiversity conservation by helping to lower habitat loss in PAs as indicated by less forest cover loss in GEF-supported PAs compared to PAs not supported by GEF. GEF-supported PAs also generally show positive trends in species populations, and reduced pressures to biodiversity at the site level.
- GEF support has helped to build capacities that address key factors affecting biodiversity conservation in PAs, mainly in the areas of PA management, support from local populations, and sustainable financing. Sustainable financing of PAs remains a concern.
- GEF support is contributing to large-scale change in biodiversity governance in countries by investing in PA systems, including legal frameworks that increase community engagement. Through interventions at the PA level, GEF support is also helping catalyze gradual changes in governance and management approaches that help to reduce biodiversity degradation.
- While sharing important characteristics with governments and other donors, GEF support allows adaptability and higher likelihood of broader adoption in cases where it pays particular attention to three key elements in combination: long-term investment, financial sustainability, and creation of links across multiple approaches, stakeholders and scales.
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