Formative Evaluation of the GEF Integrated Approach to address the Drivers of Environmental Degradation

The GEF introduced the integrated approach in 2014, building on its long and evolving history on integration. This major reform aimed to address the main drivers of global environmental degradation and deliver multiple benefits across multilateral environmental agreements using the GEF programmatic approach modality. In 2017, the GEF IEO reviewed the three IAPs—one focusing on food security, one on commodities, and one on sustainable urban development. The GEF-7 programming documents built on the early lessons from these pilots to fully roll out the GEF integrated approach in five impact programs—one focusing on sustainable urban development, one on transforming food and land use systems, and three focusing on sustainable forest management in the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and selected drylands around the world.

With the integrated approach gaining increasing prominence in the GEF portfolio, this formative evaluation assessed the IAPs' early results and lessons and how these are informing the evolution of the integrated approach in the impact programs. The evaluation concluded that integrated programming addresses the objectives of United Nations conventions without hindering countries' ability to report to those conventions. GEF-7 impact programs are better designed compared to the IAPs in terms of more robust theories of change and coherence between child projects and programs. Monitoring and reporting on program results remains problematic. Program- and project-level reporting shows some progress toward global environmental benefits, although results vary across IAPs. While the IAP knowledge platforms—a key feature of the GEF integrated approach—have resulted in greater knowledge and learning compared to past GEF programs, they have suffered from insufficient budget allocations and low priority among the child projects that they are meant to benefit. The evaluation provides recommendations on clarification of aggregate program level reporting requirements for Lead Agencies; demonstration of programmatic value added to integration and greater diversification of countries included in GEF integrated approaches.