Press Release - A key organisation which provides funds to address environmental issues has urged Pacific countries to speed up the implementation of projects.

The call came from Monique Barbut, CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) during a Ministerial breakfast meeting at the Hilton Hotel, Nagoya.

"It is true we have a problem with getting projects started," Ms Barbut said. "Today, of close to $100million, only twelve projects have been implemented and we need to improve that ratio."

Ms Barbut said GEF is willing to do whatever it could to help.

"I promise that we are going to roll up our sleeves, picking up the telephone, meeting face to face and do whatever it takes to see what else can be done to help you improve the pace of projects in your country."

The CEO acknowledged the key role played by the Vailima-based SPREP.

"One key challenge that I recognise is the coordination," she said. "We need to ensure the capacity remains with SPREP to assist countries with GEF-related technical issues to get the projects working."

Ms Barbut said recently announced reforms which include the reduction of the project cycle to 18 months and prioritising direct access reflect their commitment to help Pacific countries.

"I think the progress so far has been successful yet we need to improve and the reality is that it would make much more sense for countries in this region to move forward together rather than individual," she said.

"So first we need a period of stocktaking and reflection to recognise where we are and where we want to go.

"I know some of you have already started such a process by requesting the application form and this process can be used for stocktaking, identifying gaps and to see where you want to go in the future and how you want to use your GEF resources.

"Once you have completed this process and identified how you want to use your GEF resources, you can then use this information to design a new programme."

The present programme needs more projects to be implemented, she said.

"We cannot go to the GEF Council asking for new programme unless we can see the tangible outputs of the current programme," said Ms Barbut.

"We are committed here to give you all the help you need to fully implement the current programme. The faster we have those projects operating, the sooner we can fully leverage the impact we all want.

"Your governments need your commitment to fully support the delivery on biodiversity, climate change and poverty."

The GEF is an independent financial organisation which provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.

These projects benefit the global environment, linking local, national, and global environmental challenges and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

Earlier this week, it announced key reforms to help countries access funds to protect the environment.

The reforms include:

* Commitment to being a fully integrated results-based management system for portfolio monitoring. This will include opening the project database to agencies to input data for project implementation reports.

* Commitment to enhance country-driven agenda. The strengthening of country ownership is top priority. GEF is also reforming the Country Support Programme for Focal points to make it even more effective. A key part will be the provision of small grants to interested countries to fund portfolio identification exercises.

* Expansion on direct access agenda by providing grants to countries for preparation of national reports and communications to the conventions. Countries will have the option of requesting funding either from the GEF Agencies or directly from the GEF Secretariat.

* Expansion of the GEF Partnership.

* GEF-5 Replenishment recognised that GEF would benefit from an expansion of the member and type of agencies that are able to receive resources directly from the GEF Trust Fund. This will give countries greater choice and will open GEF to a broader range of expertise and contacts.