Country ownership approach

Synopsis & commentary:

This report presents the findings of the Independent Evaluation of the Country Ownership Approach of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as of October 2019. The GCF uses a flexible approach where country ownership is made up of three pillars: countries lead and engage; countries have institutional capacity; and the GCF and countries share responsibilities and accountability.

The assessment responds to four questions regarding the GCF’s contribution towards and building of institutional capacity for country ownership. After establishing a working definition for country ownership and exploring the context of country ownership, the report responds to each question through a series of findings, leading to several proposed opportunities and key recommendations.

The report also examines the GCF’s business model of accreditation and direct access for supporting country ownership, both of which represent key objectives and outcomes of the RPSP.

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Inception report

Final report:


- A lack of predictability, transparency, and efficiency on the part of the GCF has hindered countries’ abilities to make informed, country-led decisions about how to engage with the Fund. - While countries have used Country Programmes to identify priorities for engagement with the GCF, they have frequently struggled to prioritize their investment pipelines because of the absence of investment-related guidance from the GCF.

GCF Commentary

After publication of this study in 2019, GCF has published several policies and guidelines to improve this, including but not limited to the updated investment framework, private sector strategy, Simplified Approval Process (SAP) technical guidelines, guidance on adaptation, and seven sectoral guides (links are provided below). See Policies and strategies, and Operational documents for the updated publications. • Initial investment framework (2020) • Country Programme guidance (2021) • Private sector strategy (2022) • Guidance on adaptation (2022) • Sectoral guides and Simplified Approval Process (SAP) technical guidelines

- Direct access is perceived as fundamental for country ownership by country stakeholders. - Common constraints to NDA/focal point capacity relate to human resources, and limited management and technical skills.

GCF Commentary

The GCF provides a range of support from the RPSP work programme not only the grant-based readiness support but also professional services and technical assistance that can be particularly resourceful to the most vulnerable developing countries (including the least developed countries, small island developing states, and African States). Countries can receive tailored support for the preparation of country programmes and related processes through consulting firms contracted for the professional services. A roster of firms is available to support NDAs on project idea and/or concept note development. From 2023, professional services will also be utilised to expand on the training initiatives and ensure a comprehensive training programme and resource for both NDAs and DAEs. With technical assistance provided by individual experts, NDAs and DAEs can receive technical support in identifying readiness needs and action plans and in developing readiness proposals aligned to long-term planning instruments and the 2020- 2023 Strategic Plan priorities. In addition, as requested by decision B.32/05, paragraph (d), the Secretariat will ensure continued provision of readiness support for SAP and access to the technical assistance provided by the Readiness Programme for the preparation of SAP proposals, including for activities that can transfer knowledge and skills on how to rapidly access SAP. These experts may also be deployed for technical assistance support for training on new GCF policies including the Private Sector Strategy, project-specific accreditation approach and application of the readiness results management framework and other support as needed.

The report provides two recommendations to the GCF regarding fully embracing a definition of country ownership that goes beyond national government and strengthening guidance to countries on country ownership.

Source: Readiness and Preparatory Support Programme – work programme and budget 2022–2023 (GCF B,33/07)


The GCF has not clearly defined country ownership for the Fund, opting instead for a flexible approach. However, various decisions, guidelines and strategies offer insights into the Board’s perceptions of country ownership, as described in Chapter I.B above, including the following: • Country ownership may be considered as a measure through which countries demonstrate ownership of, and commitment to, efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change (Decision B.17/21, Annex 1). This may be reflected through meaningful engagement, including consultation with relevant national, local, community-level and private sector stakeholders. • Country ownership goes beyond the national government and includes ownership by local communities, civil societies, the private sector, women’s groups, indigenous peoples’ organizations, municipal-/village-level governments, etc. (Decision B.14/08). • Country ownership is an ongoing and evolving process (Decision B.17/21, Annex 1). • Country ownership may mean different things in different country contexts (Decision B.17/21, Annex 1). • Country ownership must continue throughout the project cycle, from readiness activities and the pre-concept stage, through implementation to monitoring and evaluation of a project or programme (Decision B.17/21, Annex 1). These statements suggest that the GCF Board views country ownership as a flexible, country-context specific principle that is relevant through the project cycle. The intended approach of the GCF for country ownership has focused on four building blocks: (1) the role and capacity of the NDA/focal point, (2) multi-stakeholder engagement, (3) programming GCF investments at the country and entity level, and (4) encouraging direct access. Many of these elements are also supported through the RPSP. Thus, this approach seems to focus on engaging the NDA/focal point, engaging multiple stakeholders, developing CPs and encouraging direct access. Country ownership is both a principle of climate finance in the GCF (i.e. something that must be present in all situations, as recognized by the Governing Instrument) and an outcome objective (i.e. something that can be strengthened through the provision of readiness climate finance support, as recognized by the investment criteria). Thus, country ownership is both a principle (as mentioned in the Governing Instrument) and an outcome (as laid out in the investment criteria). An expansive definition of country ownership that the evaluation team suggests, encompasses key attributes of country ownership as understood by GCF stakeholders and normative standards for country ownership in the development aid and climate finance literature as follows: 1. COUNTRIES LEAD AND CONSULT - Country governments lead GCF investments and prioritize them, while ensuring alignment with national and other policies and undertaking meaningful consultation through participatory processes with multiple stakeholders. 2. COUNTRIES HAVE INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY - Stakeholders in-country have the capacity to plan, manage and implement activities that address GCF objectives. 3. GCF AND COUNTRIES MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITIES - The GCF, AEs and recipient countries develop and adopt global best practices in planning, delivery and reporting on GCF investments (that help countries transition to low-emission and high-resilience pathways) and are accountable to each other for following and implementing these practices.