Dr Naoko Ishii yesterday assumed office as CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the world’s largest public funder of environmental projects. The GEF’s council in June unanimously selected Dr Ishii, deputy vice Minister of Finance of the Government of Japan, to succeed Monique Barbut, who completed her second term as CEO in July.

“I begin my tenure at a time when the GEF is ready to shift from being a ‘silent partner’ in the global environmental community to having a more active voice in sharing the experience and knowledge acquired during 21 years of innovative global environmental project undertakings and to strengthening the coalition of partners in the stewardship of global commons,” Dr Ishii said.

Dr Ishii asserted that the GEF should continue to lead as an innovator, a champion, the partner of choice in taking on environmental challenges, and as a catalyst for the evolution of environmental finance. She added that the GEF is uniquely placed to bring about the significant changes needed at this time.

“The GEF have established a record of great achievement. Yet the world remains on an unsustainable path and needs new ways to manage the global environment,” Dr Ishii said. “It is urgent and critical to forge trusting and productive partnerships among governments, international partners, the private sector, and civil society organisations.”

She emphasised that finance and environment ministers need to talk to each other and ensure that environmental concerns are embedded at all levels of policy making. “My focus will be bringing people together to work for our environment. Citizens also need to play their part in solving global environmental threats.”

Dr Ishii said: “My goal is to make the GEF coalition of partners greater than the sum of its parts in order to maximize the impact of the GEF projects and programmes on the ground. We are not there yet. Now is the time for us to bring joint efforts up to scale to achieve sustainable results through global and local coalitions.”

Prior to becoming the fourth CEO and chairperson of the GEF, Dr Ishii, as deputy vice Minister of Finance, was responsible for Japan’s international financial and development policies, and for its global policies on environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity. She led the Japanese delegation at the Transition Committee for designing the Green Climate Fund. Dr Ishii’s career at the Ministry of Finance began in 1981 with a focus on the international sphere, particularly development issues. Later in her career she was Japan’s Director for Bilateral Development Finance (2004-2006) and for coordination with Multilateral Development Banks (2002-04).