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'Together we can overcome all types of difficulty'

November 3, 2020

Alimata B. Kone at the 44th GEF Council meeting in June 2013
Alimata B. Kone at the 44th GEF Council meeting in June 2013. Photo: IISD

Alimata B. Kone is Permanent Secretary of the Côte d’Ivoire GEF National Commission and serves as the country’s GEF Operational Focal Point. In an interview, she reflected on Côte d’Ivoire engagement with the Global Environment Facility as both a donor and a recipient country and shared how her background in economics has been useful in the field of environmental action.

What are the main environmental issues of concern to Côte d’Ivoire?

The main environmental issues my country is affected by include climate change, land degradation, sustainable forest management, waste management, air pollution, sustainable transportation issues, food security, and ocean and coastal degradation. We are also working with support from the Global Environment Facility to address the use of mercury in gold mining as well as water-related issues, and integrating gender equality and community concerns in environmental action.

What does your role as Operational Focal Point entail?

My authorities designated me as the GEF Operational Focal Point because I had financial experience working at the International Monetary Fund as an economist. This is important because the GEF is a financial mechanism for the global environment. My job is to explain the GEF’s criteria and policies and help those implementing projects and programs through the full funding cycle. My colleagues and I are also involved in monitoring and evaluation workshops and field visits. As Côte d’Ivoire has benefited from many GEF-supported projects and programs under implementation, as GEF Operational Focal Point I am often involved as a project steering committee member or observer, and participate in project launches and opening ceremonies. I also attend GEF Council meetings and GEF Assembly meetings, as well as GEF donor country meetings.

Côte d’Ivoire is both a GEF donor and a recipient country. Why is this important to you?

It is an honor for Ivorians that Côte d’Ivoire is a GEF donor country. This status reflects our long commitment to the Global Environment Facility. We have been actively engaged with the GEF since 1992 – I have personally attended countless meetings around the world, and our government values and appreciates the GEF as a financial mechanism for globally important environmental issues and action. Côte d'Ivoire became a donor country at the pilot phase and remained so through GEF-3. Following a time of turmoil, our country rejoined the list of donors in GEF-7 thanks in part to the work of former GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. Being a GEF donor as well as a recipient country allows us to both shape and support international environmental goals in a special way.

Alimata Kone with Naoko Ishii and other GEF stakeholders
A coffee break in Addis Adaba with Minister Anne Desirée Ouleto and former GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii

How is the GEF supporting Côte d’Ivoire’s national environmental priorities?

The GEF is supporting our country environmental priorities through the investments made through project and program financing, including support for capacity building and enabling activities. These investments are helping protect our environment and create green jobs for women and young people.

Climate change is another important national priority area that has benefited from GEF support. Côte d’Ivoire elaborated before the COP-21 in Paris our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which includes climate mitigation measures that represent our share of the global effort needed for the world to remain under a level of warming of 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and a chance to hit the 1.5 degree target. We have benefited from the GEF-supported Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) project, which is helping our institutions and national stakeholders build the needed capacity to deal with climate change, including through a new climate change law that is being drafted.

How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work program and your approach to work?

At the beginning of this pandemic disease, we were all in confinement at home. After a month, we divided our staff in two groups because of the new restrictive procedures about maintaining adequate space between people. We have organized some meetings by videoconferences using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc, and other meetings were delayed. In Côte d’Ivoire, the effects of COVID-19 have been essentially around projects’ implementation time. Many project-related activities have been delayed and will require more time.

Is there a GEF-supported project or program that is close to your heart?

Yes – the GEF’s Sustainable Cities program. Côte d’Ivoire was one of the three African countries selected for this support during the GEF-6 cycle, along with South Africa and Senegal. Building on projects related to biodiversity, air pollution, and urban infrastructure development, and in partnership with the African Development Bank and UNIDO, this initiative is supporting our capital city Abidjan with integrated urban planning, sustainable transportation, urban tree planting, drainage, waste management, and industrial pollution reduction. These actions and investments are really appreciated in my country because they directly supporting a more sustainable future in the capital.

Is there a person you have met through your work who had a lasting impact on you?

Yes, that person was the CEO of our National Investment Bank (BNI), who understood the challenges of global environment as a future important field of work before it was commonly viewed that way. In the 1990s it was not typical for economists and finance specialists to think about the environment. We organized a PowerPoint presentation at our BNI Board of Directors Committee, and the CEO invited the Minister of Economy and Finance. After the presentation and follow-on discussion, the Minister was convinced about the importance of the environment on the economy. Since that time, Côte d’Ivoire has been an active part of the Global Environment Facility family and this understanding continues to inform our government’s involvement in GEF projects and programs.

What life lessons has your work life taught you?

Work hard, with patience, and love what you are doing. Work in a team, because together we can overcome all types of difficulty.