Global International Waters Assessment, GIWA
Senior Programme Officer, International Waters, UNEP GEF (Global Environment
Facility) Coordination Office
Former Coordinator of the GEF Black Sea Environmental Programme
views expressed are those of the authors acting in their personal capacities
as members of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS
) Advisory Boards, and not necessarily those of the Global Environment
Facility (GEF) Secretriat, the UN
Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN
Development Programme (UNDP), or UN
Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
also GIWA Bibliography,
provided by UNEP. This site presents a Preliminary Bibliography of Assessments
and Information Sources by geographical region.
Introduction | Examining
the holistic approach ] [ A geographical framework
for action ] [ The operational phases of GIWA
] [ Aggregating the actors... desegregating the
data ] [ GIWA outputs - a major step towards
with a document entitled "Global International Waters Assessment",
the reaction of many people is to sigh and remark, "Not another assessment!
Don't we have enough information to start taking action?"
truth is that, although we have identified many areas where immediate
action on environmental protection is necessary and often overdue,
most of our actions focus on removing the symptoms of environmental degradation
but neither identify nor address its root causes.
aimed at resolving environmental problems in international waters frequently
fail to identify the geographical boundaries of the problem. These boundaries
of the area where the problem itself is observed may not encompass the
location of the cause.
matters further is the fact that there is very limited financial support
for addressing international waters problems. This makes it necessary
to agree upon funding priorities in order to deal with certain key issues
whilst gradually trying to attain a more comprehensive approach towards
information, which helps to pinpoint the root causes of environmental
problems as well as the barriers to be overcome In solving them, is clearly
a valuable asset for improving the design of international programmes
offering technical and financial assistance to the affected countries.
By its recent
approval of Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), the Council
of the Global Environment Facility
(1) has taken a very bold step towards providing this basic and currently
unavailable information for its own use and for the use of its partners.
Furthermore, by making this information available to the general public,
it will help to foster a greater understanding of the severity of environmental
problems in international waters, their societal causes and the options
available for solving them.
of GIWA comes at a particularly auspicious time in the "year of the
oceans", and with the decision of the UN
Special Session on the Environment (UNGASS)" to commit the work
of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)
to special sessions on freshwater, in 1998 and the seas, in 1999.
to two recent international declarations: the Potomac Declaration on Oceans
and Security (see and the Stockholm Statement on Interaction of Land Activities,
Freshwater and Enclosed Seas. Article 5 of the Potomac Declaration states:
is of paramount importance to deepen our current understanding of the
root causes of the environmental issues in terms of market failures, inadequacies
in policy and governance, and deficiencies in information. A profound
interdisciplinary study, bridging social and physical science and integrating
seas and associated land catchment areas, is required at a national, regional
and global level. This should lead to practical measures to address the
root causes of the problems themselves. Initiatives such as the recently
proposed GEF Global International Water Assessment (GIWA) should be supported."
paper reviews the approach adopted for GIWA, its strategy and the expected
products. It illustrates how the GIWA approach will provide an important
tool for international efforts to protect the marine and freshwater environments
and to improve environmental security. It highlights the need for comprehensive
participation of existing regional and sub-regional bodies in the GIWA
process if it is to achieve this important objective.
EXAMINING THE HOLISTIC APPROACH
"holistic" entered into vogue at the time of the UN Conference
on Environment and Development in 1992. Currently, "holistic"
is applied to statements on the environment with the monotonous routine
of applying vinaigrette dressing to salads.
rhetoric, however, the use of the term "holistic" was intended
to stress that environmental problems should be dealt with at their roots,
irrespective of sectoral or geographical boundaries.
of course, is that we live in a society governed in a very sectoral manner.
Governmental sectors, for example, have been divided according to the
perceived basic needs of particular societies, starting with food and
agriculture, housing, energy, economy, education, defense, transport,
etc. The general appreciation, from the time of the 1960s, that human
development was resulting in serious deterioration of natural ecosystems,
motivated the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.
this often led to the creation of a new separate "environment sector",
though this had not been the intention of the Conference itself. In some
cases, the new but often weak Ministries of Environment, were unable to
influence other ministries regarding the environmental impact of their
own actions. The 1992 Rio Conference came at a time when the ineffectiveness
of this approach was becoming apparent. Ironically, however, it also came
at a time when palpable improvements in environmental awareness were being
observed in many countries.
approach is particularly lacking in the case of the "global commons"
(the atmosphere and international waters). The commons are transboundary
in nature but provide "free" goods and services to the economies
of individual countries. One of the reasons for environmental degradation
is the failure to pay the costs of these services (e.g., the cost of protecting
the environment against pollution) or to seek better practices to avoid
In the case
of international waters, current usage of the natural systems is unsustainable
and there is clear evidence for the decline in fisheries, coastal ecosystems,
freshwater quantity and quality, and the quantity and quality of water
problems are to be managed, there is a need to coordinate response in
a manner that transcends sectoral and geographical boundaries. The challenge
is how to strategize and respond holistically but act within sectoral
and geographical boundaries of our present society?
Environment Facility provides one way of responding to this challenge.
It provides funding for "incremental costs", which may be regarded
as the additional cost involved in extending projects designed to protect
the environment of a single country in order to protect the shared global
cost funding is thus designed to bridge the gap between political boundaries
and environmental boundaries. Currently, the GEF is the only globally
accessible incremental funding mechanism. Its resources are focussed through
operational programmes on four basic issues:
Waters portfolio is the only one which does not address a single global
convention. As a result, it has often proven difficult to prioritise projects
in these areas, particularly given the insufficient understanding of the
nature and root causes of environmental problems in this area.
proposed to the GEF as an effective means of overcoming this conceptual
difficulty and to develop well targeted practical proposals for incremental
objective of GIWA is to develop a comprehensive strategic assessment that
may be used by GEF and its partners to identify priorities for remedial
and mitigatory actions in international waters, designed to achieve significant
environmental benefits at national, regional and global levels.
the first step in promoting a response to complex environmental
problems is to understand the causal chain between perceived problems
and their societal root causes.
visit to a causal chain will help to illustrate this point. A causal chain
is a series of statements that demonstrate and summarize, in a stepwise
manner, the linkages between problems and their underlying or "root"
causes. Uncertainties accompanying each linkage should be clearly stated.
The analysis also permits barriers to resolving the problems to be investigated.
chain presents the nature of the problem itself, including the effects
and transboundary consequences, and then probes the linkages between the
problem and its societal causes. In its practical application, it can
serve as a model into which regionally relevant information may be inserted.
supported with quantitative information, the causal chain can be reversed
and used to study the implications of different policy options in the
improvement or worsening of environmental problems. Such an analysis may
also be used to examine the effects of one policy decision on another,
seemingly unrelated issue.
of sewerage and primary treatment in a coastal city might improve human
health and conditions for coastal tourism, for example, but may exacerbate
eutrophication and impact aesthetic conditions through increased algal
blooms, thus providing a disincentive to tourists. By inducing eutrophication,
it could also contribute transboundary effects on biological diversity
and fisheries production. The transboundary effects, together with some
of the domestic ones could be avoided by investment in better treatment
technology, part of which could be considered as an incremental cost,
over and above the domestic "baseline" investment in sewerage
and primary treatment.
major areas of concern: 23 issues
analyses will be one of the important tools used for GIWA. The first meetings
of an ad-hoc group of international experts, called to help design the
GIWA approachs, decided to cluster the GIWA analysis into five major areas
of concern, namely:
and community modification;
of fisheries and other living resources, and;
of these areas of concern, a number of "issues" were identified,
such as the eutrophication issue described above.
of such issues form the starting point of the causal chain analyses:
- Reduction in stream flow.
- Pollution of existing water supplies.
- Changes in the water table.
- Microbiological pollution.
- Chemical pollution.
- Suspended solids.
- Solid wastes.
- Thermal pollution.
and community modification
- Loss of ecosystems or ecotones.
- Modification of ecosystems or ecotones including community structure
and/or species composition.
exploitation of fisheries and other living resources
- Inappropriate harvesting practices.
- Resource/habitat changes.
- Habitat destruction.
- Decreased viability of stock through contamination and disease.
- Human-induced changes in the physical environment.
- Biodiversity impacts.
- Changes in hydrological cycles.
- Sea level change.
- Increased UV-B radiation as a result of ozone depletion.
- Changes in ocean carbon dioxide source/sink function.
the target issues and tracing the causal chains, care will be taken not
to pursue a highly anthropocentric approach, for example, by ignoring
the freshwater needs of the natural environment or the intrinsic as well
as human-centred service value of wetlands. This example is a particularly
relevant one since the recent Comprehensive Freshwaters Assessment, one of the studies upon which GIWA will build,
demonstrated that surface freshwater will soon be a major limiting factor
for human development and that water supplies will increasingly be denied
to non-human users.
A GEOGRAPHICAL FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION
approach requires better definition of system boundaries. In the case
of international waters, it is logical to consider freshwater catchment
areas and the associated sea or lake receiving waters as a single entity.
for some purposes it is necessary to subdivide these entitles into individual
river or tributary basins, or to consider the ocean area by itself. The
principle, however, remains the same; the boundary is defined by the area
containing the environmental problem and its root causes.
this approach work in practice? A second ad-hoc GIWA expert group was
called to examine this issue. The task was to divide the world into a
series of areas, based upon a mix of environmental, biogeographical and
geopolitical factors which seemed the most appropriate for the purposes
of this project.
determining factor was the integrity of each unit in terms of encompassing
the major causes and effects of environmental problems associated with
each transboundary water area, whether river basin, groundwater, lake
or sea. In many cases, a drainage area and associated marine basin (often
a large marine ecosystem, LME) were the most appropriate units.
regions, 66 sub-regions
66 of these
sub-regions were identified and grouped into nine regions, for the convenience
of project management only. The 66 sub-regions will be the basic units
of assessment of GIWA.
- Gulf of Mexico LME
- Caribbean Sea LME
- Caribbean Islands
- South-east Shelf LME
- Northeast Shelf LME
- Scotian Shelf LME
- Gulf of St. Lawrence
- Newfoundland Shelf LME
- Baffin Bay, Labrador Sea, Canadian archipelago
- Barents Sea LME
- Norwegian Sea LME
- Faroe plateau
- Island Shelf LME
- East Greenland Shelf LME
- West Greenland Shelf LME
- Baltic Sea LME
- North Sea LME
- Celtic-Biscay LME
- Iberian coastal LME
- Mediterranean Sea LME
- Black Sea LME
- Caspian Sea
- Aral Sea
- Gulf of Alaska LME
- California Current LME
- Gulf of California LME
- West Bering Sea LME
- East Bering Sea LME
- Sea of Okhotsk LME
- Oyashio Current LME
- Kuroshio Current LME
- Sea of Japan LME
- Yellow Sea LME
- Bohai Sea
- East China Sea LME
- Hawaiian Archipelago LME
- Patagonian Shelf LME
- Brazil Current LME
- Northeast Brazil Shelf LME
- Brazilian Northeast
- Canary Current LME
- Gulf of Guinea LME
- Lake Chad
- Benguela Current LME
- Agulhas Current LME
- Somali Coastal Current LME
- East African Rift Valley Lakes
- Gulf of Aden
- Red Sea LME
- The Gulf
- Jordan (land-locked river system)
- Arabian Sea LME
- Bay of Bengal
Asia and the South Pacific
- South China Sea LME
- Mekong River
- Sulu-Celebes Sea LME
- Indonesian Seas LME
- North Australian Shelf LME
- Coral Sea Basin
- Great Barrier Reef LME
- Great Australian Bight
- Small Island States
- New Zealand Shelf
- Humbold Current LME
- Eastern Equatorial Pacific
- Antarctic LME
to structure GIWA on a basin-wide approach is one that follows the logic
of UNCED Agenda 21.
is already being adopted in regions such as the Baltic Sea (Helsinki
Commission) and the Black Sea (GEF
Black Sea Environmental Programme) or the Mediterranean (revised Barcelona
THE OPERATIONAL PHASES OF GIWA
a necessarily ambitious project-- the complexity of the task does not
allow it to be otherwise.
be both comprehensive and synoptic and will require extensive data gathering
and processing In all 66 sub-regions simultaneously. If it is to be successful,
its operation must proceed in a very rational and well-coordinated sequence.
The assessment is designed in five phases.
The pre-project preparatory phase
already completed, had the main objectives of defining the thematic analytical
scope of GIWA and establishing the operational geographic units of assessment.
earlier, it developed the causal chain approach which is applicable, with
small variants to all types of' international waters: seas; rivers; lakes
eventually need to be extended to examine uncertainties, policy options
and barriers to addressing the causes, but the power and utility of the
methodology was amply illustrated.
The Establishment of the GIWA network
and development of an assessment protocol
established to accomplish the work of GIWA will consist of national experts
and institutions, regional and global collaborating bodies organised around
the geographic units of assessment and grouped into nine major regions.
coordination of the work of the participating individuals and institutions
will take place through focal points for each of the sub-regions who will
participate in the work of nine regional task teams, supported and
assisted by a core team of full-time specialist covering both regional
and thematic concerns.
of Kalniar, Sweden, has agreed to host the core team and provide it with
good working facilities. The core team will be advised by and report to
a Steering Grooup of senior scientists and representatives of the major
members of the core team will function as links to, and focal points for,
one or more of the regional task teams.
first three months, the primary task of the core team will be to
- build upon the work undertaken during the preparatory phase,
- establish the major components of the network, and
- prepare recommendations concerning the establishment of the components
of the GIWA network, for consideration by the Steering Group.
meeting of the Steering Group will be convened within four months from
commencement of the project to agree upon the principal components of
the GIWA Network, namely the composition of the regional task teams, and
the regional organisations hosting the task teams. The network is intended
to be "open-ended" and can grow according to the needs and in-kind
contributions of sponsors and participants.
subsequent six months, the core team will convene the necessary expert
consultations for the completion of a preliminary GIWA Assessment Protocol
and will convene first meetings of all regional task teams to review the
protocol. They shall also draw upon the experience of the regional teams
in order to design an approved methodology for conducting causal chain
analyses to examine societal root causes of water related environmental
problems and guidelines for the conduct of transboundary diagnostic analyses
-- a primary GIWA product applicable to GEF International Waters projects.
the expert consultations will identify the needs for establishment of
Thematic Task Teams, and should also identify needs for case studies where
strictly necessary, particularly in the socio-economic domain.
products at the end of year one are:
- a global
network of collaborating institutions/organisations and individuals
in governmental and non-govemmental organisations;
- a meta-data
catalogue of existing/completed projects in all regions;
- a GIWA
Assessment Protocol, including an agreed methodology for conducting
causal chain analyses to examine societal root causes of water related
- an agreed
methodology for conducting transboundart diagnostic analyses at regional
scales; detailed approaches to the application of incremental cost analyses
in International Waters Projects and,
- a preliminary
analytical tool for the analysis of the ecological status of water-related
environmental issues and their societal causes.
The analytical phase of GIWA
second twelve months, the national experts and institutions shall gather
and analyse the information, necessary for applying the GIWA Assessment
Protocol at the sub-regional level. They will be assisted in this task
by the regional task team, the core team and where necessary the thematic
task teams. Together with the core team, the thematic and regional task
teams shall, as far as possible, complete regional assessments based on
the products of the sub-regional assessments.
will be designed in a iterative manner in order to review the quality
and relevance of' the information gathered and to ensure comparability
and compatibility of' the analyses. There will be differences in the approach
required in each region as some reginal studies have already consolidated
the information required by GIWA, whereas others have very scarce and
resulting from these activities will include:
meta databases and bibliographies to be issued on CD ROM;
to the Intemet site prepared for the GEF as part of another project;
66 sub-regional reviews of the transboundary ecological status and major
water-related concerns and principal issues, including analyses of their
guidelines for preparation of a causal chain analysis for use in GEF
regional level transboundary diagnostic analyses;
reviews of issues and their societal causes for widespread dissemination.
third phase, the thematic task teams in collaboration with the core team,
shall begin the elaboration of a series of global reviews based on the
outcomes of the work of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development.
be developed through integration of information from the regional studies
and historical information and will be completed and published in the
third year of GIWA.
cases, these reviews will be based upon existing programmes - reviews
conducted by the contributors to GIWA. The work of existing bodies will
not be duplicated and GIWA will serve to provide added value where possible.
The predictive-policy options analysis phase
third year of GIWA, dedicated to scenario development and policy options
analysis, the work of the task teams and the core team will be focused
upon the evaluation of alternative scenarios. The analyses will incorporate
a number of scenarios developed on the basis of projected actions taken
to address the identified societal causes of environmental degradation.
starting point for these scenarios will be "current trends".
In effect, from an economic perspective, the analyses will consider the
implications of measures to internalize environmental externalities. Different
alternative approaches will be considered in order to reach a given objective
(alternative scenarios, policy changes, investment in technological solutions,
etc.). From a social perspective, the analysis will consider the incremental
cost of measures to encourage the modification of unsustainable social
and economic development trends. The uncertainties in the scenarios must
also be identified and clearly stated.
phase of the assessment will build on the studies and analyses undertaken
over the entire three-year period of GIWA. The products will be finalised
in the third year when sufficient validated data become available. This
phase will require the participation of well-recognized regional and international
experts, supported where possible from the bodies and donors contributing
to GIWA itself.
this phase of the project avoid this assessment of options from becoming
a mere academic exercise with little relevance to current society?
As an integral
part of project strategy, a consultation has been planned with key stakeholders
during Phase 4 of implementation. This will enable the initial
consultations of the policy options analysis to he assessed by discussing
them with a representative group of stakeholders, including representatives
of civil society.
It is hoped
that co-sponsors will be able to support additional exercises of this
kind in order to maintain as wide a representation as possible of civil
society in the iterative process of the GIWA assessment, particularly
with respect to the studies of policy options.
product from the third year of GIWA will be a detailed scheme for placing
priorities on transboundary environmental issues in the various sub-regions.
at the end of year three will be:
final phase of GIWA will be dedicated to the preparation and dissemination
of the global and regional GIWA products.
numerous intermediate products will have been produced and disseminated
during the earlier phases of the project, many of these will be of a highly
technical nature. During this phase, emphasis will be directed towards
the preparation of reviews that are easily comprehensible to various sectors
should not remain a desk exercise but should be made available to the
public in general, to educational institutions and to national and regional
GIWA meta-data base and regional reports should be freely available through
electronic communications, on CD ROM and, where strictly necessary, in
hard copy. The GIWA core team and the task teams, together with specialists
on public education and awareness will complete this work.
products from this phase include:
educational and information materials concerning transboundary water-related
environmental problems on a regional basis;
of data and information for use in decision making;
- a meta-data
catalogue of' relevant assessments, data and information sources available
via the Internet; and
contributions to an Intrnet web site for international waters (to
be established in close cooperation with the GEF IW-Learn Project
implemented by the UNDP.
AGGREGATING THE ACTORS , DESEGREGATING THE DATA
up and implementing GIWA poses three particularly important challenges.
first challenge is how to bring together all of the necessary expertise.
It is not just a matter of' acting as a clearing house and distributing
the tasks amongst a series of specialist organisations.This strategy would
carry a strong risk of promulgating a sectoral approach and, at the end
of the process, the jigsaw puzzle pieces would probably not fit together.
GIWA requires team work by decentralized groups of experts drawn from
a wide range of disciplines and granted support from the governments or
from the project itself in order to dedicate quality time to the project.
most innovative products of GIWA will surely result from the interdisciplinary
nature of the regional task teams and the core tearn itself. Clearly,
the expertise needed to cover transboundary freshwater, marine, coastal
and groundwater issues, as well as societal causes of degradation and
driving forces of change, cannot presently be found within any single
participation of experts from established international bodies such as
ICSU and Group of Experts
on Scientific Ascpects of Marine Pollution (GESAMP) will be essential
in this work. It will be essential for GIWA to count upon the support
of the international conununity in order to achieve its work in an effective
manner. Additionally, the GIWA core team shall ensure that the necessary
support is provided to the regional and thematic task teams during this
phase of the projct. They shall facilitate the provision of additional
expertise to regions requiring such support and actively promote GIWA
to additional potential donors.
of the work of GIWA will depend on day-to-day electronic mail communications
established by the regional task team members and the individual experts
working at national level. It is hoped that some of the GIWA donors may
be prepared to establish scholarships at relevant postgraduate research
departments in order to provide additional dedicated intellectual input
to the GIWA process.
second challenge -- funding -- is closely related to the first.
The GEF Council has agreed to release US$ 6.785 millions for implementation
of GIWA in its recipient countries. A number of non-recipient countries
have now been approached in order to generate the in-kind and cash support
necessary to ensure their own participation in the project. Of
special note was the early support of Sweden in GIWA and more specifically,
the provision of facilities for the core team in Kalmar. This provided
a critical vote of confidence which facilitated project approval.
response to some of the requests from other potential contributors is
encouraging but it will be necessary to involve more national and regional
bodies in co-funding GIWA if it is to have the necessary global coverage.
The cost savings and benefits from improved focusing of' international
aid programmes should well compensate the initial outlay for participating
in the project. It is also hoped that bilateral donors will be able to
assist some of the poorer countries to participate more fully in GIWA
through the provision of technical and financial assistance.
third major challenge concerns the information requirements for socio-economic
analyses as these will provide the basic quantitative information to back
the policy scenarios to be developed in the fourth phase of GIWA.
A major task will be to disaggregate existing data (generally assembled
on the basis of geopolitical divisions and without regard to their relationship
to the environment and the distribution of natural resources) and re-group
it according to environmentally relevant geographical areas describing
thematic economic task team will be established to oversee this work,
provide advice and assistance to some regions, and to ensure consistency
in the application of the GIWA assessment protocol. The participation
of international financial institutions is essential in this work.
GIWA OUTPUTS -- A MAJOR STEP TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY?
should make a major contribution to policies and actions that will lead
to protection and more sustainable use of international waters.
products of GIWA will represent the most objective comprehensive assessment
of transboundary water issues, and their societal root causes, conducted
expected outcomes of the project will be:
assessments of ecological status of transboundary waters for the use
of the GEF and cooperating donors at a programmatic level through the
provision of an assessment of ecological priorities at the regional
and global scales concerning issues and problems in the focal area of
of a framework for GEF projects to decide upon appropriate management
interventions, including remedial and mitigatory actions in international
waters, of value to the GEF, regional international organisations, and
governments participating in the GEF;
of more sustainable approaches to the use of water and its associated
resources, at national, regional and local levels;
for the conduct of causal chain and transboundary diagnostic analyses
for use in GEF International Waters Projects by the implementing agencies;
considerable increase in leveraged co-financing as a result of improved
focusing and credibility of future interventions and projects;
baseline of information at the regional and sub-regional level which
will facilitate the regional task of preparation of transboundary diagnostic
analyses within new projects and improve the capacity to evaluate projects
underway or within the existing GEF pipeline.
material generated will be of enormous potential use to public education
programmes, including formal education. Great care will be taken to present
the results of GIWA in a manner which is readily accessible and understandable
to the publicin general, as well as through the strictly technical formal
will be conducted with potential users of this material regarding the
most appropriate manner for presenting it. By enhancing the flow of information
to civil society, particularly in looking beyond the symptoms of
environmental problems to their societal root causes, GIWA will provide
additional tools for strengthening the GFF IW Portfolio and the credibility
of all donors and partners associated with it. It will help to convert
the holistic approach from rhetoric into reality