lakes, wetlands, rivers, groundwater basins etc. do not only provide
us with water for all human purposes. They also constitute life-support
systems, which provide us with fundamental ecological and other
services. The character of our planet, physically as well as biologically,
is shaped by water. Without water all life ceases.
though man is dependent of water in a broad sense, we have degraded
aquatic environments and mismanaged aquatic resources at a global
scale. Pollution, destruction of habitats, overutilization of living
resources etc. threaten the future development of human societies,
especially in developing countries. Water issues therefore play
an important and increasing role in international development co-operation.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has designated International
Waters as one of its four focal areas. GIWA is providing the information
needed for GEF's work in this area.
Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP, when announcing the
start of GIWA, stated that "the lack of an
International Waters Assessment has been a unique and serious impediment
to the implementation of on-the-ground action since there exists
no basis on which to identify areas of global priority for intervention."
Töpfer also noted:
"Comparable to the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Biodiversity Assessment, and the
Stratospheric Ozone Assessment, spearheaded by UNEP, the Global
International Waters Assessment will provide the intellectual leadership
in dealing with global environmental problems and threats plaguing
transboundary water bodies."
is a worldwide assessment but is mainly executed in 66 subregions.
It is to a great extent based on the many studies, which exist
or are ongoing at various levels. Close co-operative links to all
relevant bodies and activities, constituting the global GIWA network,
has been established, encompassing exchange of data, co-ordination
of programmes, joint activities etc. Duplication of work must be
avoided. A well-designed network and an active participation of
relevant organisations in all sub-regions is two preconditions
for a successful implementation of GIWA.