Objectives, Scopes and Activities

UNEPGEFUniversity of Kalmar
GIWA - Objectives, Scopes and Activities

Conference presentation by Prof. Per Wramner,
GIWA Scientific Director

[Introduction | GEF | The need for GIWA | The objective of GIWA ]
The execution of GIWA | The preparation of GIWA | The work plan ]
[ Expected outcomes ]


GIWA (Global International Waters Assessment) is a four-year GEF-funded project executed by UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme). It is a systematic and comprehensive assessment of the environmental conditions and problems in international (transboundary) waters comprising marine and freshwater areas, and surface waters as well as groundwaters.

GIWA covers the entire globe and is designed to identify not only existing and emerging ecological problems but also their societal root causes and barriers to be overcome in solving them.

The Assessment will be carried out in a systematic and coherent manner and its focus will be regional (i.e., region by region assessment).


GEF (the Global Environment Facility) promotes international co-operation and fosters actions to protect the global environment. It provides funding to developing countries and those with economies in transition for projects and activities targeting global benefits in one or more of four focal areas - Biological Diversity, Climate Change, the Ozone Layer, and International Waters.

GEF assistance complements traditional foreign aid by covering the additional costs (agreed incremental costs) involved in extending national or regional development projects to target also global environmental objectives.

For most GEF projects a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) is carried out. A TDA is a systematic review of the transboundary environmental issues afflicting the particular region of interest, and an analysis of their probable causes and of the stakeholders involved in the problem and its potential solution.

International Waters is the only one of GEF's four focal areas which does not address a single global convention. As a result, it has often proven difficult to prioritise projects addressing International Waters, particularly given the insufficient understanding of the nature and root causes of environmental problems in this field. International Waters lack an assessment comparable with that of the International Panel on Climate Change, the Global Biodiversity Assessment and the Stratospheric Ozone Assessment.

The need for GIWA

While there exist a number of assessments of separate aspects of International Waters, there is no holistic assessment of the kind needed to develop an intergovernmental consensus on priorities for action by the GEF. This is a serious impediment to the implementation of the International Waters focal area of the GEF.

The limited funds available for addressing transboundary water problems make it necessary to agree upon funding priorities. Actions aimed at resolving environmental problems in International Waters usually focus on removing the symptoms of environmental degradation but neither identify nor address its root causes. Such actions also frequently fail to identify the geographical boundaries of the problem. The boundaries of the area, where the problem itself is observed, seldom encompass the location of the cause. Objective information, which helps to pinpoint the ecological status and the societal 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 assistance projects addressing International Waters.

The objective of GIWA

The 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 project aims at producing a fully comprehensive and integrated global assessment, encompassing the ecological status and causes of environmental problems of transboundary freshwater basins and their associated coastal and ocean systems.

GIWA also aims at providing scientific and other information that may be used by other national, regional and global bodies and activities in the field of International Waters, such as the Regional Seas Programme and the Global Programme of Action on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities.

The execution of GIWA

GIWA is executed by UNEP in collaboration with the University of Kalmar, Sweden.

Other partners are the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS); the City of Kalmar, the Government of Finland; the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and its Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE); the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP); the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the World Bank; and the World Water Council (WWC).

The project cost for which funding is secured amounts to 14 million USD for the four-year period. GEF finances half of it and the other half is financed by Finland, the City of Kalmar and the University of Kalmar, NOAA, SIDA and UNEP.

However, there is an urgent need for additional funds, as well as contributions in kind, especially for activities in industrialised countries and regions.

Furthermore, there are ongoing sectorial and thematic assessments at the global level, which will contribute to GIWA. Their costs amount to about 15 million USD.

Also ongoing regional and national assessments may contribute to GIWA. Their costs have not been estimated but are probably higher.

GIWA will be co-ordinated by a Core Team located in Kalmar. The Team will consist of 4-6 professionals plus supporting staff, and will be headed by a Scientific Director.The Core Team will be advised by, and report to, the Steering Group.

Most of the work will, however, be carried out regionally. The basic units of assessment will be 66 subregions grouped into nine megaregions. For each subregion, a Focal Point and for each megaregion a Task Team will be appointed. They will in most cases be based in or attached to an existing organisation already undertaking similar activities.

The main task of the Core Team is to initiate, co-ordinate, facilitate and evaluate the subregional assessments. It is anticipated that governments and international governmental organisations participate through involvement of scientific and technical experts, policy makers etc., and by providing necessary data.

GIWA is, however, not primarily a data gathering exercise. Only data required for a stepwise, iterative analysis of transboundary water-related problems and their causes will be gathered. Scenarios will be drawn up which reflect the continuation of current practises and the adoption of sustainable alternatives.

Causal Chain Analyses will be an important tool in bringing this about. GIWA will make full use of existing assessments and all other available information. Duplication of work must be avoided. Co-operation with and linkages to all relevant international and national organisations will be established.

The preparation of GIWA

UNEP was responsible for the preparation of GIWA, with the help of a grant from GEF. The pre-project preparatory phase has been completed and reported in the approved Project Document, which constitutes the basis for the implementation of GIWA.

The pre-project preparatory work included definition of the thematic analytical scope of and development of the geographical framework for GIWA. The thematic definition comprised, inter alia, the following components:

  • Examination of water-related environmental issues with transboundary consequences. About 25 such impacts (physical, chemical, biological etc.) were identified.
  • Identification of primary socio-economic forces causing water-related environmental degradation. About 25 socio-economic root causes were identified, divided into policy, governance and legal failures, institutional failures, economic or market failures and information failures.
  • Development of a matrix illustrating the interactions between major concerns and issues. A matrix was developed which shows how different kinds of degradation of transboundary waters affect each other.
  • Development of a methodology for examining the status and causes of the identified problems through a Casual Chain Analysis. The chosen methodology is based on the identification of the sequence of causes for environmental problems in International Waters through a hierarchical chain extending from the scientific and technical to the socio-economic and policy levels. A Casual Chain Analysis is a series of statements that demonstrate and summarise, in a stepwise manner, the linkages between problems and their underlying causes. When properly supported with quantitative information, the chain can be reversed and used to study the implications of different policy options in the improvement or worsening of environmental problems.

The development of the geographical framework comprised the division of the world into a series of areas based upon a mix of environmental, biogeographical and geopolitical factors appropriate for the purpose of GIWA. The main 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. As GIWA focuses on linkages between transboundary freshwater and marine systems, even though other aquatic issues are also included, a drainage area and associated marine basin (usually a Large Marine Ecosystem) turned out to be the most appropriate units in many cases. Based on these criteria the 66 areas (subregions) were identified. A Large Marine Ecosystem constitutes a major component of 46 subregions.

The work plan of GIWA

GIWA will be implemented in four phases, each lasting about one year.

During the first phase, work will concentrate on the establishment of the GIWA network and development of an assessment protocol. The network will consist of national experts and institutions, regional and global collaborating bodies, GIWA Co-ordinators (Focal Points and Task Teams) etc., organized around the 66 geographic units of assessment (subregions) and nine major regions (megaregions). The Core Team will convene the necessary expert consultations for the completion of a GIWA Assessment Protocol and identify the needs for Thematic Task Teams. The Protocol will encompass a preliminary analytical tool for the analysis of the ecological status of water-related environmental issues and their societal root causes and includes, inter alia, agreed methodologies for conducting Casual Chain Analyses and Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses in International Waters.

During the second (analytical) phase, experts and institutions will gather and analyse the information necessary for applying the GIWA Assessment Protocol at the subregional level. The Focal Points, the Regional Task Teams, and the Core Team will assist them and, where necessary, the Thematic Task Teams. The subregional assessments will be commenced and, as far as possible, completed during this phase.

During the third phase (the predictive and policy options analysis phase), scenario development and policy options analysis will be carried out. The expected principal product will be a scheme for placing priorities on transboundary water-related environmental issues in the various subregions. Other products will be megaregional and subregional scenarios of the future state of International Waters based on different development trends etc., a global analysis of the societal causes of identified water-related concerns and a global overview of the relative importance of the various major concerns by region.

During the fourth (dissemination) phase, the work will concentrate on the preparation and dissemination of the global and regional GIWA products, such as reports, reviews, databases etc. that are easily comprehensible to various sectors of society. They will be freely available through electronic communications, on CD-ROM and, where strictly necessary, in hard copy. GIWA should not remain a desk exercise but should make its results available to the public in general, to educational institutions, to national authorities, to international organisations etc.

Expected outcomes of GIWA

The following results are expected to come out of GIWA:

  • Strategic assessments of the ecological status of International Waters, including ecological priorities at the regional and global scales.
  • A framework for GEF projects to decide upon appropriate management interventions, including remedial and mitigatory actions.
  • Identification of more sustainable approaches to the use of water and its associated resources at regional, national and local levels.
  • Protocols for the conduct of Casual Chain Analyses and Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses for use in GEF International Waters projects.
  • A considerable increase in leveraged co-financing as a result of improved focusing and credibility of future interventions and projects.
  • A baseline of information at the regional and sub-regional levels which will facilitate the preparation of Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses.

See a preliminary consideration of the importance of the major water-related concerns and principal issues for each of the 66 subregions. It is based on the Project Document, a literature review and consultations of experts.

The expected results will be used by GEF, other donors, governments, international governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations etc.

GIWA will also be designed to provide data needed for the implementation of the Action Plans of the Regional Seas Programme and the Global Programme of Action on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities.

GIWA will be comparable to the global assessments of the other three focal areas of GEF (Biological Diversity, Climate Change and the Ozone Layer) and will provide the intellectual leadership in dealing with International Waters which is so urgently needed.

Global International Waters Assessment, GIWA
SE- 391 82 Kalmar, Sweden
Phone: +46- 480 44 60 00. Fax: +46- 480 44 73 55.

page last modified on 22 August 2006