GIWA - why a new water initiative?
another water assessment? Is there not enough information already
to start taking action to address the problems of international, transboundary
could be one's first reaction when hearing of the new Global International
Waters Assessment - GIWA - a four-year UNEP-led,
GEF-funded initiative, executed
by Kalmar University in Sweden.
freshwater and groundwater issues are already being addressed in many
contexts and by many international, regional, national and local bodies.
There is already a large global water
community and a number of programmes, projects and treaties for
water issues. So why launch a new global initiative to cover 66
transboundary marine, freshwater and groundwater areas all over the
answer 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
urgent need for an assessment of causes of environmental degradation
of water areas was highlighted by the UN
Special Session on the Environment in 1997, where commitments
were made regarding the work of the Commission
on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) on freshwater
in 1998 and oceans
and seas in 1999.
answer is that actions aimed at resolving environmental problems in
international waters frequently fail to identify the geographical
boundaries of the problem. Water problems are often transboundary,
water bodies are often shared between two or more countries. The boundaries
of the area where one observes the actual water-related problem are
not necessarily the same as the boundaries of the activity causing
the problem or the place where it originates.
third answer is 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 the
another answer is the lack of objective information which could help
pinpoint the root causes of environmental problems, as well as the
barriers to be overcome in solving them. Such information would clearly
be a valuable asset for improving the design of international programmes
offering technical and financial assistance to the affected countries.
GEF is the only globally accessible incremental funding mechanism.
Unlike the GEF project portfolios on biological diversity, climate
change, and ozone depletion, the portfolio on international waters
does not address a single global convention. As a result, it has often
proven difficult to prioritize international water projects, particularly
given the insufficient understanding of the nature and root causes
of their environmental problems.
assessments have already been made on biological diversity, climate
change, and ozone depletion. The lack of an assessment on international
waters has been a serious impediment to the implementation of the
international waters component of GEF.
is not just another water initiative. It is expected to represent
the most objective comprehensive assessment of transboundary water
probems, and their societal root causes, conducted so far.
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 will provide the information
needed for GEF‚s work in this area.
Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP, when announcing
the start of GIWA in April 1999, 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 will mainly be executed in 66
subregions. It will to a great extent be 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, will be 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 will be two preconditions
for a successful implementation of GIWA.
GIWA Scientific Director