Basic information about GIWA

UNEPGEFUniversity of Kalmar
Basic information about GIWA

Press info prepared for the inauguration of GIWA, 15 October 1999

  • What is GIWA?
  • In what way is GIWA a UN programme?
  • What is to be accomplished within GIWA?
  • What makes GIWA different from other international water initiatives?
  • Is GIWA only about marine water areas?
  • Who pays for GIWA?
  • When will GIWA be ready?
  • Who does what? When will the first results be available?
  • Is GIWA a transparent exercise for anyone to follow?
  • Why is a global water programme located at the small Kalmar University in Sweden?
  • How will information on the GIWA work be available on a continuing basis?

    What is GIWA?

    GIWA means the Global International Waters Assessment. It is the abbreviation of a programme, an activity, not of an organization. In the everyday work, however, GIWA is used both as the name of the programme and as a kind of organizational term. Formally one should make a distinction between GIWA as the programme, the thing to be accomplished, and GIWA as part of concepts like the GIWA office, the GIWA network, the GIWA work, and so on.

    Why does the name include both 'global' and 'international'? In this context, 'global' denotes the global coverage - 66 water subregions worldwide - whereas 'international' is part of the concept 'International Waters'. In this context 'International Waters' means transboundary waters, i.e., marine or freshwater areas shared by two or more countries. These can be rivers, marine areas, lakes or groundwater basins divided by, for example, administrative borders.

    In what way is GIWA a UN programme?

    GIWA is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded to around 50% by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). GEF in turn is jointly implemented by UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.

    'Led by' means that GIWA is an activity falling under the UNEP Division of Environmental Assessment and Early Warning. The head of this division is also the chairman of the GIWA Steering Group.

    GEF was launched in 1991 as a financial mechanism to provide grant and concessional funds to developing countries and countries in transition to a market economy. The overall objective of GEF is to support projects and activities that aim to protect the global environment. With GEF funds, the recipient countries can carry the added costs of making planned projects environmentally friendly and finance regional approaches to multinational problems. In particular, GEF support is directed towards projects that will enable countries to fulfil their obligations under three global conventions: the Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, together with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Global assessments have already been produced in support of GEF in its decisions on project funding within these three focal areas.

    The GEF does, however, also support projects within a fourth focal area of global environmental importance: International (transboundary) Waters. Unlike the other areas, there is no global convention on the protection of such waters. As a result, it is much more difficult to find well-defined projects and geographical areas within ‘International Waters’ where GEF support should be considered. GIWA has been created to provide the international community with a scientific basis, hitherto lacking, for decisions on GEF water projects.

    GEF was launched as a pilot project, but after certain rearrangements it was decided in 1994 that the activities should continue. To date, GEF has funded more than 500 projects in 120 countries. A total of 165 countries participate in GEF and form the GEF Assembly. GEF's Governing Council is made up of 16 representatives of developing and 14 representatives of developed countries, and two representatives of countries with economies in transition. All decisions on project funding are made by the Council.

    UNEP, UNDP and the World Bank are the GEF implementing agencies. UNDP is primarily responsible for implementing technical assistance and capacity-building programmes, and also manages the Small Grants Programme aimed at enabling non-governmental organization (NGO) involvement. UNEP takes the lead in advancing environmental management at regional and global levels within GEF financed activities, and in catalyzing scientific and technical analysis. UNEP also administers and supports the GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel. The World Bank helps to develop and implement investment projects, seeks to mobilize resources from the private sector, and acts as trustee for the GEF Trust Fund.

    What is to be accomplished within GIWA?

    In concrete terms: the GIWA work will, four years from now, lead to a comprehensive report – an integrated, strategic global assessment of international waters. Ultimately, this report will be the basis for future GEF decisions on funding of water projects within the GEF focal area 'International Waters'. The report will comprise different components:

    • A global assessment, based on megaregional and subregional assessments, of environmental water problems: What is the state of the environment in the 66 water subregions worldwide included in GIWA (marine, freshwater and groundwater areas)?
    • A global assessment, based on megaregional and subregional assessments, of the causes of these environmental water and resource problems: What societal activities in these water areas do, in combination, cause environmental problems and non-sustainable use of water resources? What are the societal root causes and how can the causal chain be described? Initially, 23 socio-economically related issues - environmental problems in water areas - have been defined, but the actual conditions will govern the choice of relevant problems to be addressed in each individual area.
    • A global 'water scenario'. This scenario will be based on megaregional and subregional scenarios about what could be expected to happen if certain measures were, or were not, taken to counteract the problems.
    • Proposals and recommendations to decision-makers. GIWA will, on a subregional, megaregional and global level, provide concrete proposals for action to be taken in order to address, in the most cost-effective manner, the problems in international waters and, subsequently, to improve the global environment. This global water assessment will be undertaken from the perspectives of: water quality and water quantity; associated biodiversity and habitats, and their use by society; the societal causes of the regionally defined issues and problems; and scenarios of future conditions based on projections of demographic, economic and social changes associated with the process of human development.

    What makes GIWA different from other international water initiatives?

    The fact that the assessment, including the scenarios, recommendations and proposals, will in all parts have a global perspective, while at the same time being based on more detailed assessments compiled megaregionally and subregionally.

    Another unique feature is the holistic approach to international waters (transboundary marine, freshwater and groundwater areas). The GIWA work will, on a global scale, be directed towards thinking of water as a resource within entire transboundary drainage areas from source to sea.

    The causal chain analyses will also be an essential GIWA component and an approach that distinguishes GIWA from other surveys of environmental problems in water areas. GIWA will increase the knowledge on where in a society or a societal structure the environmental water problems, eventually detected, are actually formed and can be counteracted or avoided.

    GIWA differs from many other water initiatives also from the fact that this assessment will lead to results of such a high degree of firmness that a global financing mechanism, GEF, can base its decisions on guidelines for project funding on it.

    An important point of departure is that the GIWA work will not start from the very beginning. To a great extent, the large amount of facts and data already available on international waters will be utilized. GIWA will build on water programmes already made, and close collaboration will be sought with organizations, agencies and individuals already engaged in ‘water work’. Existing data will be compiled, and advantage will be taken of water competence worldwide.

    Is GIWA only about marine water areas?

    No. It is true that marine areas (coastal strips and open sea) prevail among the 66 GIWA subregions, but every marine area receives water from a terrestrial drainage basin. The GIWA work will be governed by a 'drainage basin thinking'. It is all about these couplings between freshwater areas and groundwater basins, as well as between freshwater systems and their continuation into coastal and marine areas.

    Who pays for GIWA?

    The GIWA budget is presently about 13 million US$. GEF funds make up about half of this amount, whereas other major donors are UNEP, the Swedish International Development Co-operation agency (Sida), the Finnish Department for International Development Co-operation (Finnida) and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition, substantial contributions are provided by Kalmar Municipality and Kalmar University. Three of the senior positions in the GIWA Co-ordination Office are funded by the GEF portion of the GIWA budget.

    When will GIWA be ready?

    GIWA is a four-year projects. The assessment will be completed by the summer of 2003.

    Who does what? When will the first results be available?

    The first major step, or phase, will be to establish a global network of co-operating institutes, organizations and groups, including geographical and thematic task teams. The GIWA Steering Group is responsible for guiding the GIWA work on an overall, principal level. The practical work is conducted by a group of specialists - the GIWA Core Team - in the GIWA Co-ordination Office in Kalmar. The compilation of data and facts for the megaregional and subregional assessments will be made in collaboration between various institutes and experts in these regions. In each area, the work will be co-ordinated and led by a Subregional Focal Point. They will, in turn, collaborate in Megaregional Task Teams. Thematic Task Teams, expert groups specializing in various environmental problems, will be at their disposal.

    The next big step will be to elaborate a final version of the GIWA Assessment Protocol. The purpose of such a document is to have a tool, an agreed methodology, for analysing the problems and establishing a causal chain in each of the 66 water subregions.

    When the Assessment Protocol is available, it will be tested in two pilot areas, one of which will be the Baltic Sea. These primary assessments are expected to be ready by February 2000. According to the plan, all 66 assessments are estimated to be available by no later than March 2001.

    On the basis of the subregional and megaregional assessments, the GIWA work will enter into its next phase: analyses, scenarios, and conclusions leading to recommendations and proposals.

    Is GIWA a transparent exercise for anyone to follow?

    It is clearly expressed in the GIWA programme document that GIWA is not to remain a desk exercise. The results are to be easily available and accessible for use in education, information and practical work.

    The GIWA web site has explicitly been launched for the purpose of making it possible for anyone interested to follow the GIWA work. As soon as the Subregional Focal Points and members of the Megaregional and Thematic Task Teams have been appointed, their contact information will be available on the web site. Information on the 66 subregions will gradually be made available, as will basic information about the 23 issues to be addressed in the assessments. The GIWA meta-database will also be freely available through electronic communications.

    Step by step, the subregional and megaregional assessments will be published and made available nationally, regionally, megaregionally and globally. Much effort will made to present the results in an understandable, popular science manner. The GIWA work will, futhermore, be co-ordinated with various educational and information initiatives, including the UNDP IW-Learn Project.

    However, not everyone that wishes to follow the GIWA work has access to the Internet. Many others will, for various reasons, have difficulties in accessing the information available on the GIWA web site. Therefore, reports and analyses will also, to as great an extent as possible, be published in hard copy and on CD-ROMs. In addition, a GIWA Newsletter will be published and distributed by fax and on the web site.

    Why is a global water programme located at the small Kalmar University in Sweden?

    Already at an early stage, there was a keen interest by representatives of the Natural Resources Management and Agenda 21 Research School (NRM&A21) at Kalmar University in bringing GIWA to Kalmar. When UNEP and GEF looked internationally for parties interested in 'housing' the GIWA Co-ordination Office, Kalmar Municipality rapidly offered to provide such resources. The offer was accepted by UNEP and GEF. The location at the Kalmarsund Laboratory, with the university centre for water-related research, was self- evident. Before long, the Laboratory will also house the NRM&A21, and there will be a close connection between the NRM&A21 and the GIWA work.

    How will information on the GIWA work be available on a continuing basis?

    • The GIWA web site:
    • The GIWA Newsletter.
    • Contacts with Subregional Focal Points and Megaregional Task Teams.
    • Contacts with the GIWA Co-ordination Office at Kalmar.

  • 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