International Waters

As one of the initial focal areas of GEF, international waters projects help countries to deal with concerns in all types of transboundary water systems, ranging from river basins, lake basins, and groundwater systems, to coasts and large marine ecosystems, where most fisheries exist, to the open ocean. The GEF plays a catalytic role in helping nations making full use of policy, legal, and institutional reforms and investments necessary to address these complex concerns about transboundary water resources. SGP as a corporate programme of the GEF, implemented by UNDP on behalf of all GEF Implementing Agencies and executed by UNOPS, has funded projects involving communities proximate to threatened waterbodies and transboundary threats to their ecosystems.

The GEF collaborates closely with environmental conventions and agreements. Regional and international waters agreements influence GEF initiatives to protect international waters. Although GEF’s international waters focal area does not serve as a financial mechanism for a specific convention, it is associated with many global and regional conventions that are involved with transboundary water systems, mostly at a regional level. GEF interventions are often associated with adopting regional conventions as a show of the government’s commitment to sustainability after the GEF project ends. Coordination among countries is of much greater importance in this GEF focal area than in others.

SGP International waters projects are implemented according to the following GEF operational programmes.
  • OP8 - Water body-based Operational Program
  • OP9 - Integrated Land and Water Multiple Focal Area Operational Program
  • OP10 - Contaminant-Based Operational Program

The following factors make IW different from other GEF focal areas:

  1. No single convention like all other Focal Areas
  2. Large majority of projects are multi-country
  3. Partnerships are key element to success of IW projects
  4. Many have components in other focal areas (focal areas of Biodiversity, Land Degradation, and some POPs)

Because SGP grants are small and are not made to government bodies, SGP’s engagement in the international waters focal area has not involved the participating in SAPs or other arrangements with multiple governments so far. Instead, its international waters projects tend to involve the demonstration of techniques on a small scale to reduce water pollution in a particular transboundary waterbody (such as new methods to reduce pesticide use among farmers) or awareness raising among community members about the impacts of waste on a waterbody, often accompanied by community activities to clean up waste and improve its management (such as the development of a recycling program). Most projects have involved communities in only one country, although some have promoted coordination with other NGOs and CBOs in other countries bordering a waterbody. With a few exceptions, for the most part, past SGP international waters projects have not been formally integrated with SAPs or on-going large or medium-sized GEF projects.

SGP will fund international waters projects under four general circumstances:
  1. In the context of a collaboration with an on-going large or medium-sized GEF project;
  2. Guided by the priorities and institutional structures laid out in TDAs and SAPs produced by completed GEF projects;
  3. In collaboration with well-established multi-country regional agreements with specific plans of action, to which GEF projects may or may not have contributed;
  4. In situations where TDAs, SAPs or other agreements have not been developed, but a primary threat to a transboundary waterbody have been clearly substantiated through other means. When such a threat arises from activities in two or more countries, SGP could fund projects that bring together NGOs and/or CBOs from those countries to address them. When the threat can be shown to stem from activities within a single country, SGP could fund projects involving NGOs or CBOs within that country.

When any of these circumstances do apply, SGP country programmes would seek to identify and fund a coherent set of projects to address threats to the identified transboundary system. If none of these conditions apply within a particular SGP country, then SGP will not fund international waters projects in that country.

SAPs and SGP

A mapping exercise showing all the SAPs involving all GEF countries and especially SGP countries has been done to enable the above approach.

Please download the spreadsheet for guidance.

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