Personal tools

You are here: Home / About us / GEF International Waters Programme

GEF International Waters Programme

GEF International Waters Programme

From the International Waters Program Study - Final Report. Prepared by J. Michael Bewers and Juha I. Uitto for the Global Environment Facility.

GEF’s approach to international waters is set out by the Council in the Operational Strategy document. It calls for a comprehensive approach to water resource management, an approach that is:

“…cross-sectoral, integrates ecological and development needs, and is based on holistic analyses of the carrying capacity of the water environment…The GEF will act as a catalyst to ensure that countries better understand the functioning of their international waters systems, gain an appreciation of how their sectoral activities influence the water environment, and find a means for collaborating with neighboring countries to collectively pursue effective solutions.”

GEF’s international waters focal area includes projects in marine and freshwater systems and are categorized into Operational Programs (OP) 8, 9, or 10. These operational programs are:

• OP 8: Waterbody-Based
• OP 9: Integrated Land and Water Multiple Focal Area
• OP 10: Contaminant-Based

In OP 8, GEF is intended to play a catalytic role in assisting groups of countries to make changes in various sectors (agriculture, industry, etc) so that the particular waterbody and its drainage basin can sustainably support human activities. GEF helps the countries use technical, economic, financial, regulatory, and institutional measures that are necessary to achieve this goal. The long-term objective is to undertake a series of projects to help groups of countries work collaboratively in achieving changes in sectoral policies and activities so that transboundary environmental issues that cause degradation in shared water bodies can be resolved. OP 8 projects focus on seriously threatened water bodies and the most imminent threats to their ecosystems.

OP 9 is broader in scope. Its long-term objective is to achieve global environmental benefits through implementation of projects that integrate the use of sound land and water resource management strategies as a result of changes in sectoral policies and activities that promote sustainable development. Both OP 8 and OP 9 are often multicountry in nature, but OP 9 projects tend to focus on preventive measures rather than remedial, highly capital-intensive measures.

In OP 10, GEF projects are intended to help demonstrate ways of overcoming barriers to the adoption of best practices that limit the releases of contaminants causing priority concerns in international waters. This includes demonstration projects for addressing land-based sources of pollution, projects related to contaminants released from ships or persistent toxic substances, and targeted regional or global projects useful in setting priorities for possible GEF interventions. This operational program also aims to involve the private sector in utilizing technological advances for resolving these transboundary concerns.

In both OP 8 and OP 9, the Operational Strategy recommends the formulation of a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) as an appropriate initial step in helping countries define priority problems, establish commitments for specific actions, and agree on additional interventions for priority transboundary concerns. SAPs are particularly needed where “transboundary concerns, additional needed actions, and incremental costs are not adequately defined.”

The Operational Strategy states that:

“The SAP should provide for a balanced program of preventive and remedial actions, support both investment and capacity-building activities, and identify key activities in the following areas:

• Priority preventive and remedial actions
• Cross-cutting issues and linkages to other focal areas
• Institutional strengthening and capacity building needs
• Stakeholder involvement and public awareness activities
• Program monitoring and evaluation
• Institutional mechanisms for implementation.”

A key element for preparing a SAP among countries is a scientific Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) of priority Transboundary environmental problems. Since this process is associated with many of GEF’s international waters projects, it was closely examined in the program study.


Go to for information on Global Environment Facility International Waters Programme.

Document Actions