In making the announcement, Mr. Toepfer reiterated the findings of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), stating 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."
GIWA, a major UNEP-led, GEF-financed, initiative, will address this scientific gap by assessing the key issues and problems facing the aquatic environment over the next four years. The Assessment will focus on the problems of shared, transboundary waters and is designed not merely to analyse the current problems but to develop scenarios of the future condition of the world's water resources and analyse policy options with a view to providing sound scientific advice to decision makers and managers concerned with water resources.
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. Noting that there is a necessity for a region-by-region assessment of water systems which, taken together, would place these issues within a global context, the GEF provided a US $6.5 million financial contribution to this initiative.
The project aims to produce a fully comprehensive and integrated global assessment of international waters encompassing the ecological status of and causes of environmental problems of transboundary freshwater basins and their associated coastal and ocean systems.
"Comparable to the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Biodiversity Assessment, and the Stratospheric Ozone Assessment, spearheaded by UNEP", Toepfer noted, "the Global International Waters Assessment will provide the intellectual leadership in dealing with global environmental problems and threats plaguing transboundary water bodies."
The assessment will be undertaken from the perspectives of: water quality and quantity; associated biodiversity and habitats; their use by society; the societal causes of the regionally identified issues and problems; and scenarios of future conditions based on projections of demographic, economic and social changes associated with the process of human development. It will provide the strategic information needed by GEF and other donors for use at the programmatic level through the provision of a framework for: the identification of regional and global priority areas in the area of transboundary shared water bodies, and decision making concerning appropriate management interventions, including identification of more sustainable approaches to the use of water and its associated resources.
Professor Wramner is a Swedish national with a distinguished career in fisheries and biological diversity. He holds both Ph.D and D.Sc degrees from the University of Gothenberg in Physical Geography with specialization in wetlands. He has recently completed a term as Director-General and Head of the National Board of Fisheries in Sweden, responsible for fisheries policy, research regulation and management. Prior to this, he has held positions as a university professor in applied environmental sciences, as Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and Natural Resources Management and Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment.
Professor Wramner is currently a member of some nine national and international committees, of which he chairs five, including: the National Swedish Council on Biodiversity; SIDA's Advisory Scientific Committee on Land and Water Management; and the Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Sea (ACOPS). His particular research interests focus on research, management and administration of fisheries, environmental conservation with emphasis on marine and biodiversity issues, coastal development, natural resources management and development assistance.
The Coordination Office for GIWA is located at the Marine Biological Centre of the University of Kalmar in Sweden.
For more information please contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of CPI
on tel: (254-2) 623292,
UNEP Spokesman's Office,
on tel: (254-2) 623084, fax: 623692,
In New York, please contact:
UNEP Information Officer,
tel: (1-212) 963-8094, fax: (1-212) 963-7341,
UNEP News Release 1999/34