Transboundary basins account for roughly 60% of global freshwater resources, serving 2.8 billion people, or 42% of the global population. Of 192 countries, 153 share transboundary water resources. These include 310 shared rivers and lakes, and 592 transboundary aquifers. As water bodies cross political jurisdictions, it becomes increasingly challenging to identify commonly accepted solutions to satisfy competing uses. Therefore, cooperative transboundary solutions are crucial to obtain outcomes that are in the best interest of people and ecosystems. Governance of transboundary waters requires cooperation among stakeholders across sectors and states.
The unique mandate of GEFs International Waters (GEF IW) Focal area to support transboundary cooperation in shared marine and freshwater ecosystems has proven successful in achieving long term benefits. Complex shared and transboundary water ecosystems cut across a myriad of sectoral needs and themes while not being bound by political boundaries. Consequently, setting effective policy goals, coupled with investments, requires working at all scales, with a range of stakeholders, in the public and private sectors and across the watershed from source-to-sea and beyond.
In order to meet these challenges head on, the new GEF-7 Programming Directions provide the strategic framework for the next cycle of the GEF investments (2018-2022) and guidance to existing projects under implementation on crucial areas of capacity development. One of the key objectives under the strategy focuses on enhancing water security in freshwater ecosystems. GEF support will focus on interventions in shared basins where water stress creates a challenge but also can be a driver and opportunity for cooperation. GEF interventions will prioritize preventative actions in transboundary basins facing multiple stressors and hence potential for conflict on national and regional levels. Investment in cooperation among countries in shared basins can be one avenue to increase interaction among countries and enhance trade and transport of goods and services. These investments can, consequently, create common interests and provide an entry point for regional integration and peaceful country relations.
To support this objective and prepare the focal area and others to take action, GEF IW:LEARN is driving the development of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Governance for Transboundary Freshwater Security. Coordinated by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and with contributions from leading organisations, the course will take a nuanced approach by looking at transboundary governance, as it relates to law; negotiations; management; geographical and biophysical constraints; and sustainable financing mechanisms.