International Waters

The GEF International Waters (IW) focal area addresses sustainable development challenges faced by countries sharing transboundary surface, groundwater, and marine systems. 70 percent of the World is covered by Ocean, and 60 percent of the land lies in transboundary surface and groundwater basins. Most water systems are connected and transboundary, hence are under the coverage of GEF IW mandate. These water systems know no national boundaries and generate ecosystem services and products for human beings, generally serving as transbdounary lifelines. These waterbodies have suffered a trend of environmental degradation, in terms of water quality, ecosystem sustainability and environmental services and goods. The world is calling for effective actions to reverse this trend.

Project Types

SGP's IW portfolio promotes sustainable international waters management through regionally connected community-based activities. In GEF-5, SGP will focus its IW activities on freshwater surface waterbodies such as rivers and lakes, as well as regional seas and coastal areas. SGP may also pilot community-based underground water management in partnership with other programs and initiatives. Eligible activities for SGP funding may include:

  • Conservation and rehabilitation of coastal habitats (mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass and other types of wetlands)
  • Fresh water resource use and management;
  • Land-based pollution prevention and reduction;
  • Sustainable fisheries management;
  • Protection and sustainably use of ecosystem services and goods;
  • Protection of forests and reforestation in river basins;
  • Creation of alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on fisheries and other natural resources;
  • Capacity development and knowledge sharing among communities on water management


In addressing transboundary water issues, the SGP IW focal area establishes systematic linkages with regional mechanisms and fostering inter-community learning through regional communities and non-governmental organization (NGO) networking in connection with GEF full-sized projects' networking of government officials, scientists, experts and technical staff around a transboundary waterbody. SGP takes on regional approaches in IW focal area by promoting a coordinated and focused portfolio in a shared waterbody targeting regionally identified priorities and issues.

For example, in the South China Sea, Between May 2009 and May 2011 a total of 31 projects in six countries were executed under the partnership between SGP and UNEP/GEF South China Sea Project using $554,702 from the SCS Project and $541,574 from the SGP, with a total co-financing of $808,495. In total the SGP projects have brought 2,079 hectares of seagrass, 2,388 hectares of coral reef and 12,618 hectares of mangrove under some form of management; which represents 8%, 4.5% and 0.7% of the 2015 targets of the Regional Strategic Action Programme of the South China Sea.

Some country programs undertook a programmatic approach to developing and implementing international waters projects. In Indonesia, based on the previous successful experiences in coastal environmental management in in Serangan and Les village, Bali, SGP-Indonesia adopted a systematic approach to upscale and replicate the good experience of Bali. An overall planning process was undertaken with seven partners resulting in the coordinated development and implementation of a series of projects in two focus areas: Belitung and Batam. To facilitate the inter-project learning and sharing, a partner was particularly tasked with knowledge manage, technical assistance and networking and training. SGP-Indonesia invested $530,000 together with $540,000 co-financing in coastal marine environment. As a result, 10 hectares of coral reef habitat was conserved. 200,000 square meters of seascape was converted into marine park area. Incidents of illegal fishing were reduced by 50%. More than 60,000 coral reef fragments were planted. 22,664 ha of areas were rehabilitated, with more than 40,000 mangroves replanted. There has been an overall increase in awareness and knowledge about the ecosystem resources, and communities support of sustainable use the coastal resources for non-extraction economic uses including tourism development. Such thematic focused approach to international waters management proved to be highly effective, and should be replicated by other mature country programs.

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International Waters Snapshot (Since 1992)

1170 # of Projects

US$ 31,326,910 Total Grant Amount

US$ 15,222,425 Total cash Co-Financing

US$ 26,103,606 Total In-Kind Co-Financing

Portfolio By Region

Asia & the Pacific
Arab States
Europe & the CIS
Latin America & the Caribbean
Global Publications
The GEF Small Grants Programme: Local Action, Global Impact
Youth in Action: Experiences from the Small Grants Programme
Small Grants Programme: 25 Years of Engagement with Indigenous Peoples
The GEF Small Grants Programme Result Report 2018 - 2019
The GEF Small Grants Programme Results Report 2018 - 2019
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Least Development Countries (LDCs): Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Small Island Developing States (SIDS): Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Pacific: Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Arab States: Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Latin America and Caribbean: Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Europe and CIS : Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Asia: Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
The GEF Small Grants Programme in Africa: Fact-sheet 2017 - 2018
Women as Environmental Stewards: The Experience of the Small Grants Programme
The GEF Small Grants Programme Results Report 2017 - 2018
SGP Annual Monitoring Report 2016 - 2017
Blue Economy, Community Solutions
SGP 25th anniversary: Local action, global impact
SGP corporate brochure, 2017
Making Waves: Community Solutions, Sustainable Oceans
Small Grants Programme Annual Monitoring Report 2015 - 2016
Small Grants Programme Corporate Brochure - 2015
Scaling up Community Actions for International Waters Management
Guidance Note on How to Plan and Mainstream Community-Based Adaptation at the Local, Sub-National and National Levels
AusAID CBA Project Report - June 2012
SGP Community Action Global Impact
Hands-on Action for Sustainable Development 1192-2002
CWI UNDP Community Water Initiative
Compact - Engaging Local Communities in Stewardship of Globally Significant Protected Areas
Case Studies
Integrated Fisheries and Marine Reserve Management, Mauritius
Reducing sea turtle bycatch, Malasyia
Communities Management of Marine Protected Areas, Turkey
Marine Biodiversity Conservation in the Tun Mustapha Park, Sabah, Malaysia
Community-based Coastal Conservation in Belitung, Indonesia
Mangrove Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries in Playa Florida, Cuba
Developing Ecotourism in Salamansa, Cape Verde
Sustainable Seaweed Production, Belize
Kazakhstan: Green Practices of Kazakhstan
Case study: Our rivers - a challenge to trans-boundary waters
Cameroon: Promoting biodiversity conservation through sustainable Livelihood Options
Community Rehabilitation of Wetlands in Lake Victoria