Negombo, Sri Lanka – Representatives from the UNEP/UNDP/GEF Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Project attended to the 8th Global Environment Facility Biennial International Waters Conference (IWC-8) in Sri Lanka. The meeting gathered over 300 delegates to discuss how to speed up and improve the world’s response to growing pressure on transboundary fresh and marine water resources.
Oceans are vital for regulating the climate, maintaining biodiversity and for global food security. While, transboundary water resources, whether rivers, basins or aquifers, link populations of neighbouring countries and support the incomes and livelihoods of billions of people worldwide.
Yet, today, oceans are rapidly being degraded mainly by land-based activities. Almost 60% of fish stocks are estimated to be fully exploited, while coral reefs—home to 25% of all marine species—are particularly threatened. And, our planet’s freshwater sources are being rapidly degraded by a range of global pressures such as population growth, pollution, food shortages and a changing climate.
In response to such challenges, over 80 countries met at IWC-8 in Sri-Lanka and lessons from 70 active projects were shared to help address the conference theme of Scaling Up Investments from Source to Sea in the Context of Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNEP/UNDP/GEF Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS Integrated Water Resources Management Project actively participated in the conference. It was represented by the demonstration project managers and national focal points from Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Cabo Verde as well as the implementing agencies (UNEP and UNDP) and executing agency (UNOPS).
The rationale was that Small Island Development States (SIDS)—countries with the most resource-strapped and vulnerable communities—need to respond fast and innovatively to meet the SDGs and other international commitments. Moreover, given the very clear linkages between upstream watershed management and the welfare of downstream coastal ecosystems, SIDS are leading the world in applying a source to sea approach that actively integrates the IWRM methodology.
Through carefully crafted sessions, the 20 representatives from the IWMR AIO SIDS project explored and deliberated on a range of issues, such as cooperation frameworks, investment tools, sharing of technical and political solutions and techniques. His Excellency Hon. Mr. Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of Environment and Energy of the Maldives was one of the guest of honour who attended the high-level segment of the conference through the support of the project.
The UNEP/UNDP/GEF Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS Integrated Water Resources Management Project supports Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Cabo Verde to advance on IWRM and/or integrated coastal management policy and planning. Through the International Water (IW) portfolio, the GEF has supported 34 SIDS in the world to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of fresh water and coastal resources governance.
The GEF Biennial International Waters Conference (IWC) is the signature learning event for the GEF IW portfolio. The IWC objectives are to facilitate cross-sectoral and portfolio-wide learning and experience sharing.