International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network


Are you new to the GEF IW Community and not yet familiar with the lingo? Then this is the right section for you.

Adaptive management approach
A flexible system which is designed to cope with uncertainty and complexity in natural environmental and social systems, by enabling current information, obtained as part of the management process, to be taken into consideration. It is often referred to as experimental management or "learning by doing".

Describes actions taken in the national interest whilst pursuing sustainable development goals. Thus any problem which can be solved through action by a single jurisdiction is termed the baseline.

Causal chain
A series of statements linking the causes of a problem with its effects. Each link in the chain is forged by answering the question “why? - what is the cause?”

Causal Chain Analysis
Examines the sequence of events that cause environmental and socio economic impacts. The first step of the analysis examines the immediate causes of the issue. The next step studies the sectoral pressures that underlie the immediate causes including a detailed analysis of current governance structures that affect the sectoral or immediate causes (e.g. regulations, public participation, institutions).

Civil society
A loose but useful term referring to those persons or organisations not directly involved in government, many of whom may be stakeholders in a GEF transboundary issue.

Since the GEF funds the incremental costs of projects, with few exceptions (e.g. for enabling activities) GEF projects require additional funding from other sources to cover the national benefits costs. This additional funding component is referred to as co-funding. The incremental cost can be co-financed as well.

Community of Practice
A secure online platform for GEF IW Project Managers that provides a forum to share experiences, and lessons learned in between projects. There are a variety of communities including freshwater and groundwater which are convened by expert facilitators.

Consultants hired by the Executing Organisation for specific technical purposes.

Organisations contributing, or potentially contributing, to project funding.  The Steering Committee normally agrees who is eligible to attend its own meetings as observers.  As well as the normal individual donor involvement, the SAP process aims to encourage donor partnerships.  An effective donor partnership will act as an incentive for commitment to the SAP and will also avoid duplication of efforts by the donor community.

Ecosystem Quality Objectives
Are statements of the ‘vision’ of how the stakeholders would like to see the state of the system in the future. They provide the long-term goal for adaptive management.

Environmental impact
The adverse effect of a transboundary problem on the integrity of an ecosystem. For example, loss of natural productivity and biodiversity as a result of the loss of an ecosystem.

Environmental status indicators
Environmental status indicators are goal orientated and focus on actual improvements of ecosystem quality that usually extend beyond the lifetime of the project. In other words, they are measures of actual success in restoring or protecting the targeted waterbody.

Executing Agency
The agency that is responsible for the day-to-day operations of individual projects. They can be government bodies, other UN agencies, NGOs, universities, etc. The executing agency is responsible to and works closely with the GEF Implementing Agency that administers the project. The executing agency usually provides an individual “task manager” to manage a project.

Experience Note
An Experience Note is a three-to-six page case study of a given project experience. Experiences include successful practices, approaches, strategies, lessons, and methodologies that emerge in the context of transboundary water management (TWM).  Experience notes come in written and video form. The existing catalogue of IW Experience Notes can be reviewed at:

A trained and experienced expert capable of providing technical assistance to the IA for the initial stages of the project including the stakeholder consultation; he/she should be entirely neutral within the process, culturally sensitive and with proven negotiation skills.

Full Project
The primary objective of the TDA and SAP is to provide sufficient evidence to warrant GEF intervention. GEF intervention is provided through Full Project grants.

GEF Secretariat
A staff of 40 based in the USA that reports to the GEF Council and Assembly, ensuring that their decisions are translated into effective actions. The secretariat coordinates the formulation of projects included in the annual work program, oversees its implementation, and makes certain that operational strategy and policies are followed.

Global Environment Facility
Is an independent financial organisation that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities.

Governance Analysis
Describes the dynamic relations within political and social structures that underpin such aspects as legislative and regulatory frameworks, decision-making processes and budgetary allocations.

Immediate causes
(sometimes known as primary causes) are usually the direct technical causes of a transboundary problem. They are predominantly tangible (e.g. enhanced nutrient inputs, and with distinct areas of impact (with the exception of causes such as atmospheric deposition).

Incremental costs
The GEF only funds the "incremental" or additional costs associated with transforming a project with national benefits (the baseline) into one with global environmental benefits.

Institutional analysis
Centres on key institutions or organizations that either have direct mandates for environmental management or whose activities have environmental impacts. Crucially, it is not limited to government agencies, but includes private sector organisations, community-based organisations, academic and research institutions.

Integrated Water Resource Management
Is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

Interministry Committees
Current systems of government are normally sectoral, with a different Ministry for each key sector. To develop an active TDA/SAP programme, direct participation of each involved ministry in each participating country is needed, but the interests of each have to be harmonised. To achieve this inter-sectoral policy building, it is advisable to form National Interministry Committees (or NICs), where each sector has both government representatives and other stakeholder representatives relevant to the sector.

International Waters Conference
A biennial signature learning event which takes the place of the Conference of the Parties for the IW Focal Area. It is an active training and experience-sharing event during which the participants share project results, as well as look into the future of programming within and beyond the focal area. The general objective is to facilitate cross-sectoral and portfolio-wide learning & experience sharing. It is also to solicit advice from the existing IW portfolio on burning issues and assist in assist in building participant capacity in key management and technical areas.

IW Representative
The official in the Implementing Agency responsible for GEF International Waters projects

Logical Framework
A method, or tool, to help one develop a clear framework for what a proposed project will do, like an architectural drawing for a house. It is a method for developing a solid foundation and a clear layout for the Project Brief, and used in monitoring and evaluation of GEF IW projects. It is also widely known as Goal Oriented Project Planning (GOPP) or Objectives Oriented Project Planning (OOPP).

Long-term vision
Links how a region is now with what it is hoped it will be in the future. The development of a long-term vision can only begin once the TDA is complete; the vision that is identified gives structure to the EcoQOs and, ultimately, direction to the SAP.

Monitoring and Evaluation
Is a GEF management tool used to support decision-making, ensure accountability, measure results and impacts of projects and programmes, and extract lessons from a given programme and its projects. M&E is a shared responsibility between the GEF Secretariat and its IAs.

OP Focal Points
Persons appointed by GEF member states to act as their empowered representative to the GEF Council.  Some countries also have GEF technical focal points who act as advisors to their political counterparts.

Process indicators
Focus on the processes or outputs that are likely to lead towards a desirable outcome. They demonstrate actual on-the-ground institutional and political progress in the step-by-step journey to the resolution of these complex problems. They should assist in tracking the institutional, policy, legislative and regulatory reforms necessary to bring about change.

Project Coordination Unit
The project staff, comprising of the project manager (responsible for supervising the staff), other employees of the project, and interns.

Project Document
The final document containing all the details of a project, including budgets, terms of reference, and work plan. The document is signed by the implementing agency and the host country before implementation of the project commences.

Project focal points
A person or persons (often senior government officials) empowered to act as national representatives for project implementation.

Project Implementation Plan
The detailed workplan for the first year of the project’s implementation is a substantive part of the Project Inception Report to be submitted for approval by the PSC. The PIP covers all key activities expected in the first year (with an outline leading to future years), a clear assignment of responsibilities for all tasks and activities; A detailed time-line indicating milestones and other deliverables expected in the first year, including expected meetings, reports, etc. and links to the project budget.

Project Inception Report
Annual review of the GEF project Portfolio to provide a comprehensive overview of the portfolio and trends in performance, and to highlight themes or issues that may lead to refining improving project design and management, and identifying issues for further consideration, and lessons learned. The PIR’s conclusions are published in the GEF Project Performance Report.

Project Management Unit
Comprises of supporting staff members engaged by the Executing Agency to work with the PM under his/her supervision.

Project Manager
Sometimes known as the Chief Technical Advisor (CTA). The person responsible to the Executing Agency for project implementation at the local level.

Results Note
A GEF IW Results Note is a 1-2 page summary sheet of results from a GEF IW Project (at any given phase of the project). Results notes link closely to the GEF IW Tracking Tool, which remains the principle direct monitoring and evaluation tool for the GEF Secretariat to monitor project progress.  To view existing Results Notes visit:

Root causes
Root causes are often related to fundamental aspects of macro-economy, demography, consumption patterns, environmental values, and access to information and democratic processes. Most of these are beyond the scope of GEF intervention, but it is useful to document them because some proposed solutions may be unworkable if the root causes of the problem are overwhelming and actions taken nearer to the root causes are more likely to have a lasting impact on the problem.

SAP Development team
Team of technical specialists appointed by the PM with the agreement of the Steering Committee in order to undertake the technical studies for the SAP. It should include specialists in technical, legal, financial and public policy issues. The SAP formulation team should also include members of the TDA Development Team for continuity.

Short-term targets
Define the pragmatic steps towards achieving agreed EcoQOs. The timescale of an EcoQO may be decades while a shorter-term target would be monitored and reported on over a period of 1 to 10 years. Targets may be environmental, such as some sort of water quality indicator or species abundance, or they may be more closely linked to societal factors such as the proportion of human sewage which is now being treated to secondary level. They should be unambiguous and easy to communicate to the public.

Socio-economic impacts
Are the adverse effects of a transboundary problem or its environmental impacts on human welfare. For example, increased costs of water treatment, or illness due to pollution.

Stakeholder analysis
As a prerequisite for Full Project approval, a stakeholder analysis must be conducted. This goes much further than the initial stakeholder consultation. It seeks to verify the interest of groups and individuals in the project concept. The analysis must also include information on affected populations.

Stakeholder consultation
To generate awareness, and create local capacity, it is essential to involve all stakeholders. A stakeholder consultation is a formal process designed to identify the main stakeholder groups (and their representatives) and to solicit their opinions on the main transboundary issues in the region.

Stakeholder representative
A person with the authority to act as spokesperson for a group of stakeholders.

Anybody with an involvement in, or affected by the problem or its potential solutions. This may include Government Ministries, Non-Governmental Organisations, Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Fisheries, Religious bodies, the local population and any other affected member of civil society.

Steering Committee
Typically, the central group formed to oversee the project. The committee is a body consisting of project focal point representatives (and technical advisors where appropriate), representatives of the donors and implementing and executing agencies, plus other stakeholder and civil society representatives.

Strategic Action Programme
Is a negotiated policy document which should identify policy, legal and institutional reforms and investments needed to address the priority transboundary problems. Endorsed at the highest level, it establishes clear priorities for action to resolve the priority problems which were identified in the TDA. The preparation of a SAP is a cooperative process among the countries of the region.

Stress reduction indicators
Relate to project objectives or outcomes. In particular, they focus on concrete actions that reduce environmental stress. They indicate the rate of success of specific on-the-ground actions implemented by collaborating countries. Often a combination of stress reduction indicators in several nations may be needed to produce detectable changes in transboundary waters.

TDA Development Team
A regional body formed by the OP Focal Point to provide technical advice on the initial project formulation and subsequently to undertake the technical process of TDA formulation and proposals for long-term EcoQOs. The team should be broadly representative of stakeholders but entirely technical in nature.

TDA/SAP process
The development of a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) followed by the formulation of a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) is a requirement for most projects proposed for financing in Operational Programmes 8 and 9 of the GEF International Waters Focal Area.

Tracking Tool
The GEF International Waters (IW) Tracking Tool (TT) is designed to support GEF’s new approach to Results-Based Management. The TT provides reporting of outcomes at the level of Objectives and the IW portfolio level as well as for targets associated with the Replenishment. The TT allows GEF Agencies and the Secretariat to monitor and aggregate individual project results at CEO Endorsement, Mid-term and Project Closure.

The majority of GEF-funded IW projects are concerned with water-related environmental problems which transcend the boundaries of any one country, hence transboundary. Consequently, the environments include marine and freshwaters (including wetlands, lakes, rivers and aquifers) that are shared by different countries.

Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis
A TDA is an objective assessment that uses the best available verified scientific and technical information to examine the state of the environment and the root causes for its degradation. The analysis is carried out in a cross sectoral manner, focusing on transboundary problems without ignoring national concerns and priorities.

Transboundary problem
A transboundary problem is any form of anthropogenic degradation in the natural status of a water body that concerns more than one country. Anthropogenic means caused by the activities of people rather than natural phenomena. A transboundary problem can originate in, or be contributed by, one country and affect (or impact) another.

Underlying causes
Are those that contribute to the immediate causes of a transboundary problem. They can broadly be defined as underlying resource uses and practices, and their related social and economic causes.