International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

History of GEF IW:LEARN

This page describes the history of the GEF IW:LEARN project

GEF IW:LEARN began as a concept proposal for experimental portfolio-wide knowledge management and capacity building. Although the Project partly benefited from earlier initiatives it actually began its life in December 1996 following a “Needs and Resources Assessment Workshop” under the auspices of the UNDP Strategic Initiative on Oceans and Coastal Area Management (SIOCAM) and the subsequent approval of the PDF-B award. IW:LEARN was approved as a project by Council in June 1998. After a delay in the formulation and approval of the Project Document, the project finally commenced in late 1999.

Pilot Phase (2000-2003)

GEF IW:LEARN Project Profile and Documents: Pilot Phase
The early days of the project saw the launch of a Distance Masters program and the first GEF IW Conference (IWC) in Budapest, Hungary, 2000. The 2000-2003 pilot phase provided knowledge management training and on-demand technical assistance for GEF IW projects, and piloted the GEF International Waters Resource Centre, the Distance Learning Information Sharing Tool in the Benguela Current region, a virtual coastal zone management course and protected area managers network in the Red Sea region, and the second IWC in Dalian, China. The project tested a suite of complementary of structured learning, information sharing and technical support services, then tested their capacity-building utility within the GEF IW portfolio.  IW:LEARN demonstrated ways GEF IW projects can effectively apply new Information and Communications Technology (ICT)  tools to increase access to transboundary waters information across participating countries. Also tested was the use of inter-project dialogue to clarify the needs of stakeholders with respect to skills development and institutional capacity building. The Pilot Phase then developed a methodology to target IW:LEARN services to emerging GEF IW projects’ needs via “blended learning” – learning which applies face-to-face interactions and distance learning  – across projects and partners.

Operational Phase (2004-2008)

GEF IW:LEARN Project Profile and Documents: Operational Phase

The subsequent Operational Phase of IWLEARN (2004-2008), built on pilot phase lessons, and developed a strategic approach to knowledge management, manifested by a consolidated knowledge management service line: project-project exchanges, targeted training workshops, portfolio-wide learning at the GEF Biennial International Waters conferences, knowledge products on, for example, Payment for Ecosystem Services and Stakeholder Engagement, information management, technical support to website development, regional and global dialogue processes, support for communities of practice and a help desk. Key results of the operational phase included, in brief, 9 targeted trainings (on inter alia, stakeholder engagement, economic valuation, environmental flows, payment for ecosystem services, IWRM planning, LME governance) serving 319 stakeholders from 57 projects, the two most recent Global International Waters Conferences (IWCs), 10 learning exchanges (on inter alia, TDA-SAP preparation, Project Communications, Coastal Zone and Tourism Management, Nutrient Pollution Management, Wetland Restoration, Climatic variability & change, Groundwater, Information Management) serving 23 projects, a content management platform with subsidiary website toolkit, and a DVD on Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). Operational phase outputs also resulted, amongst others, in the advancement of a transboundary water governance process in South Eastern Europe and other achievements, such as the signing of a joint groundwater management protocol.

The ENTIRE structure of the Operational Phase, along with all documents linked to activities is here.

CTI GEF IW:LEARN (2009-2012)

GEF IW:LEARN Project Profile and Documents: CTI IW:LEARN

In 2009, a new GEF IW:LEARN project, implemented by both UNDP and ADB, began implementation, "GEF IW:LEARN: Portfolio Learning in International Waters with a Focus on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands and Regional Asia/Pacific and Coral Triangle Learning Processes" or CTI IW:LEARN. The project is designed to foster structured learning, information sharing, collaboration and replication across GEFs International Waters portfolio through the IW:LEARN network, with a particular focus on the Asia Pacific Coral Triangle Initiative, involving the Governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste. The project incorporates a global component aimed at advancing the oceans, coasts and small island developing states targets of the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and at addressing emerging challenges such as climate change impacts and improved governance of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. The project will contribute to the forthcoming World Ocean Conference to be held in Manado, Indonesia in May 2009, the GEF Fifth Biennial International Waters Conference to be held in Cairns, Australia in October 2009, and the Fifth Global Oceans Conference, to be held in Paris, France, April 2010. The project document and project profile can be accessed here.

GEF IW:LEARN Phase III (2011-2014)

GEF IW:LEARN Project Profile and Documents: IW:LEARN3

Preparations for the next full-size phase of the GEF IW:LEARN project began in earnest at the end of 2009. The project commenced its Project Preparation Grant phase (PPG) with an Inception Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2009. The project was endorsed in December 2010 and the inception took place in March 2011. The project is now operational. 

GEF IW:LEARN Phase IV (2016-2020)

GEF IW:LEARN Project Document: IW:LEARN4

The goal of this phase is to move IW: LEARN from a demonstration phase where successful knowledge management services to GEF IW projects were piloted, tested, and replicated, towards a scaled-up project that becomes a hub for global learning on transboundary waters, working both inside and outside the GEF-financed portfolio. This enhanced role as a global knowledge hub will support the scale-up of GEF IW investments globally, as the project will harness experience from more than 22 years of GEF portfolio and partner activities to improve the current and future portfolios and impacts of investments. GEF IW: LEARN will also help GEF IW projects in improving their project outcome sustainability by linking them up to global processes and frameworks, as well as partners at the regional and basin levels.

GEF IW: LEARN Phase V (2021-2025)

GEF IW: LEARN Project Profile and Documents: IW:LEARN5

The new IW: LEARN phase will focus on proven approaches but also on a suite of new and innovative activities to facilitate the GEF IW Focal Area to implement the GEF7 and GEF8 International Waters Strategy (and prepare for the 9th GEF Replenishment). It will be additionally extended to cater to the needs of SIDS, in particular the priorities adopted by GEF: The Blue Economy, Integrated Resource Management from Ridge-to-Reef, Protected Areas, and Climate Resilience. The new IW: LEARN project will continue supporting the core mandate of the GEF International Waters Focal Area to support transboundary cooperation in shared marine and freshwater ecosystems and assist the project portfolio in achieving long-term benefits.