International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Advice from the field: What should a SAP look like?


There is no single approach or model used for the SAP document structure. However, irrespective of the approach used, it should be a concise jargon-free document with clear goals and actions, quantifiable time-limited milestones and unambiguous assignment of responsibilities. It is likely that the SAP will contain:

  • An undersigned agreement
  • Executive summary
  • Description of the water system
  • A statement of the priority problems taken from the TDA
  • Principles adopted for solving them
  • Rationale and opportunities for regional cooperation
  • Any joint planning and dispute settlement mechanisms
  • Institutional arrangements
  • Any policy and legal reforms
  • Public participation strategies
  • The vision, goals and priority actions
  • Monitoring and review arrangements and reporting

The SAP can also include a series of annexes giving:

  • Full details of agreed measures at the national and regional levels (including national policy/legal/institutional reforms and investments) and their implementation mechanisms
  • A roadmap or schedule with realistic timelines
  • Process, stress and environmental status indicators
  • Stakeholders and their involvement in the implementation and review process
  • Contact points for the authority responsible for implementation in each country.


A typical high level content list for a SAP and examples of good practice are shown Here. Irrespective of the layout, the SAP document should follow some general principles:

Executive Summary The SAP should have a concise and jargon-free executive summary. A good executive summary will help promote the SAP. Remember, the SAP will be given to politicians, policy makers (national and international), donors and managers. It can almost be guaranteed they will not read the entire document.

Main Text The main text should be coherent and concise. An overly long document will be difficult to navigate and interpret. Worse still, it will not be read. Don’t present too much text or equally too many figures and tables. Supporting data (either figures or tables) can be presented in separate Annexes.

Language Generally, SAPs are written in the predominant UN language for the region. If the SAP is not written in English, a translation would be useful (for the GEF, UN implementing agencies, and many of the international donors). It may be useful to hire a native English expert to fully edit the translated document, particularly one who has experience of the technical language is used.

Technical or workshop Reports Reports should be published separately or as annexes.

Contents List Provide a Content List and a Glossary of all terms employed. Make sure the pages are numbered and the content list numbering corresponds with the page numbering – this is a common and annoying mistake. An example of a typical content list is shown here.

Acknowledgements Include a full list of contributing specialists, and annexes containing lists of identified stakeholders.

SAP for Decision Makers A shortened version of the full SAP can also be produced. Often termed a SAP for decision makers, it provides a long executive summary, together with visuals and graphics summarising how the SAP will benefit the water system, the stakeholders and the participating countries.

Approximate size As with the TDA, the size of the SAP will vary from project to project and from water type to water type. Typically it should be between 80 and 150 pages.