International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Identifying and prioritising transboundary problems

The identification of transboundary problems is a crucial part of the TDA/SAP process as a whole and the TDA development phase in particular since those that are not identified at this stage may not be captured at a later stage.

The difficulty and effort involved in this initial stage will vary widely depending on the particular circumstances of the region. Generally, the key determinants are likely to be the extent to which:

  • Potential transboundary problems have been the subject of scientific research at the national, regional and/or transboundary level; and
  • Particular environmental problems have already been recognised as essentially transboundary in nature

A key to TDA development and the ultimate success of the TDA/SAP process is the importance of prioritisation - an integral part of any strategic planning process. Because there are often limited available resources, prioritisation helps to identify which transboundary problems need to be considered further in the TDA.

It will not always be possible to produce a strict ordering of the transboundary problems. There may be problems considered of equal importance, or there may be so much uncertainty that the ordering is unreliable. It is not essential to aim for a “perfect” strict ordering. The important thing is to distinguish those problems that should be considered further in the TDA from those that need not.

For the purpose of the initial transboundary problem prioritisation, the problems need to be assessed by reference to criteria - features of a problem that contribute to its relative importance. There is no single set of criteria that could be employed in every TDA. Each TDA will be different. Similarly, the importance given to each criterion will vary, depending on the views of those doing the prioritisation.

An example of a collaborative workshop for identifying and prioritising transboundary problems is given here.  A number of projects have successfully used this approach including: