International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Key Principles of the TDA/SAP Process

The following are some of the key underlying principles incorporated into the TDA/SAP approach.

Adaptive management

Adaptive management can be defined as a systematic, rigorous approach for deliberately learning from management actions with the intent to improve subsequent management policy or practice. Simply put, the TDA/SAP adaptive management cycle involves assessing the problem (through the TDA), formulating a strategic plan with robust indicators (through the SAP), implementing the actions identified in the SAP and finally monitoring the outcomes, both short-term and long-term and adapting the plan accordingly.

The Ecosystem Approach

The Ecosystem Approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way, and which recognizes that people with their cultural and varied social needs, are an integral part of ecosystems.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development underpins all GEF IW Projects. The goal of the International Waters focal area is the promotion of collective management for transboundary water systems and subsequent implementation of the full range of policy, legal, and institutional reforms and investments contributing to sustainable use and maintenance of ecosystem services.

Poverty Reduction

Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, and a violation of human dignity. It is an aim of the TDA/SAP Approach to actively encourage Poverty Reduction or alleviation practices to be incorporated into the SAP development process to reduce the level of poverty in communities, regions and countries.

Gender Mainstreaming

Gender Mainstreaming was defined by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1997 as 'a strategy for making women's as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of...the policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated.' It is the intention of the TDA/SAP Approach to actively encourage gender mainstreaming practices to be incorporated into the SAP development process to ensure that all individuals, male and female, have the opportunity to participate and benefit equally.

Climate Variability and Change

Climate Variability and Change is now an inescapable reality. Human activity is leading to ever increasing levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and steadily compromising the natural resources needed to maintain the health of the planet.

Climate change has been recognised as a significant driver (or root cause) of a number of transboundary problems in international waters. Consequently, the effects of climate change (in terms of cause and impact) need to be well understood during the TDA/SAP process to ensure that future interventions in GEF international waters projects are both resilient and adaptive.

Collaboration With Other Approaches

In order to reduce the replication of effort; encourage more efficient use of resources (financial, time and knowledge); and ensure there is no conflict between approaches, the TDA/SAP process should encourage Collaboration and Integration with Other Approaches including national, regional and international processes, initiatives or plans that have been, or are being developed for the water system.

Stakeholder Consultation and Participation

Stakeholders are any party who may - directly or indirectly, positively or negatively – affect or be affected by the outcomes of projects or programs. Consequently, a wide range of stakeholders are involved in the TDA/SAP process. They can range from the Government, regulatory agencies, businesses, communities, civil society and NGOs.

Stakeholder Consultation and Participation can be defined as the process through which people with an interest (stakeholders) influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources that affect them.

Stepwise consensus building

To ensure an effective TDA/SAP Process, it is important to encourage Stepwise Consensus Building. By including clear stakeholder representation at all stages, consensus-building is more likely, increasing the probability that the outcome will be “owned” by the stakeholders and sustainable in the long-term.


The TDA/SAP process will be in the public domain. Stakeholders should agree to freely share the necessary information and information products, taking care that full recognition is given to information sources.


Parties committing themselves to implementing the SAP must be fully accountable for their actions. Stakeholder groups, sectors and government agencies responsible for implementing the actions proposed within the SAP must be clearly and unambiguously identified.

Inter-sectoral policy building

Responsibilities for water resources development and management are often fragmented over many sectors. Solutions should be cross-cutting throughout the decision-making process in different sectors and at different levels.

In order to develop a pragmatic SAP, direct participation of all key sectors involved in the transboundary problems should be encouraged, to ensure inter-sectoral policies are developed when necessary. This involvement will normally consist of all key government ministries in the participating countries, as well as other relevant stakeholder representatives.

Donor partnerships

The TDA/SAP process is designed to build partnerships between development partners (donors) in order to address the identified problems and, where necessary, to assist governments to cover the costs of baseline actions. An effective donor partnership will act as an incentive for commitment to the SAP and avoid duplication of efforts by the donor community.

Government commitment

Endorsement of the SAP as a binding agreement between governments should be an important management objective of the process. If the process has been conducted in a stepwise manner, this final step is achievable. A SAP that does not involve a high level of formal commitment is unlikely to be taken seriously as a roadmap for policy development and implementation.