UNDP Report Identifies Factors that Contribute to Successful Water and Ocean Governance Projects
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story highlights

The UNDP Water and Ocean Governance Programme projects highlighted in the report underscore the importance of a stakeholder-oriented approach, with emphasis on transparency, trust building and finance.

An impact story on tackling ballast water shares how countries and industries came together to support improved ballast water management, an outcome the report describes as “one of the most significant environmental achievements in the early part of this century”.

6 February 2019: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released a compilation of impact stories from its Water and Ocean Governance Programme (WOGP). The report aims to identify critical steps and factors in successful water and ocean governance projects, drawing from projects dealing with regional fisheries, transboundary rivers and aquifers, small island developing States (SIDS), large marine ecosystems (LMEs), distribution of water and sanitation services and global shipping.

The publication titled, ‘What Works in Water and Ocean Governance: Impact Stories from the UNDP Water and Ocean Governance Programme,’ illustrates the critical difference between governance and management. According to the report, governance relates to broader relations and rules that regulate the way a whole society or sector acts jointly. Management addresses issues that are primarily tackled by one actor, often within the purview of one organization. The WOGP projects highlighted in the report underscore the importance of a stakeholder-oriented approach, with emphasis on transparency, trust building and finance.

The report highlights the importance of bringing together stakeholders in the pursuit of common interests, such as environmental protection or sustainable services provision. The report emphasizes the importance of both horizontal integration, where stakeholders bring the interest of various groups of actors into the development and planning of a shared vision, and vertical integration that involves multiple levels of an organization or government. An impact story on restoring the Danube river, for example, describes how concerted efforts to achieve policy and regulatory reform among upstream countries and stakeholders helped to reverse negative environmental downstream, contributing to the “world’s first successful reversal of a dead zone.”

Projects have enabled stakeholders to generate results that would have been beyond any of the actors involved by themselves.

An impact story on stopping ballast water stowaways shares how countries and industries came together to support improved ballast water management. The story explains that poor governance of ballast waste stems from the international and cross-boundary character of shipping, the lack of an international legal mechanism requiring the shipping industry to internalize the cost of avoiding invasive alien species’ transfer in ship design and operations, insufficient regional and national ballast water policy and institutional and legal arrangements, limited dedicated financial resources to the problem, and broad unawareness of the issues and management and mitigation approaches, among other challenges.

International response to the issues “remained modest” until UNDP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) joined together to implement the GloBallast Pilot Project in 2000, which laid the groundwork for international and public-private cooperation in ballast water management and raised awareness of the issue of aquatic invasive species globally. The project contributed to the formulation of appropriate ballast exchange and performance standards and an accelerated effort to develop an international framework, leading to the adoption of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments by IMO member States in 2004. The report describes the entry into force of the Convention in 2017 as “one of the most significant environmental achievements in the early part of this century,” and highlights factors that led to GloBallast’s success, including its model for collaboration, cooperation and capacity building.

Similar success stories throughout the report identify factors that contribute to success in water and ocean governance projects. In all of the successful cases featured in the report, projects have enabled stakeholders to generate results and achievements that would have been “beyond any of the actors involved by themselves.” In addition, the report identifies the creation of appropriate policy environments to catalyze finance as “an essential element” in what works in water and ocean governance, and highlights the importance of building an environment of trust and confidence to help actors overcome differences and unpack complex situations.

Among the projects’ achievements, the report notes that they: catalyzed the negotiation, adoption and ratification of an “extremely complicated” international convention to address ballast water; helped implement processes and strategies that set global precedents for how fishing nations and coastal States can collaborate on resource management; established and mobilized innovative global, regional and national partnerships; delivered policy, legal and institutional reforms; facilitated a science-to-policy approach; and utilized innovative modeling applications and techniques. [Publication: What Works in Water and Ocean Governance] [Publication Landing Page] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on GloBallast Conclusion] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Ballast Water Convention Entry into Force]

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