Effective knowledge sharing for transboundary water governance: IOC-UNESCO and partners kick off two new GEF flagship projects

For more than twenty years, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has promoted transboundary waters and large marine ecosystem (LME) approaches in marine and coastal conservation and sustainable development policies. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with the technical assistance of IOC and UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), such projects have accumulated experience, knowledge, and wide networks of practitioners whose added value must be channeled through systematic and integrated knowledge management strategy.

From 15 to 16 March, IOC together with UNESCO-IHP will be hosting at UNESCO Headquarters a joint inception meeting with GEF agencies, executing agencies, and other partners to launch the fourth phase of the International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network (LEARN), and the inaugural phase of a similar initiative focused on LMEs – IW:LEARN and LME:LEARN, respectively.

Both projects will be executed by IOC in close collaboration with UNDP. Other partners include UNESCO, UNEP, WWAP, UNIDO, WWF, GRID-Arendal (UNEP information center), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), amongst others.

On the IW:LEARN agenda is an attempt to move projects from a demonstration phase – where successful knowledge management services were piloted, tested and replicated –, towards scaled-up global learning on transboundary waters, working both inside and outside the GEF-financed portfolio. This new phase will harness experience from over 242 projects across more than twenty-two years of GEF and partner activities to advance the current and future portfolios, bolster investment impacts, and improve IW projects’ outcome sustainability by linking them to global and regional processes and frameworks.

Applying the IW:LEARN experience to GEF’s LME portfolio, the LME:LEARN project seeks to improve global ecosystem-based governance of Large Marine Ecosystems and their coasts by generating knowledge, building capacity, harnessing public and private partners, as well as supporting South-to-South and North-to-South learning. A key element of this improved governance will be mainstreaming cooperation between LME, Marine Protected Areas (MPA), and integrated coastal management (ICM) projects in overlapping areas, using learning tools and toolboxes to aid practitioners and other key stakeholders in conducting and learning from GEF projects.

With a strong track record in applying the LME approach both conceptually and on the ground to contribute to the formulation of GEF-financed projects, IOC is well placed to effectively execute both IW and LME:LEARN initiatives. IOC’s existing scientific and capacity development programmes will provide scientific and technical support to the establishment of regional LME networks, provide guidance and knowledge to the development of specific ecosystem-based management tools, and contribute to the implementation of the capacity development plan of the projects through its Global OceanTeacher Academy.

The IW:LEARN and LME:LEARN projects will be implemented through the next four years and three years, respectively. A joint project coordination unit will be established at the IOC Secretariat.