HomeNewsNew Gef Publication Capturing 20 Years Ocean Sustainability Impacts Highlights Pemsea’s Work

New GEF Publication Capturing 20 Years of Ocean Sustainability Impacts Highlights PEMSEA’s Work

Oceans provide over US$1 trillion annually to the world economy in market goods and services and many times that in non-market amenities. Yet, our oceans are under growing threat from unsustainable practices, including over-fishing, land-based sources of pollution, invasive species and habitat destruction, compounded by global climate change. 

The science-based management and governance of shared transboundary marine ecosystems is the focus of a wide-ranging collection of stories in a new publication, From Coast to Coast: Celebrating 20 Years of Transboundary Management of Our Shared Oceans, launched during Oceans Day, held on the sidelines of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris. 

“Oceans are vital for regulating the climate, maintaining biodiversity and for global food security.  More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal areas for their livelihood and subsistence,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.  “At a time when our oceans and the services they provide are under tremendous threat, this publication demonstrates that shared governance among nations is possible with benefits to people worldwide. The manner in which we treat the oceans over the next few decades will determine whether economies will be able to thrive well into the future,” she said.

The GEF, the largest investor in transboundary water cooperation, has financed over US$1.5B in grants to over 170 countries, which has leveraged an additional $7.0B in co-financing. GEF initiatives have enhanced global and regional cooperation and led to improved ecosystem health, services and human wellbeing through stronger governance at regional, national and local levels. The GEF has supported 23 marine and coastal projects in which multiple countries collaborate on strategic, long-term ocean governance of transboundary resources. 

From Coast to Coast showcases the GEF IW large marine ecosystem and coastal area management portfolio, particularly how it has contributed to: 1) improved global and regional cooperation (e.g., conventions, commissions) in addressing priority transboundary water issues; and 2) improved ecosystem health and services and human wellbeing by addressing particular trans-boundary concerns through improved governance at regional, national and local levels.

The publication features Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) and its leadership in the adoption and implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA) by 12 countries as a driving force in the region for fostering integrated coastal management across 14% of East Asia’s 234,000 km coastline, benefiting over 146 million people.

Other ocean successes from around the world highlighted in the publication include:

  • Establishment of the Benguela Current Commission, the world’s first intergovernmental, cross-sector large marine ecosystem commission, which is now fully financed by the three governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa; and
  • Adoption of the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme by 31 ministers from 22 different countries, which sets 10 year priority actions for shared ocean governance in the region.

“This publication highlights how GEF grant funding has been very effective in helping to transform key ocean sectors such as shipping, fisheries and coastal wastewater management, at global, regional and national scales, on a path towards sustainability.  UNDP is proud to have several of its GEF International Waters programmes highlighted in this volume.” said Andrew Hudson, Head of the UNDP Water & Ocean Governance Programme.

A collaboration of the Global Environment Facility’s IW:LEARN project, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, the publication contains six chapters with results and innovations from over twenty GEF International Waters projects spanning a variety of investments on integrated coastal management, pollution reduction, sustainable fisheries and safe shipping. 


The Global Environment Facility (www.thegef.org) is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations, and private sector to address global environmental issues.  Serving as the financial mechanism for several international environmental conventions, since 1991, the GEF has provided over $14B in grants and mobilized in excess of $70 billion in additional financing for more than 4,000 projects in more than 165 developing countries.  For 24 years, developed and developing countries alike have funded development projects and programs on biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, and chemicals and waste.  

The United Nations Development Programme (www.undp.org/water) has established itself as one of the leading international organizations supporting the improved governance of transboundary water bodies. As a GEF implementing agency, UNDP offers countries specialized technical services in relation to waters and oceans. UNDP manages portfolios on integrated water resources management; multi-country management of transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers; multi-country LME management; and climate change adaptation. UNDP-GEF projects in the IW focal area aim to achieve a comprehensive, ecosystem-based approach to the sustainable management of international waters and to address both development and ecological needs at global, regional, national and local levels (i.e., GEF Small Grants Programme). In terms of implementing GEF IW projects, UNDP has consistently delivered results through a broad range of international transboundary water interventions including the high-level adoption of 17 SAPs (eight in LMEs), eight of which are currently being implemented. 

GEF IW:LEARN (iwlearn.net) is the GEF International Water focal area’s knowledge management mechanism, operating as the central hub of information sharing and capacity-strengthening for the GEF IW portfolio of projects since 2000.  It promotes experience sharing and learning among IW projects and national officials, agencies, and partners. It is implemented jointly by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.

UNU-INWEH (inweh.unu.edu), the “UN Think Tank on Water”, focuses on capacity development through knowledge enhancement and  research-policy bridging.  UNU-INWEH managed the comprehensive IW:Science project, which reviewed the science and learning opportunities from 20 years of transboundary water projects that make up the IW portfolio.

The full report can be downloaded from: www.iwlearn.net/coast2coast

For more information contact

Mish Hamid, IWLEARN, +43 676 415 0281; mish@iwlearn.org
Christian Hofer, GEF Communications, chofer@thegef.org
Leah Karrer, GEF International Waters, 1 202 679-6640 lkarrer@thegef.org
Andrew Hudson, Head, UNDP Water & Ocean Governance Programme,  andrew.hudson@undp.org