High-level recognition of the value of source-to-sea approaches at World Water Week 2017 (2017-09-07)

Two high-level speakers at the opening plenary of World Water Week 2017 referred to the importance of applying source-to-sea approaches to make sure our oceans benefit from efforts to address “Water and waste: reduce and reuse”, the theme of this year’s Week. Peter Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly urged the World Water Week participants to appreciate the interconnectedness, since “none would imagine that the state of sanitation and coral reefs are anything but directly connected”. Karolina Skog, Minister of Environment of Sweden pointed out that “to secure our water and oceans we need to go upstream and work with the sources, with the source-to-sea approach.”

Minister Skog also participated in an interactive panel discussion on “Plastic Soup and Dead Zones – Source Prevention for Cleaner Seas” together with Jakob Granit, Director General of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management; Andrew Hudson, Head of the UNDP Water and Ocean Governance Program; Cees van de Guchte, Deltares and Tove Ahlström, Head of Sustainability at the online pharmacy Apotea. “Making the link between SDG 6 on water and SDG 14 on oceans was one of the priorities raised by Sweden at the Ocean Conference”, said Karolina Skog. She further pointed to the fact that around 400 of the nearly 1400 voluntary commitments made at the Ocean Conference address land-based sources of pollution, and made the conclusion that “now we need to work together to keep this momentum”. Andrew Hudson emphasized that the vast majority of marine pollution and plastics come from land – most likely a lot more than the 80 percent figure that is often cited. Tove Ahlström provided an example of how the private sector can contribute, describing how Apotea recently decided to phase out some 200 products that contained micro-plastics. The event was convened by the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management, Deltares, FAO, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management and the UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility. Minister Skog provided the keynote address at the event, which also featured technical presentations from Andreas Frössberg, Keep Sweden Tidy and Olcay Unver, Deputy Director and Amani Alfarra, Water Resources Officer, FAO.

GEF IW:LEARN and partners also organized a World Water Week event entitled Scaling-Up Pollution Control and Wastewater Management From Source to Sea. As part of the panel, Birgitta Liss Lymer from the S2S Platform Secretariat discussed why we see so limited policy discourse between water and coastal management communities. “The tragedy with source-to-sea linkages are that negative impacts are often experienced far downstream from the activities that contribute to them. Upstream stakeholders may not be aware of the extent of impacts they are contributing to, they may not have the capacity to implement the necessary measures or they may lack incentives to invest in pollution reduction measures that will primarily benefit the downstream.”

We need to look upstream to save our oceans and achieve SDG 14 (2017-06-30)

The Government of Sweden, one of the two hosts of the recent Ocean Conference, announced its support to source-to-sea approaches through financial commitment to the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management.

The importance of source-to-sea approaches was emphasized by Ministers, practitioners and UN agencies at several sessions of the Ocean Conference that took place in New York on 5-9 June 2017.

The outcome of the conference “Our Ocean, Our Future: A Call for Action” refers explicitly to the need to significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, “particularly from land-based activities” and to promote waste prevention, develop sustainable consumption and production patterns and adopt 3R approaches.

The Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management, which is supported by the UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility, co-organized two official side-events that the Conference.

The opportunities for coordinated implementation and monitoring of SDGs 6 (on water and sanitation for all) and 14 (on oceans) were discussed by both freshwater and marine representatives from United Nations, donor agencies and private sector at the side-event “Joining hands to help achieve SDGs 6 and 14 – a win-win for freshwater and oceans”. “The SDGs give us the goals and targets, but not the tools on how to get there” said Birgitta Liss Lymer, Programme Manager of the UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility and the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management. “We need to find more effective ways of coordinating and financing development options that benefit both upstream and downstream stakeholders”.

The importance of communicating the multiple gains by investing in measures that would benefit multiple SDGs such as wastewater management, to politicians, were highlighted in the event that also identified opportunities to draw upon existing UN-Water, UN-Ocean, UN agency and other initiatives to ensure strong coordination in the monitoring and implementation of the SDGs. The event also discussed the importance of addressing diffuse sources of pollution from sectors such as agriculture that for some reason did not make it into the SDGs. The event was organized by UN-WaterUN-Oceans and the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management.

From left to right: Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, UN Office of Legal Affairs; Birgitta Liss Lymer, Programme Manager, UNDP-Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Water Governance Facility; Maria van Berlekom, SIDA; Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary-General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Habib El-Habr, UN Environment; Angela Cordeiro Ortigaro, UNESCO; Andrew Hudson, UNDP; Federica Pietracci, Interim Secretary, UN-Water; and Torkil Clausen, Chair, S2S Platform. Photo credit. IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin


The need for a circular economy and sustainable waste management were highlighted by Ministers from Sweden, Germany, the Seychelles and Jamaica at the side-event “Can we achieve SDG 14 without looking upstream? Starting at the source to save the sea”. Barbara Hendricks, Minister of Environment of Germany noted that “the best waste is the waste never produced”, emphasizing the need to involve consumers to achieve behavioral changes. Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), informed that the needs to address the connections between upstream pressures and downstream impacts, to work with the private sector to address plastic and broader issues of circular economy and to break the silos between institutions will be central elements in the next strategy of the GEF. Torkil J. Clausen, Chair of the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management, informed on the opportunity to draw upon the Platform for knowledge generation and exchange of experiences to move forward. The event was organized by the Swedish Government, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Managementthe Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management and the Indian Ocean Commission.

From left to right: H.R.H Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; Carl-Gustaf Lundin, IUCN; Raj Mohabeers, Indian Ocean Commission; Didier Dogley, Minister of Energy, Climate and the Environment, the Seychelles; Kristina Skog, Minister of the Environment, Sweden; and Jakob Granit, Director-General, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management. Photo credit: Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM)


Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), as the Secretariat of the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management, also contributed to the Partnership Dialogue on Marine Pollution by committing to support knowledge exchange and learning on governance and management approaches for more effective water quality management from source to sea. The Partnership Dialogues were held to identify ways and means to support implementation of SDG 14.

New article published on a conceptual framework for the management of resources in a source-to-sea continuum (2017-06-07)

A new open access paper presents a conceptual framework to guide the design of future initiatives aimed at supporting green and blue growth in source-to-sea systems. It has been developed by a team of researchers in close collaboration with the Action Platform on Source to Sea Management.

Current approaches to environmental protection and development on land, along rivers and coastal zones, and in marine environments are struggling to effectively promote sustainability. This is partly due to limited understanding of how ecosystems are linked, and partly due to fragmented governance and management arrangements in the continuum from source to sea that hinders cooperation and strategic overview across connected systems. Meanwhile, the key flows that link ecosystems are being altered by climate change and by an intensification of human activities, which are also expanding offshore where management regimes are typically weak or non-existent.

This paper presents a conceptual framework to guide the design of future initiatives aimed at supporting green and blue growth in source-to-sea systems. It includes a taxonomy of key flows, elements to guide analysis and planning and a common framework for elaborating a theory of change. Assembling a governance baseline and engaging stakeholders are critical elements in the approach. The conceptual framework builds on recent experiences of pro-sustainability action in source-to-sea systems around the world, and the paper applies the theory of change framework to selected case studies in order to develop further insights.

The authors are Jakob Granit, Stockholm Environment Institute / Global Environment Facility Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel; Birgitta Liss Lymer, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI); Stephen B. Olsen, University of Rhode Island; Anna Tengberg, Lund University; Sulev Nõmmann, Stockholm Environment Institute, Tallinn Centre; and Torkil J. Clausen, Stockholm International Water Institute. This research was carried out under the auspices of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It benefitted from an extensive peer review process engaging the GEF partnership and members of the Action Platform on Source to Sea Management. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions made by Ivan Zavadsky, ICPDR; Maria de los Angeles Carvajal, SuMar – Voces por la Naturaleza; David Groenfeldt, Water-Culture Institute; Karin Bjerner, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management; and Caspar Trimmer, SEI. This work was supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Sida, and coordinated through the Secretariat of the Action Platform on Source-to-Sea Management.

The journal paper is available on the website of the journal Water Policy.

Building on this work, an Advisory Document from the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) provides policy recommendations on how GEF investments can be further scaled up to assist the efforts of countries to assist source-to-sea priorities in an integrated way. You can find out more about this work on the STAP website.


Register to the source-to-sea webinar! (2017-04-10)

The source-to-sea webinar series aims to highlight the importance of understanding the cross-disciplinary connections to achieve SDG6 on freshwater and SDG14 on oceans, and the value of integrating efforts to reduce negative effects and maximize potential benefits, where feasible. It is intended to frame the issues and policy options, as well as review some of the most widely used management approaches and how they could better be applied to take account of the source-to-sea continuum.

Coastal and marine environments are heavily impacted by actions taken on land and in river basins. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are integrated and indivisible, balancing social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The relationship between upstream pressures and downstream effects, highlights the importance of coordinating efforts to achieve SDG 6 on freshwater and SDG 14 on oceans wherever possible, and as a minimum, consider potential downstream impacts of different development activities.

The first session in the webinar series takes place on 20 April 2017. For more information on the webinar series, and to register to attend, please visit:

A source-to-sea perspective important to ensure coordinated implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (2017-01-10)

The complex inter-linkages between the SDGs and their targets represent an important challenge that needs to be considered when implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve healthy aquatic, coastal and marine ecosystems and sustained provision of ecosystem services along the source-to-sea continuum, a balance needs to be struck between development objectives and related trade-offs, both upstream and downstream. Stronger integration between the SDGs can be achieved if we implement the 2030 Agenda from a source-to-sea perspective.

The study “Source to Sea – Linkages in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” assesses the relative strength of possible links between SDG 6 on water and sanitation and SDG 14 on oceans. It also examines the links between these two SDGs and the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The study was carried out by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and was commissioned by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM).

Source-to-sea at GEF Council

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided $14.5 billion in grants and mobilized $75.4 billion in additional financing for almost 4,000 projects. The GEF works in a number of focal areas: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Chemicals & Waste, Land Degradation, Forest Management/REDD+, and International Waters. In the area of International Waters, GEF supports projects in programs to address transboundary problems in river basins, lake basins, aquifers and large marine ecosystems and several source-to-sea oriented projects targeting nutrient reduction and/or applying ridge-to-reef approaches and integrated coastal area and river basins management.

The Council is the GEF’s governing board of directors, responsible for developing, adopting, and evaluating policies and programs for GEF-financed activities. The Council members represent 32 GEF constituencies– 16 from developing countries, 14 from developed countries, and two from countries with economies in transition.

Over the past year, the S2S Platform has supported the GEF Scientific and Advisory Panel (STAP) in an assessment of challenges and opportunities of governance and management in the source-tossea continuum. On June 7th, the STAP Information Document “A conceptual framework for governing and managing key flows in a source-to-sea continuum: Summary and policy recommendations for the GEF Partnership” was presented at the 50th GEF Council Meeting, including a set of recommendations for how the GEF can continue to build on its extensive portfolio across different focal areas and further scale up investments to support source-to-sea priorities.

S2S Platform at the GEF International Water Conference “Scaling up GEF investments – from source to sea and beyond – in the context of achieving the SDGs”, 9-13 May 2016, Sri Lanka

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 183 member countries—in partnership with international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector—to address global environmental issues. The GEF International Waters (IW) focal area targets transboundary water systems, such as shared river basins, lakes, groundwater and Large Marine Ecosystems. Today, the cumulative 25-year GEF IW portfolio consists of 242 projects with about US$1.5 billion of GEF grants and $8.7 billion in co-financing invested in 170 different GEF recipient countries. The GEF Biennial International Waters Conference (IWC) is the signature learning event for the GEF IW portfolio.

The 8th Biennial International Waters Conference (IWC8) took place on 9-13 May 2016 in Sri Lanka and was organized under the slogan “Scaling Up GEF IW Investments from Source to Sea and Beyond in the Context of Achieving the SDGs”.

Over the past year, the S2S Platform has supported the GEF Scientific and Advisory Panel (STAP) in an assessment of challenges and opportunities of governance and management in the Source to Sea continuum. During the conference, a session was organized by the S2S Platform Secretariat to introduce the work of GEF/STAP and the S2S Platform and to discuss recommendations for the GEF partnership to support robust program and project design in the source-to-sea continuum. Representatives from GEF/STAP, ICPDR, GWP-Med, SACEP and GEF Small Grants Programme participated as presenters and panelists to the session.

The key messages from the session “Governance and management of resources in a source-to-sea continuum – challenges and opportunities” highlighted the importance of:

  • Political will and incentives for collaboration between upstream and downstream stakeholders
  • Information, which identify sources of problems, to create such political will
  • Options for green and blue economic growth, to provide incentives for collaboration
  • Addressing power differentials among collaborators and stakeholders
  • Governance, to strengthen institutional frameworks and mechanisms with mandates across all geographical segments in a source-to-sea system

The discussion in the session noted GEF’s unique position when it comes to its ability to support source-to-sea initiatives at the transboundary level. There is an opportunity to capitalize upon existing thematic and geographic linkages between the different GEF focal areas in source-to-sea systems and further scale-up efforts to address source-to-sea priorities.

The STAP Information Document “A conceptual framework for governing and managing key flows in a source-to-sea continuum: Summary and policy recommendations for the GEF Partnership” is now submitted to the 50th GEF Council Meeting, which will take place in June 2016.

S2S Platform at World Water Week: The Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation on “Source to Sea Management for sustainable growth and development”

At the S2S event at the 2015 World Water Week, the Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation highlighted the importance of understanding system linkages from upstream to downstream in her keynote address.

 Jakob Granit, GEF/STAP and SEI, presented the work currently undertaken by GEF/STAP and SIWI in collaboration with the S2S Platform, discussing the importance of Governing key flows in a Source to Sea Continuum. The subsequent panel discussion between the Minister and representatives of GEF Secretariat, UNDP, FAO,  Zennström Philanthropies, GWP and Orange-Senqu River Commission emphasized the need to consider land-river-sea linkages to enable the realization of many of the Sustainable Development Goals and highlighted the importance of learning from the experiences made in coordinating the management of land, water, coastal and marine resources from different parts of the world.

S2S Platform at WWF-7: Green investment for blue economy

During the World Water Forum-7, the Action Platform for Source to Sea Management (S2S Platform) organized a session on “Green Investment for Blue Economy – Managing sources for coastal and marine water quality improvements” as part of theme 3.3 Ensuring water quality from Ridge to Reef. The session advanced the discussion on the challenges and opportunities in governance, capacity, financing and monitoring of sources of pollution and their downstream impacts and contributed to the recognition of the importance of coordination between the governance and management of freshwater, land and marine systems and prevention of the pollution of surface, ground and coastal waters and oceans in the Daegu-Gyeongbuk Recommendations to the Ministers at the 7th World Water Forum.

The S2S Platform was established at the WWW in 2014 by key actors from the freshwater, coastal and marine communities to support integrated and innovative approaches to governance and management from source to sea. SIWI acts as Chair of the S2S Platform and is responsible for its secretariat function.

S2S Platform at World Water Congress 2015: The salty dimension of water governance

The World Water Congress Special Session on the “Salty dimension on water governance – the link between upstream management and downstream impacts” examined barriers to and opportunities for managing resources with a “source to sea” perspective, recognizing the linkages between land, freshwater, coasts and marine areas.

The session was organized by the Action Platform on Source to Sea Management including presentations on the work of Marine Scotland, UNEP-GPA, IUCN’s Ridge to Reef initiative and UNESCO’s MedPartnership work on coastal aquifers, followed by a panel discussion. The session reaffirmed the need to recognize multiple uses and trade-offs in the source to sea continuum and to learn from examples of benefit sharing between different zones, recognizing the importance of understanding the different systems from source to sea to better manage the connections and the challenges posed by the division of institutional responsibilities in source to sea contexts.