Advancing upstream–downstream cooperation through the Healthy Rivers, Healthy Oceans Programme

At the UN 2023 Water Conference, GWP joined partners to highlight the source-to-sea approach as a key holistic measure to achieve SDG 6 through new sectoral linkages, as well as SDG 13, 14 and 15.

The discussion on 23 March brought together two water communities that seldom collaborate: freshwater and marine. Showcasing various practical experiences of source-to-sea implementation from downstream and upstream stakeholders has fostered a shared understanding and brought new solutions.

Failures in water management often spill over into other water sectors. Traditionally water governance frameworks focus on one sector or a segment of the water cycle – failing to holistically address systemic issues. Consequently, fragmentation of policies, procedures and regulations applicable at only basin, country or regional level produces outcomes without accounting for the upstream or downstream impacts.

This fragmented governance presents a strong case for implementing the source-to-sea management approach, which ensures that the whole water cycle benefits by widening the decision-making perspective and bridging the gap between freshwater and ocean management systems.

As underlined by Dimitris Faloutsos, Deputy Regional Coordinator of GWP Mediterranean, GWP is already implementing several projects in the Mediterranean in which both upstream and downstream stakeholders are engaged and inclusive dialogue is essential to enable cooperation and bridge marine and freshwater sectors. The work of the panel (of the event 23 March) on source-to-sea will bring experts together to identify the enablers for cooperation.

Endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Science, the Healthy Rivers, Healthy Ocean (HRHO) programme provides an excellent framework for source-to-sea action. As a joint commitment between GWP, the Stockholm International Water Institute and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the HRHO programme will become a global vehicle to accelerate source-to-sea action. As a key outcome of HRHO, the source-to-sea approach will be implemented at basins around the world, leveraging innovative technology based on contributions from the private sector.

As a commitment under the Water Action Agenda, GWP and partners pledge to implement the HRHO programme, which will run from 2023 to 2030, to realise science, governance and technological solutions that consider the interdependencies between land, freshwater, coastal and ocean systems to advance the achievement of the freshwater- and ocean-related SDGs (notably SDG6 and SDG14). GWP will lead the programme, integrating lessons learned from previous regional dialogues and facilitating upstream–downstream collaboration. Find out more