Brief description of the River Basin Initiative


The River Basin Initiative
on integrating biological diversity, wetland and river basin management

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[Reprint of the text of the RBI brochure, version 12 February 2001]

RIVER BASIN INITIATIVE on integrating biological diversity, wetland and river basin management


Rivers and their associated ecosystems and biological diversity provide life support for a high proportion of the world’s population. Worldwide, poor management of land and water resources in many river basins has led to major floods, water shortages, pollution and loss of biodiversity.

Following intense debate over the past three years involving the UN family, the water resource sector and in the biodiversity related conventions, there is now an international consensus on the need for an integrated approach to river basin management, which incorporates ecosystem functions and values.

Guidelines and decisions recently adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Ramsar Convention on Wetlands have set out a strategic approach to ensure the proper management and sustainability of ecosystems and associated biodiversity within river basins. However, practical experiences of these relatively new concepts are scattered worldwide and many agencies and countries are seeking guidance on how to move forward.

Given the above, there is a demand for a mechanism to promote sharing of best practices and issues relating to integrated management of river basins based on an ecosystem approach. This is the basis for the development of the River Basin Initiative.


The Initiative was endorsed by the Conference of Parties of CBD (COP5) in May 2000. It operates under the framework of the Joint Work Plan between CBD and the Ramsar Convention, to support implementation of convention decisions related to better management of inland water ecosystems and associated biodiversity, water resources and wetlands.

The Initiative aims to work in partnership with local, national and international organizations through their on-going and future activities.

CBD Decision V/2 (May 2000)

The Conference of Parties ...Endorses the proposed joint work plan for the period 2000-2001 of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance... which includes a River Basin Initiative, encourages Parties, other governments and relevant bodies to support and participate in the Initiative….

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The River Basin Initiative


To establish a global network to share information and link and support activities where the principles of integrated management of biodiversity, wetlands and river basins are demonstrated.

Operating Principles

The Initiative will be:

  • Country and user driven
  • Complementary to existing activities
  • Undertaken in a partnership manner
  • In accordance with guidance of CBD, the Ramsar Convention and Agenda 21

General Objectives

  • Promote integrated river basin management with an ecosystem approach, including wetland and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
  • Strengthen cross-sectoral dialogue and partnership between the water/land use sector and biodiversity/wetland conservation sector.
  • Support implementation of recent decisions under the CBD, Ramsar Convention and The Hague Ministerial Conference on Water.

Specific Objectives

  • Develop a cross-sectoral partnership with participation at local, country and international levels to advance integrated management of biodiversity, wetlands and river basins.
  • Establish a Knowledge Sharing Network to share experiences and good practices across sectors and between partners in a cost effective manner.
  • Enhance awareness on options for integrated river basin management.
  • Strengthen capacity in selected countries and agencies.
  • Analyse and synthesize information for input to biodiversity, wetlands and water resource related meetings and dialogues.

Expected Outputs

  • An internet-based reference collection and active information exchange network with discussion forums.
  • Established pilot projects/sites demonstrating integrated river basin management.
  • Awareness materials/campaigns/training courses to promote best practices
  • Manuals and review documents providing guidance to governments and practitioners.

Phases of the Initiative

  • Preparatory Phase (May 1999-May 2000)
  • Establishment Phase (June 2000 - May 2001)
  • Initial Operational Phase (June 2001 - December 2003)

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Establishment Phase

Main activities:

  • Further consultations with convention focal points, partner organizations and potential donors.
  • Undertake assessment at country and international levels to identify specific needs and potential contributions.
  • Development of network of partners.
  • Development of prototype knowledge sharing system.
  • Selection of initial demonstration sites/activities.


The key partners are envisaged to be government agencies and NGOs working at the national or river basin level on promoting or implementing integrated management of wetland, biodiversity and river basins.

It is envisaged that a number of international partners including: UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, GEF, GWP, WWF, IUCN, Wetlands International, INBO, ICLARM and IWMI, will share their experiences and offer support to country-based activities.


Organisations operating at the local, country or international levels are encouraged to contact the secretariat if they would like to:

  • receive further information on the Initiative
  • sign up for the Knowledge Sharing Network
  • promote or share information on their activities or experiences
  • become partners in implementing the Initiative
  • provide funds or technical assistance to support the Initiative

For further information please contact:

Mr Faizal Parish, Coordinator,
River Basin Initiative Secretariat,

Global Environment Centre, 7A, Jalan 19/29,
46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, MALAYSIA.
Tel: +60 3 7957 2007; Fax: +60 3 7957 7003

Dr Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General,
Ramsar Convention Bureau,

Rue Mauverney 28, CH-1196 Gland, SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 999 0170; Fax: +41 22 999 0169

Mr Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary,
CBD Secretariat,

World Trade Centre, 393 Saint Jacques Street,
Montreal, Quebec, H2Y 1N9 CANADA.
Tel: +1 514 288 2220; Fax: +1 514 288 6588

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