INTOSAI – Working Group on Environmental Auditing

Focus on water: International organizations and environmental institutions

Most of the international agreements have a secretariat or a coordinating bureau that gathers and publish all kinds of useful information (for example, how the agreement should be interpreted and implemented and on the performance of member states). The secretariats are also involved in monitoring, evaluating, and organizing conferences. Most secretariats provide guidance on how to implement agreements, and some can even advise and actively help signatories. These secretariats can be a very useful source of information for SAIs that are preparing and executing audits.

United Nations

UNEP United Nations System - Wide Earthwatch Freshwater

Under the United Nations (UN) framework, there is the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). This system-wide freshwater programme, conducted by 23 UN agencies and commissions, is committed to monitoring progress on water-related targets for health, food, ecosystems, cities, industry, energy, risk management, economic evaluation, resource sharing, and governance.

The WWAP reports to the international community on the state of the resource at regular intervals. The first World Water Development Report, Water for People – Water for Life report was made in March 2003 and includes contributions from each agency, country tables, and seven pilot case studies of watersheds in different socio-economic and environmental settings. Information about each partner agency, the assessment programme, and the case studies is available on the WWAP website.

All of these organizations are engaged in activities and programmes relating to water and the environment. The programmes often help national governments develop their environmental policies, by providing information and practical guidance to national and regional authorities, particularly to developing countries. These organizations are also active in monitoring and evaluation. The information that SAIs get from these international organizations can help them audit their governments to determine whether they make good use of the possibilities offered by these international organizations and programmes.

The following are examples of activities and programmes developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are:

  • The Dams and Development Project promotes dialogue on improving the decision-making, planning, and management of dams and their alternatives and is based on the World Commission on Dams core values and strategic priorities.
  • The Global Programme of Action for the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities prevents the degradation of the marine environment due to land-based activities.
  • The Mediterranean Action Plan protects the environment and fosters development in the Mediterranean Sea . The plan covers coastal zone management, pollution assessment and control, protection of ecosystems, and preservation of biodiversity.
  • A total of 69 countries, all over the world, participate in UNEP's Global Environmental Monitoring System's freshwater quality programme. It is a multi-faceted water science programme for understanding freshwater quality issues throughout the world. Major activities include monitoring, assessment, and capacity building. The programme provides an annotated digital atlas of global water quality, with data on water quality in 84 major river basins.

The following are examples of activities and programmes developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are:

  • The UNDP and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) implemented the Partnership for environmental management for the seas of East Asia (PEMSEA). One of the programme's main components is integrated coastal management.
  • The UNDP Sustainable Water Management Programme is concerned with the development of global and regional strategies for sustainable water management. The UNDP Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and child mortality also include two specific water-related goals: to reduce by half the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by the year 2015, and to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources, by developing water management strategies that promote both equitable access and adequate supplies at regional, national, and local levels.
  • The UNDP established the Drylands Development Centre to implement the Convention to Combat Desertification and support countries affected by desertification and drought. The Centre provides assistance to countries in ways that include policy advice, technical support, and institutional capacity development, etc.
  • The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) hosts the International Programme for Technology and Research in Irrigation and Drainage (IPTRID). This internationally funded programme promotes technology and research in irrigation and drainage technology in developing countries. Its objectives are to improve technology and management to increase food production and agricultural commodities, to enhance food security, and to help eliminate poverty—and still give due regard to the needs of the environment.

More information about international projects, organizations, and international agreements can be found at the UNESCO Water Portal. The site provides simple access to the websites of secretariats, agreements, and regional offices of UN international organizations.

World Bank

World Bank; Topic water

World Health Organization (WHO)

World Health Organization, Health topics: water

Europe and the European Union

EUROPA European Commission - Water

European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET) - Water

European Environment Agency - Water

European Environmental Bureau - Water

Other International or Regional Organizations

OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – Water

South Pacific Regional Environment Programme – The International Waters Project

Links to capacity builders

The WGEA and the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) entered into a partnership to develop and deliver a two-week training course on environmental auditing for SAIs in 2002-03. Water was one of the four key environmental issues covered in the course. Information about the training programme is available at IDI/ WGEA – Environmental Auditing Training Program. SAIs may contact IDI to receive the training material for the two-weeks workshop