BRIDGE - Building River Dialogue and Governance

The BRIDGE (Building River Dialogue and Governance) Project aims to build water governance capacities through learning, demonstration, leadership, and consensus-building, in particular in transboundary river basins.

The BRIDGE Project is financed by the Water Diplomacy Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC).

Since 2012, BRIDGE is implemented in 9 transboundary river basins:

  • South America: Zarumilla river (Ecuador-Peru), Catamayo-Chira river (Ecuador-Peru), Lake Titicaca basin (Peru-Bolivia)
  • Mesoamerica: Coatan river (Mexico-Guatemala), Goascoran river (Honduras-El Salvador), Sixaola river (Costa Rica-Panama)
  • Mekong region: Sekong (Vietnam-Lao PDR-Cambodia), Sre Pok (Vietnam-Cambodia), Sesan river (Vietnam-Cambodia)

Since 2014, following basins in Africa have been added to the BRIDGE project portfolio: 

  • West and Central Africa: Mano River (Liberia and Sierra Leone), Lake Chad (Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon)
  • Horn of Africa
  • Eastern Africa: Pungwe River (Mozambique and Zimbabwe), Lake Malawi/Niassa/Nyasa (Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique)


Champions Network

Champions Network

Photo: IUCN Water

What is water governance?

Water governance sets the ‘rules of the game’ for the way water is managed. It determines how, or even whether, sustainable water resource management is implemented. Poor water governance results in degradation and over-allocation of water resources, is a cause of vulnerability for poor people and loss of biodiversity, and leads to weaker and less resilient livelihoods and economic growth.

Water governance is organised according to policy, laws and institutions in a country. In transboundary basins, good water governance requires the countries sharing waters to cooperate.

Water Governance Demonstrations Catalyse Solutions

‘Water Governance Capacity’ is how well a society is able to implement effective water management through transparent, coherent and cost-efficient policy, law and institutions. ‘Water Governance Capacity’ is built most effectively where stakeholders participate and it is coordinated from local to national and transboundary levels. In practical terms, building ‘Water Governance Capacity’ takes place through integration of:

• consensus building in multi-stakeholder dialogues and forums;
• learning, capacity building and knowledge exchange among decision-makers and stakeholders;
• support for national policy, legal and institutional reforms;
• demonstration of tangible benefits for local, national or river basin level priorities for development;
• support for confidence building, cooperation, dialogue and agreements among countries sharing transboundary basins.

The BRIDGE project will use these approaches to catalyse transboundary cooperation, for better water security and faster progress on for example safe water supply and sanitation, ecosystem management and water resources development that is sustainable.

Expected results:

• Transboundary governance reforms are implemented
• Negotiation and understanding of water governance and sharing benefits are improved in 9 watersheds
• New multi-stakeholders platforms, including the voice of the poor, are established
• Cooperation mechanisms trialled and strengthened, including data exchange, technical coordination and joint planning
• Water charters and transboundary codes-of-conduct are implemented
• Trust between stakeholders is fostered and is the basis of good transboundary relationships and conflict prevention

Results and tools from the BRIDGE project will be used to promote implementation of improved water governance and transboundary cooperation in the 3 participating regions – the Andes, Mesoamerica and Mekong. Lessons learned will be shared globally to support applications in other key transboundary hot spots for water diplomacy.

For more information, please contact

Further Reading

The  Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) toolkits include a governance series, which are reference publications and guidance for learning and capacity-building for the BRIDGE project: SHARE – Managing Water Across Borders, NEGOTIATE – Reaching Agreements over Water, and RULE – Reforming Water Resource Governance

Rios Que Unen Fronteras - Rivers Uniting Borders

The video 'Rivers Uniting Borders' (or 'Ríos que Unen Fronteras' in Spanish) summarizes the work and main achievements of the IUCN BRIDGE- 'Building River Dialogue and Governance' project in Mesoamerica.

BRIDGE basins throughout the world

BRIDGE basins throughout the world

Photo: ©IUCN Water

  • BRIDGE: Building River Dialogue and Governance

    BRIDGE: Building River Dialogue and Governance

    Photo: IUCN

  • SDC logo

    SDC logo

    Photo: SDC

View Gallery for Mesoamerica
  • BRIDGE Photos on Flickr – ORMA

    BRIDGE Photos on Flickr – ORMA

    Photo: IUCN/Water Programme

View Gallery for South America
  • BRIDGE Photos on Flickr

    BRIDGE Photos on Flickr

    Photo: IUCN/Water Programme

Share - Managing water across boundaries
  • Share - WANI Toolkit

    Share - WANI Toolkit

    Photo: IUCN