International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

4.1 - Monitoring and Evaluation

GEF IW experiences on M&E are available here.

Monitoring and Evaluation Plan

The Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (M&E Plan) is an integral part of project management and will be used to follow the progress and performance of the project activities. The M&E Plan is composed of two elements: (a) monitoring of progress; and (b) evaluation of performance and achievement. Both components may use the same set of performance/achievement indicators; however, each element uses a different set of tools and processes. Monitoring is characterized by a more frequent set of activities, providing for timely reviews and quick assessments. Often, decision-making lies with the Project Coordination Unit (PCU). Evaluation, on the other hand, is performed at a predetermined times, and decision-making is done at the highest project level, the Steering Committee.

A project monitoring and evaluation (administrative, technical and financial), includes quarterly and semi-annual progress reports; quarterly, and annual statements of expenditures, including co-financing and counterpart contributions; a mid-term evaluation (MTE); and a terminal evaluation (TE). The MTE will be performed during the quarter immediately after the mid-term point of project execution, regardless of the level of execution and disbursement. The purpose of this assessment is to identify corrective measures and/or changes to the intended workplan.

The Results Framework is the logical framework that was developed to define the structure of the project, the relationship between the components, and connects components with activity-specific indicators to track process and achievements. Though the M&E Plan reflects the structure of the Results Framework, the M&E Plan is the tool to be used for quarterly, mid-term, and end-of-project monitoring and evaluation.

At a project’s inception workshop, indicators, baseline information and mid-term and final targets will be reviewed, refined, and approved. During project implementation, the baseline values may be adjusted and new indicators and/or parameters may be revised and/or added. The M&E Plan is guided by the principles of accountability and transparency. These principles apply to both institutions and individuals.

This guidance provides information on:


The GEF Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) policy at the project level has four objectives: i) to monitor and evaluate results and impacts; ii) to provide a basis for decision making on necessary amendments and improvements; iii) to promote accountability for resource use; and iii) to document, provide feedback on, and disseminate lessons learned. A mix of tools is used to ensure effective project M&E. These might be applied continuously throughout the lifetime of the project – e.g. periodic monitoring of indicators - or as specific time-bound exercises such as mid-term reviews, audit reports and independent evaluations.

GEF projects and programs monitor using relevant performance indicators. The monitoring system should be “SMART” (

  • Specific: The system captures the essence of the desired result by clearly and directly relating to achieving an objective, and only that objective.
  • Measurable: The monitoring system and its indicators are unambiguously specified so that all parties agree on what the system covers and there are practical ways to measure the indicators and results.
  • Achievable and Attributable: The system identifies what changes are anticipated as a result of the intervention and whether the result(s) are realistic. Attribution requires that changes in the targeted developmental issue can be linked to the intervention.
  • Relevant and Realistic: The system establishes levels of performance that are likely to be achieved in a practical manner, and that reflect the expectations of stakeholders.
  • Time-bound, Timely, Trackable, and Targeted: The system allows progress to be tracked in a cost-effective manner at desired frequency for a set period, with clear identification of the particular stakeholder group to be impacted by the project or program.

The GEF expects both the design of M&E and the implementation of M&E plans to meet specific minimum requirements. All projects and programs will include a concrete and fully budgeted M&E plan by the time of CEO endorsement for full-size projects and CEO approval for medium-size projects. Project logical frameworks should align, where appropriate, to the GEF’s focal area results frameworks. This M&E plan contains the following as a minimum:

  • SMART indicators for results and implementation linked appropriately to the focal area results frameworks; additional indicators that can deliver reliable and valid information to management may also be identified in the M&E plan
  • Baseline for the project or program, with a description of the problem to be addressed, with indicator data or, if major baseline indicators are not identified, an alternative plan for addressing this, by CEO endorsement
  • Identification of reviews and evaluations that will be undertaken, including midterm reviews and terminal evaluations
  • Organizational set-up and budgets for M&E

The GEF also requires that there is a minimum application of M&E in project implementation plans ( Project and programme monitoring and supervision will include implementation of the M&E plan, comprising the following:

  • SMART indicators for implementation actively used
  • SMART indicators for results actively measured, or if not, a reasonable explanation provided
  • The baseline for the project fully established and data compiled to review progress, and evaluations undertaken as planned
  • The organizational set-up for M&E is operational and its budget is spent as planned.

Project management teams are expected to establish operational procedures to collect the SMART indicator information during the inception phase and to report to PSC, the GEF (through PIRs, Tracking Tool) on the progress of the project. As the project develops it may prove to necessary to revise, eliminate or add indicators used for tracking progress and this, through adaptive management concepts, is encouraged providing there is adequate approval of any changes via, for example, the PSC.


The M&E plan and the project logical framework are key components in the overall management of the project. Both require the application of SMART indicators that are routinely monitored by the project management team and used in reporting achievement (e.g. PIRs). Recognising that impacts of project activities may take many years, GEF IW utilises a number of types of indicators to enable an assessment of the progress towards project goals to be assessed before the expected impacts are visible. These types of indicators are:

  • Process Indicators: Indicators which establish frameworks for improving transboundary environmental/water resources quality or quantity but do not in and of themselves deliver improved transboundary environmental/water resources quality. For example:
    • Multi-country agreement on transboundary priority concerns, impacts and causes;
    • Multi-country Agreement on governance reforms and investments to address priority transboundary concerns;
    • Effective national Inter-ministry Coordination;
    • Stakeholder involvement in transboundary waterbody priority setting and strategic planning;
    • Multi-country waterbody legal framework adopted and/or strengthened;
    • Newly established and/or strengthened (existing) transboundary waters institutions;
    • Financial sustainability of joint transboundary waters institutions;
    • Adoption of national and regional legal, policy and institutional reforms that address priority transboundary concerns;
  • Stress Reduction Indicators: Indicators which characterize specific reductions in environmental stress on shared water bodies, e.g. reduction in pollutant releases, more sustainable fishing levels and/or practices, improved freshwater flows, reduced introduction of invasive species, increased habitat restoration or protection, etc. Stress Reduction Indicators should be reported against baseline year/level. For example:
    • Pilot/demo projects demonstrate stress reduction measures on initial priority concerns
    • Stress on waterbody reduced through completion of investment or demo;
    • Stress reduction investments or demos being replicated.
  • Environmental/Water Resources & Socioeconomic Status Indicators: Indicators which provide evidence for the environmental or water resources status of shared waterbodies.  These indicators are usually ‘static’ snapshots of environmental, water resources or socioeconomic conditions at a given point in time so, like Stress Reduction, are usually reported against a baseline year and level to show change/improvement.


All projects need an agreed baseline against which progress and performance will be assessed. It is essential that projects reassess the baseline that was identified in the Project Document and, where necessary, revise this against any changes between the drafting of the Project Document and the start of the Project. The revised baseline should be presented to the inception workshop/first PSC for approval. Some indicators required by the baseline may need further studies to assess the current level and these should also be reported to the PSC with a clear plan of work on how the information will be collected and when it will be reported.

Any approved revisions in baseline should also be reflected in the Project Results Framework (Logical Framework), together with a record of the change and approval process, as a formal record for the mid-term and terminal assessments.


All GEF IW projects have an approved Project Results Framework endorsed by the GEF CEO and is a key project document. The Framework is an integral component of the overall M&E system and should be integrated into the routine management of the project’s activities.

During the inception phase the project management team (together with appropriate project stakeholders) should perform a reassessment of the full Framework (in conjunction with an assessment of all the indicators and the project baseline). Any changes to the Project Logical Framework can be recommended for approval to the PSC, providing that these changes do not impact the goal, objective or outcomes expected. Any modifications that result in changes to these project parameters will necessitate a resubmission of the project document to the GEF SEC for approval.

As the project progresses it may be necessary for the project to make further adjustments to the Project Logical Framework that reflect the evolving project situation and follows appropriate ‘adaptive management’ changes to the overall project.


Chris Severin of the Global Environment Facility introduces the IW Tracking Tool.

GEF IW projects are expected to report using the GEF Tracking Tool at the mid and final PIRs of their project. The Tracking Tool is designed to give the GEF SEC feedback of the project’s achievements and the stage of ‘development’ of IW concepts (including TDA/SAP, IMCs, etc.).

While the GEF Tracking Tool is used by projects to report at the start, mid-point and end, it is important that the planning of data collection for this report is planned from the inception to ensure all key project partners and participants in the project are aware of the need for this information. It is recommended that as part of the overall M&E approach planned by projects that this data is also collected routinely.

PROCESS Indicators

What should be reported/explanation


Regional legal agreements and cooperation frameworks

Establishing the status of any regional agreements on international water management/protection of resources. The indicator records a range in agreement status from ‘no agreement’ through to ‘agreement ratified’. Agreements include international conventions (e.g. Danube Convention, Cartagena Convention), regional co-operation and bilateral agreements


Regional management institutions (RMI)

RMIs relate to the joint management institutions responsible for shared water bodies (e.g. Mekong Commission, Amazon Commission, Black Sea Commission, etc.). This indicator assesses the level of operational functionality of the RMI through national financial contributions to maintain the RMI.


Management measures in ABNJ incorporated in  Global/Regional Management Organizations (RMI) institutional/ management frameworks

This indicator assesses if agreed management measures to protect ABNJs (e.g. fisheries policies) have been incorporated within the agreed RMI frameworks.


National Inter-Ministry Committees (IMCs)

Within countries the establishment of an IMC (or inter-sectoral committee) is an important indicator for showing good integration of policies and management. This indicator assess the level of IMC co-operation within a region by establishing the %age of countries within a regional project with established and functional IMCs, and whether these IMCs are formalised through any national legal arrangements.


National/Local reforms

Since the baseline was established for the project have there been any national or local reforms (policies, institutions, etc.) that have occurred.


Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA): Agreement on transboundary priorities and root causes

The TDA is an integral element of the SAP process and this indicator reports the progress towards defining and agreeing the key elements in a TDA (e.g. identification of priority TB issues, root causes etc).


Revised Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA)/Strategic Action Program (SAP) including Climatic Variability and Change considerations

Have existing TDA/SAPs been updated to address potential climate change/variability factors.


TDA based on multi-national, interdisciplinary technical and scientific (MNITS) activities

This indicator is to establish if the development of the TDA (as part of a TDA/SAP process) has included a broad multi-disciplinary approach involving expertise in scientific/technical disciplines as well as socio-economic considerations.


Development of Strategic Action Plan (SAP)

This indicator reports on whether the project/region has developed and adopted a regional SAP and if the SAP priorities are reflected in agreed National Action Plans.


Proportion of Countries that have adopted the SAP

This reports the proportion of countries that have formally approved and adopted the SAP. Ideally this adoption is at the highest level possible within national administrations.


Proportion of countries that are implementing specific measures from the SAP (i.e. adopted national policies, laws, budgeted plans)

From the agreed SAP how many countries are implementing all or some of the measures identified? This indicators is looking for practical steps to address the root causes through the SAP with changes of policies, strengthening national institutions, enforcement etc. with a identified (and budgeted) resources.


Incorporation of (SAP, etc.) priorities with clear commitments and time frames into CAS, PRSPs, UN Frameworks, UNDAF, key agency strategic documents including financial commitments and time frames, etc

This indicator is seeking information of the incorporation of key outputs from the SAP (for example) into UN (and other) strategies for the region and if there are clear financial commitments to resources these.



What should be reported/Explanation


Are there mechanisms in place to produce a monitoring report on stress reduction measures?

This indicator establishes if the project (or other body) has a means to record the regional implementation of stress reduction measures (including means to quantify the stress reduction, e.g. in terms of kg/N reduced per year) and if this monitoring is sustainable post-project to assess longer-term implementation of measures.


Stress reduction measurements incorporated by project under management:

Management Mechanisms related to four different water types/resources are of interest to this indicator:
1) Integrated Water/River Resource Management (Watershed, lakes, aquifers)
2) Integrated Coastal Management (Coast)
3) Marine Spatial Planning (Marine)
4) Marine Protected areas (Fisheries/ABNJ)

Projects should report against one of these types all the SR measurements that are being recorded by the project.

For example: Protected areas (out of a total area); fishing vessels monitored for correct gear (out of total fleet); reduction of abstractions volume (for example, for irrigation) through implementing drip-irrigation out of total abstraction volume, etc.


Please specify the types of Technologies and measures implemented in local demonstrations and investments:

For different investments funded (or catalysed) by the project this indicator is requesting quantifiable information on the stress reduction under specific investment types. This is one of key importance to be able to demonstrate to the GEF (and their donors) the achievement of the project’s activities.

1-municipal wastewater pollution reduction (N, P & BOD reduced in kg/yr)

2-industrial wastewater pollution reduction (pollutant reduced in kg/yr)

3-agriculture pollution reduction practices (e.g. ha under BAP, reduction of N/P per yr)

4-restored habitat (including wetlands)  - (e.g. ha or restored habitat – ha)

5-conserved/protected wetland, MPAs, and fish refugia habitat (ha)

6-reduced fishing pressure (e.g. tonnes/yr reduction; % reduction in fleet size)

7-improved use of fish gear/techniques (e.g. % vessels applying improved gear/techniques)

8-water use efficiency measures (e.g. m3/yr saved)

9-Improved irrigation practices (e.g. m3/ha/yr water saved)

10-Alternative livelihoods introduced (Number of people provided alternative livelihoods)

11-Catchment protection measures (e.g. ha under improved catchment management)

12-Aquifer pumping reduction (e.g. m3 water saved /yr)

13-Aquifer recharge area protection (e.g. ha protected)

14-Pollution reduction to aquifers (e.g. kg/ha/yr)

16-Invasive species reduction (e.g. ha and/or number of targeted area)

17 – other – key investments that have led to stress reduction within the project area



What should be reported/Explanation


Are there mechanisms and project indicators in place to monitor the environmental and socioeconomic status of the waterbody?

This reports on the projects mechanisms to record changes to both environmental status and socio-economic status and whether these mechanisms are sustainable post-project to enable the long-term impacts of the project to be assessed.


IW:LEARN Indicators

What should be reported/Explanation


Participation in IW events (GEF IWC, Community of Practice (COP), IW:LEARN)

This indicator is to assess the active involvement by the project (staff and stakeholders) in GEF IW events and in IW communities of practice and assists in assessing the interactions projects have with the wider IW community.


Project website (according to IW:LEARN guidelines

This indicator is designed to assess if the project’s website conforms to the expectations of the GEF (and GEF IW:LEARN guidance) and is regularly (at least once a month) updated.