|Most utilities in developing countries suffer from a number of interrelated institutional weaknesses, including inadequate cost recovery compounded by a low customer base and limited physical coverage, dilapidated physical infrastructure, high levels of unaccounted for water, the low skill levels of the staff and poor customer relations, among others. There is also the inability to serve the needs of the urban poor, the main targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).||
Fostering collaboration between Water Supply and Sanitation Utilities is a vital element in ensuring exchange of experiences between performing and non-performing utilities. The need for creating a mechanism for the collaboration of water utilities is highlighted in the “Hashimoto Action Plan” which was announced by the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) during the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico.
One of the recommendations of the Hashimoto Action Plan was the establishment of a global mechanism to promote water operators partnerships (WOPs). The rationale behind the WOPs mechanism is that most of the capacity for improving water and sanitation services lies with the operators themselves. It also builds on the fact that about 90% of all utilities are publicly managed, and that even modest improvements in these utilities will go a long way in contributing to meeting the internationally agreed development goals and targets for water and sanitation. Thus the WOPs are to be based on mechanisms to enable operators to systematically communicate amongst themselves and to share their experiences and learn from each others’ practices for the benefit of all.
The Global Water Operator’s Partnership Alliance brings together a diversity of actors – networks, associations, financial institutions, and research and expert organisations - that stand to enrich WOPs with their knowledge and resources. Water Operators’ Partnerships are being promoted by a global alliance of partners who believe in WOPs and are committed to supporting them. The Global WOPs alliance aims to build on the relative strengths of each of its partners to make WOPs work.
Full text of GWOPA Charter (as of October 2013)
All stakeholders will take all needed measures to conduct their activities within the partnership according to the principles of good governance, including:
- Responsiveness to stakeholders’ concerns and interests
- Clarity and common understanding of stakeholders’ roles, rights, responsibilities, and expectations
- Compliance with local laws
Central to WOPs is the sharing of knowledge in a not-for-profit and unrestrained way and built upon the notion of solidarity between utilities. Its purpose is to enhance the capacity and capability of public utilities within the guiding principle of integrity. Therefore:
The partners agree that no information will be intentionally withheld by any party in anticipation of any commercial gains, and no confidential information of one party will be used by the other party for its commercial advantage.
•Social and Cultural Values
All stakeholders will take needed measures to abide by and respect the social and cultural values of the location where they are engaging in WOPs, including:
- Respecting the cultural norms and behaviours relevant to the local context
- Recognising and respecting the influence of gender, age, culture and religion on the different perspectives and values accorded to water and sanitation
•Resolution of Conflicts
All stakeholders will form partnerships based on mutual trust and respect, address all issues with full transparency, and collaborate to identify workable solutions.
Prior to engagement, partners shall prepare written partnership agreements that outline a) the objectives of the partnership and expected outputs b) the roles and responsibilities of each partner, c) the value (in-kind and cash) of the partnership and d) the interests of each party in engaging in partnership. The agreement should form the basis for professional, results-oriented cooperation, while leaving sufficient room for flexible solutions, as the context and issues are subject to change and evolve.
•Cost sharing and Not-for-Profit
Activities carried out by any partner or stakeholder within a WOP shall be done on a not-for-profit basis. Any party should never use WOPs as a vehicle for commercial activities. Activities within a WOP will incur costs for both partners. The parties have to identify these costs and decide together whether to bear these costs themselves, appeal for external support, or both. The respective contributions of the parties be they in-cash or in–kind, shall be mutually agreed by the parties themselves.
Particular objectives and common interests of all stakeholders will be openly discussed to identify all possible costs and benefits in the arrangement. The respective motivations of both parties shall be explicitly discussed. WOPs’ benefits are mutual, but not necessarily equal. Partners have to respect the bona fide interests of their counterparts and seek actions that advance the goals of the partnership without requiring compromise of a partner’s key interests.
Complying with the Hashimoto Action Plan text and spirit, GWOPA shall be guided by the following Guiding Principles:
A. Inclusiveness: GWOPA shall be as inclusive as possible and reach out to all stakeholders in the water supply and sanitation sector including public and private water operators, non‐governmental organizations and representatives of civil society, academia, and private sector players at the global, regional, and national levels.
B. Non‐profit based partnerships: Partnerships established between water operators under the WOPs umbrella should be built on a not‐for‐profit basis. Therefore, funding of partnerships –mainly done in the format of "twinning" of utilities – should recover direct costs only without any profit of any sorts for any participating party. This principle should be followed whenever funding is secured through GWOPA.
C. Mutuality of benefit: Mutuality of benefit should always be promoted whenever possible in implementing "twinning" and other activities of exchange of experience and expertise among utilities. Such mutuality shall be used as an incentive, whenever possible, for utility cooperation on non‐profit basis.
D. Transparency: The Global WOPs Alliance shall promote transparency in the water and sanitation sector on the global, regional, and national levels.
E. Learning from the Past and Others: The Global WOPs Alliance seeks to draw lessons and learn from past experiences to promote best practices for utility partnerships and capacity building.
F. Supporting WOPs Processes Worldwide: The Global WOPs Alliance shall not seek to recreate, but to reinforce, efforts worldwide to strengthen mutual exchange between water operators. In this sense, the Global WOPs Alliance supports all regional and global initiatives that champion WOPs activities and principles.
G. Fostering Sustainable Change: The Global WOPs Alliance shall support efforts to build lasting positive change within water utilities using mechanisms that are increasingly independent of external financial support.
H. Building a Culture of Solidarity: The Global WOPs Alliance shall embrace and promote a spirit of solidarity and mutual support between water operators and all other water sector actors working towards the goals of the Alliance.
Parties involved in WOPs activities, in partnership with GWOPA, are requested to sign and observe the Code of Conduct based on our guiding principles.