Welcome to the fifth newsletter of the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), the network that aims to help water operators help one another in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals.
For more frequent updates and to get involved, please see our website.
GWOPA and Partners in Marseille
The World Water Forum 6
GWOPA didn’t miss the occasion to gather with another 35,000 participants at the 6th World Water Forum in the Mediterranean port town ofMarseille, France earlier this month. With such a big gathering, the triennial forum was a rare occasion to learn and share, and to network with partners, old and new.
The 6th World Water Forum aimed to focus on “Solutions” and its events aimed to elaborate practical tools and approaches for addressing the sector’s most pressing challenges. GWOPA was contributing to two of the “Conditions for Success”: Financing Water for All and Good Governance.
Several of GWOPA’s partners also participated in FAME (the forum alternatif mondial de l’eau), which took place in a parallel forum in Marseille during the same period. FAME participants take a firm stance against private control over in water service provision, rather seeking to advance the right of citizens to be more actively involved in sustainable water management. Naturally, Water Operators’ Partnerships, which seek to strengthen the role and capacity of public service providers and provide an alternative to privatization were embraced at the forum.
The I'm a City Changer Campaign is a global movement to share and spread individual, corporate and public initiatives that improve our cities.
The UN-Habitat booth at the World Water Forum exhibition highlighted the key challenges around water and cities, and featured some City Changers who were working to make a difference.
GWOPA collaborated with the World Urban Campaign team of UN-Habitat to prepare and launch the campaign in Marseille. Some of our partners, including Gerard Rundberg of World WaterNet and Samir Bensaid of ONEP, Morocco were featured in the expo.
Impact-oriented Case Studies of WOPs in Asia Launched in Marseille
What really happens during a water operator’s partnership? What difference do they actually make? What makes some more successful than others?
These are some of the questions that GWOPA tried to answer in its series of three Impact-oriented case studies recently launched at the 6th World Water Forum.
The Case Studies were introduced in Marseille by UN-Habitat’ Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, to an intimate gathering at the UN-Habitat lounge of the UN-Water Pavilion. Dr. Clos recalled the important role water and sanitation operators had in ensuring that everyone, including the poor, enjoyed access to the city and could reap the benefits of urbanization. He called for equitable, efficient and effective water and sanitation operators, and promoted the WOPs approach to sustainably develop their capacity to deliver services.
24 February 2012. The theme of the congress was ‘Collaborative Mechanisms and Innovations for the sustainable development of the water and sanitation sector in Africa’. The main highlights of the congress were the following; Ms Duduzile MYENI, chair of SAAWU South Africa, was elected as the new AfWA President. More than 560 people from 50 countries attended the 47 technical sessions on performance management, asset management, operations of water & sanitation systems, financing, capacity building, water safety plan and quality management. The Congress attracted 220 exhibitors.
Training on Water Safety Planning for Arab Water and Sanitation Operators
GWOPA, in partnership with Cap-Net and International Water Association (IWA), initiated a training program on Water Safety Plan that started in 2009 with a training workshop for 10 Anglophone African utilities. The latest training event, within this program, was organized last January in Beirut, Lebanon, for Arab water operators.
People say lots of good things about WOPs: they are cost-effective, more sustainable, more likely to lead to improved service for the poor than their for-profit counterparts, etc… And even though its proponents are (surely!) right, they are probably relying on a mix of theory, intuition, anecdotal evidence and personal experience to make their claim. The fact is that WOPs advocates are at a disadvantage when trying to argue that the practice should receive more attention because there’s not a lot of hard documentation to weigh up the case against the standing alternatives.
Vitens-Evides International (VEI) is the international joint venture of the two largest public water companies in the Netherlands, Vitens and Evides, supported by a third company WML. Registered as a private enterprise internationally for legal reasons, VEI operates on an exclusively not-for-profit basis. Under the Netherlands’ Koppejan law, Dutch water companies are allowed to make up to a maximum of 1% of their annual turnover available each year for international projects. Within VEI these funds are then augmented by external funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or by acquiring competitive contracts. VEI also makes use of approximately EUR 800,000 every year from the independent Water for Life Foundation, funded by the voluntary donations of its customers.
VEI has been an active advocate and implementer of Water Operators’ Partnerships for 10 years, providing knowledge and expertise to water utilities in Mozambique, Yemen, Mongolia, Vietnam and Ghana. Wherever possible, VEI prefers to take on comprehensive, multi-year partnerships in which the operators can develop and make the most of strong, trust-based relationships. VEI appoints resident project managers to work alongside the local manager, and deploys short term staff with specialist expertise on specific assignments. Concerned that the supported operators will be able to sustainably and independently manage operations over the long-term, VEI provides various (classroom and on-the-job) training formats to staff at all levels, and supports younger staff to take part in professional programs in the Netherlands. It recently even started a strategic partnership with the UNESCO-IHE Center for Water Education in Delft.
Beyond the benefits for the developing countries in which they work, VEI also recognizes the benefits of WOPs at home. For one, the lure of international exposure and the opportunity to exchange experience has been an effective way of attracting and retaining qualified professionals to the company. VEI’s international work has also offered water consumers to express their solidarity with this work, something that has intensified customer relations at home.
Through its relatively long experience in WOPs, VEI has also become a strong advocate for the approach and is vocal about the need for financiers to be more ambitious in supporting it. Its director, Dr. Van den Top, has been active in calling for longer-term partnerships and scaled-up funding. While acknowledging the usefulness of the 1% law, he believes that WOPs need much more regular and intensive support to guide and sustain capacity development components of investment programmes. The development of a contractual performance based format for partnerships may convince International Financing Institutions that WOPs mature into viable concepts to expand the provision of sustainable water services to people all over the world.