Helping water and sanitation service providers help one another reach the SDGs

The EU-WOP Programme, funded by the European Union and managed by UN-Habitat led GWOPA, leverages the demonstrated capacity of utilities to help one another reach the SDGs
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The world is facing a huge water and sanitation challenge. Billions of people still cannot count on contamination-free water and lack sanitation systems that protect them from disease.

Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) worldwide are addressing these challenges.

Find out who are the WOP Projects funded under the EU-WOP Programme, and what they will be doing for the next three years to achieve SDG6 and the Human Right to Water and Sanitation


What is the EU-WOP Programme?

The EU WOP Programme is a four-year initiative, led by UN-Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) and funded by the European Commission DG INTPA. Through the programme, between USD 250,000 and 450,000 is available for each of the 20 to 30 Water Operators' Partnerships (WOPs) projects of 36 months' duration.

What are WOPs?

WOPs are peer support between two or more water operators, carried out on a not-for-profit basis. Through mentorship, WOPs progressively strengthen beneficiary utilities’ capacity and performance on management, financial and technical levels to implement operational and organizational changes that lead to better and more sustainable services.


The projects to be funded under this EU-WOP Programme have been identified through a two-stage application process, supported by a global outreach campaign to support a strong response.

When submissions closed in April 2021, there were an exceptional number of high-quality proposals received. Over 140 projects were submitted in Phase I, out of which 30 were shortlisted to progress to Phase II. After a final thorough independent expert evaluation, 22 EU-WOP Projects were selected to be funded. Thank you sincerely to all submitters.

An opportunity for utilities to help one another

Towards SDG6 – sustainable water and sanitation services for all
2.1 billion people still cannot count on contamination-free water, available on premises whenever they need it, and 4.5 billion still lack sanitation systems that protect them from disease. Effective local water and sanitation service providers are essential to reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Improve Water Operators’ Performance
Many water utilities’ services are characterized by poor quality water, frequent cuts, limited coverage, high water losses, among other challenges. WOPs have a proven track record of helping utilities improve their operations, increase their efficiency and effectiveness, and make progress towards access goals.
Increase access to needed finance
With an estimated 1.7 trillion USD in funding needed to meet only SDG 6.1 and 6.2 by 2030, building the institutional capacity to effectively access and manage investments for sustainable public benefit is critical. The EU WOP programme aims to strengthen utilities’ financial sustainability and facilitate access to finance for service improvements or extensions.
Support the capacity of water and sanitation service providers and their staff
EU WOP projects progressively strengthen and empower beneficiary utilities on management, financial and technical levels to implement operational and organizational changes that lead to better and more sustainable services. The WOPs will also help improve the skills and job quality of essential water and sanitation workers. Rather than substituting capacity, EU WOP project will help local utility staff to make lasting improvements that can continue well beyond the life of the partnership.
Funds for new and ongoing partnerships, led by mentors from the North and South
The EU WOP programme makes funding available to either extend ongoing WOPs, or to develop new partnerships between utilities. The programme encourages the involvement of first -time participants to WOPs, as well as experienced practitioners. Utilities from the North and South can apply to be mentors under the EU WOP Programme. South-south WOPs can be particularly effective as partners share common challenges and can adapt solutions.




Water Operators’ Partnerships with:
1 Lead Partner: mentor water and/or sanitation service provider
At least 1 Beneficiary Partner: mentee water and/or sanitation service provider
0-5 Additional Partners: co-mentors, utility associations, relevant local governmental institutions, financial institutions, knowledge and academic institutes, workers’ unions, NGO or civil society organizations, community or private sector entities
Falling under one of the two call windows:

New WOPs in which the Lead Partner and the Beneficiary Partner(s) have no previous partnership history or up to, but not exceeding, one year of partnership history.


Recent or ongoing WOPs that build on at least one year of recent partnership history. Such partnership history must have occurred in the last three years.

For more information on Eligibility of Partners, Projects, Activities and Costs, please refer to the
Call for Proposals Package or the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


As Lead partner utility
Exercise solidarity or corporate social responsibility with overseas communities
Contribute to global sustainability objectives/local or national development objectives
Attract or retain staff through international exposure and mentoring experience
Share skills with fellow peers and forge new alliances
As Beneficiary partner utility
Gain exposure to new knowledge and get help in implementing improvements
Address pressing operational/capacity challenges
Realize local development objectives and get international exposure and experience
Acquire or sustain investments
As Supporting actor
Facilitate WOPs and increase visibility of the practice
Include WOPs in development programming as worthwhile investment and/or precursors to investment
Ensure an enabling environment for WOPs and support advocacy
Encourage engagement of utilities

Evaluation criteria - Overview

Partnership Arrangements
Each partner adds unique, cost-effective value to the WOP, and demonstrate commitment to the WOP. The partners are appropriate and complementarity (strengths, needs, language, size, culture etc.)...
The capacity and performance challenges, their impact on end users, and opportunities for synergies are well understood and compelling. There is an appreciation of how different stakeholders, especially vulnerable groups, are instrumental in or affected by the current situation...
Objectives/Expected Results
The proposed WOP expects to improve Beneficiary capacity and performance to address identified gaps, while to address climate change, apply a human rights approach, and better serve a vulnerable populations (the WOP contributes clearly to the SDG 6 targets and other relevant frameworks)...
The approach/activities respond to demand and a sound assessment of challenges and strengthens, (not substitute) Beneficiary Partner capacity. Therefore, WOP activities build on ongoing priorities and activities of the Beneficiary Partner and aim to build knowledge and anchor it into operations/working routines identified...
Budget Considerations
The budget shows strong counterpart leverage on the grant amount. The Lead Partner has the capacity and mechanisms to manage the WOP as budgeted, and the Beneficiary Partner utility is contributing financially to the WOP...
Other Considerations
There is a possibility of continued partnership beyond the initial scope of the WOP, the WOP takes place in a Least Developed Country, or proposes integrated and innovative solutions/approaches that accelerate sustainable responses to ongoing challenges...
For more information on the Evaluation criteria, please refer to the
Call for Proposals Package or the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


GWOPA/UN-Habitat organizes a series of webinars in the framework of the EU-WOP Programme aimed at sharing useful information and knowledge materials for potential applicants and additional actors.



Timeline and Application process

The timeline has been adjusted as presented below. Please note this is the correct timeline, and not the one presented originally in the Call for Proposals Package.
If any adjustment is needed to the application timeline presented here, it will be announced at

The Selection process

The Selection Committee shall ensure independence and rigor in the evaluation and selection process, and compatibility with partnership policies and the established objectives of the EU-WOP Programme.

As part of the evaluation process, proposed projects and partners will be vetted to ensure that they comply with the eligibility criteria and UN rules and regulations.

WOP Projects must be compliant with GWOPA’s Code-of-Conduct. Lead Partners and Additional Partners also commit to not enter into commercial contracts with the WOP Beneficiary Partner(s) for at least four years after the end of the WOP.

Managed by

The EU-WOP Programme design builds extensively on past WOP programmes studied or managed by GWOPA, the evaluation of the 2010 European-funded EU-ACP partnership programme and draws from consultation with senior staff within UN-Habitat and a wide range of external stakeholders.

This website was created and maintained with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of GWOPA/UN-Habitat and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union


Global Water Operators’ Partnerships’ Alliance (GWOPA)
Urban Basic Services Section, Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat
UN Campus Bonn, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn, Germany