At the Annual Conference of the German Water Partnership (GWP) in Berlin last month, GWP’s Operation and Capacity Development working group, together with German Ministry of Development Cooperation (BMZ), presented a new initiative that would help Germany’s many public water and wastewater utilities to overcome a longstanding barrier to their participation in WOPs.
While utilities in other European countries have become increasingly involved in supporting their peer utilities in developing countries, German utilities have been limited from doing so, they are legally not allowed to spend any local revenues funds from their customers outside of their service area. Whereas other countries’ utilities are able to offer staff time to help their peers overseas in-kind, or recover it through so-called “1%” laws, such as exist in France or the Netherlands, German utilities are hindered from doing so by law
However, the statutes of most public utilities in Germany allow them to support peer utilities abroad if the financial expenses are fully covered. BMZ has announced to fund these partnerships by having their costs recovered by BMZ. The Ministry has agreed to open 3-year pilot project for 4 WOPs which starts by end of this year. A model for the German WOPs has been developed by GWP in the last years and is called Sustainable Utility Partnerships (SUP), see more information here.
Because many public utilities in Germany lack international experiences and tend to be small, there will be a bigger lead partner utility in charge for one partnership project and additional staff will be drawn from up to several utilities for each partnership with a southern counterpart. The lead partner coordinates the whole administrative and managerial aspects towards the donor, the smaller German utilities and the mentee utility.
The hope is to build more long-term collaboration for Water Operators Partnerships in the long run.
The pilot project aligns with Germany’s water sector policies and will probably focus in priority countries – Jordan, Ukraine, Morocco and Zambia. Over the coming months, a number of “matchmaking” events will be held to pair up mentee utilities in these countries with interested mentors from Germany.
German GIZ and SKEW will facilitate the initiative logistics, however the organizers insisted that the utilities should sit in the leading seat of the partnerships.
GWOPA welcomed Germany as a strong new partner in the global WOPs community and offered its support in showcasing the Germans’ experience through its global platform.