Exploring Financial and Legal Frameworks for Utility Solidarity: What European utilities can learn from one another about enabling WOPs

A growing number of European water utilities are taking part in international cooperation efforts, particularly through Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs), to help improve water and sanitation services in lower- and middle-income countries. There is growing interest by utilities to engage in these partnerships on a non-profit basis, but what makes it possible for some and harder for others?

In the third of the Series of European WOP Enablers Dialogues, the GWOPA Secretariat hosted over 50 Europe-based partners, including utilities, development agencies, academia, and governments, both online and in person, in Bonn in January.  The objective of the event was for European-based actors to learn about financial and legal mechanisms around Europe that affect utilities’ participation in international cooperation like WOPs. In a virtual tour of Europe, representatives from different countries talked about legal and financial frameworks that either supported or hindered their ability to participate in these peer support partnerships.

During the discussions, participants examined modalities for sustainably funding WOP initiatives, including solidarity funds or mobilising development banks and international cooperation agencies at national or regional levels, such as the European Commission DG INTPA.

Participants, both online and on-site, brainstormed and discussed the enabling factors to support European utilities

Beyond financial and legal enablers for WOPs, participants also stressed the importance of articulating the many non-profit incentives for participating in such partnerships in order to mobilise the essential pollical will make them possible.  Awareness and advocacy about WOP benefits could help rally the commitment of staff and financial resources to make more of these solidarity partnerships happen. The discussions emphasised the need for data and storytelling to persuasively communicate the possibilities for utility partnerships to help achieve sustainable and equitable water management worldwide.

To improve the context for utilities and solidarity-based peer-support partnerships, GWOPA will continue to engage in a similar dialogue on strengthening the enabling environment for WOPS globally.