Unlocking Peace, Solidarity and Sustainability: The Vital Role of Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs) and Sanitation-focused Operator Partnerships (SWOPs)

“Local water and sanitation services are essential to peaceful and prosperous communities. Through Water Operators’ Partnerships, utilities work together in solidarity to ensure resilient and inclusive basic services, even in times of crisis.”

On March 22, 2024, as the world celebrates World Water Day, the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) hosted by UN-Habitat and its members will promote water as a driving force for peace and sustainable development. Amidst the global challenges, from armed conflicts and migration to the devastating impact of climate change-related disasters, local water and sanitation service providers play a crucial role in maintaining peace, promoting health, and ensuring well-being. These providers are at the forefront of responding to crises and disasters worsened by the climate crisis. In such circumstances, GWOPA, as an international alliance hosted by UN-Habitat, has worked to create and nurture a global movement for Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) and Sanitation-focused operator partnerships (SWOPs).

Throughout the past 15 years, GWOPA’s members and partners have significantly contributed to enhancing the capacity of water and sanitation service providers and improving the availability of clean water and sanitation by facilitating WOPs and SWOPs. These partnerships involve peer support exchanges between water operators without any profit motive. As a result, water operators with more capability are better equipped to provide water and sanitation services to larger populations in need, even in times of crisis.

Picture: Utility partners from the Eastern Umbrella of Water and Sanitation (EUWS) Mbale, Uganda visiting Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) Cardiff, Wales, UK, under the EU-WOP programme ©Simon George

When water is scarce or polluted water, too costly or dangerous to access, it can cause tensions and conflicts within communities and countries. To tackle these water-related challenges, GWOPA focuses on leveraging the expertise of water operators, promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing, advocating for better policies, and empowering local communities. Through these interventions, WOPs and SWOPs contribute to peacebuilding efforts at the local, national, and global levels.



Addressing Water Scarcity and Access Inequity: Access to clean water and sanitation is essential for human well-being and development. By improving access to these urban basic services, WOPs and SWOPs help alleviate tensions and conflicts arising from disputes over scarce resources.

Promoting Sustainable Development: Sustainable access to water and sanitation is crucial for achieving broader sustainable development goals, including poverty reduction, health improvement, and environmental sustainability. By supporting sustainable development, WOPs and SWOPs create stable and resilient communities that are less prone to conflicts and better able to rebound.

Partnering in Solidarity: WOPs and SWOPs make use of the shared professional expertise and natural solidarity between peer water and sanitation service providers around the world on a not-for-profit basis. By bringing together operators, governments, financial institutions, utility workers and other stakeholders, GWOPA facilitates dialogues, cooperation, and mutual understanding, which are essential for peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

Capacity Development for Improved Performance: WOPs and SWOPs strengthen the capacities and knowledge sharing of water operators globally. By improving the technical, financial and managerial capacities of water operators, WOPs and SWOPs enable them to better manage water resources, respond to challenges with innovations and appropriate technology, and resolve conflicts effectively, as well as access resources for sustainable infrastructure.

Empowering Local Communities: WOPs and SWOPs often focus on increasing access to water and sanitation services for low-income communities. By involving women and men, including young people within communities, in the management of water resources, WOPs and SWOPs promote ownership and social cohesion and contribute to preventing conflicts at the local level.

On World Water Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding this invaluable resource for present and future generations. GWOPA/UN-Habitat’s partners and members are working towards achieving this goal through WOPs and SWOPs to help water operators and sanitation service providers foster peace by encouraging collaboration, knowledge exchange, and strengthening capacity between water and sanitation service providers to accelerate SDGs, promoting sustainable water delivery and sanitation services, and leading to community resilience


Learn more about Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs)

Listen WOPcast SWOP it! Sanitation Operators’ Partnerships