Over 250 participants converged for the 3-day Global Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) congress which kicked off today at the Sant Pau Complex in Barcelona, under the theme“Fostering Cooperation between Water Operators.” The theme was selected to celebrate Water Operator Partnerships as an important form of working which is in line with the framework of the United Nations International Year for Water Cooperation.
Every two years, UN-Habitat organizes the Congress to bring together utilities and partnership supporters to share their experience, advance knowledge and initiate action on Water Operators’ Partnerships. The first Global WOPs Congress was held in Cape Town in 2011, which attracted participants from all over the world.
Millions of people around the world still lack access to clean drinking water,basic sanitation, modern forms of energy, sustainable mobility and proper waste management. Water operators are the central actors in the pressing global challenge of sustainable urban development and how to manage water in our cities. Empowering operators to meet this challenge is the purpose of Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs). It draws on the expertise and innovation of strong utilities to help others, on a solidarity basis, to improve their service quality and coverage.
Speaking at the opening of the congress, the deputy mayor of Barcelona,Mr. Antoni Vives said“It is important for the public and private operators to create a network and search for solutions in the access to water in order to improve peoples’ lives”. He further indicated that, “We cannot only count on public money to ensure that there are public enterprises but also private operators and companies have a social responsibility to ensure innovation and quality in water and sanitation management”.
In his keynote address, Dr. UschiEid, Vice chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water on Sanitation, UNSGAB, said that he hoped there would be a stand-alone sustainable development goal established on water, including the following elements; access to water and sanitation for all, improved waste water management and more efficient water use and sustainable use of water resources.
“It is easy to see how water operators must play a central role in tackling all of these three dimensions” he said. “Water and most importantly sanitation operators are key actors in ensuring that reliable and sustainable water services are accessible and affordable for all.”
Thousands of water operators in developing countries face an enormous challenge of strengthening service delivery to supply existing and fast growing future populations and to meet national and global development goals. Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) are peer support exchanges between two or more water operators, carried out on a non-profit basis, with the objective of strengthening their capacity, enhancing their performance and enabling them to provide a better service to more people. WOPs have a proven track record and can be highly cost effective.
Formally founded by UN-Habitat in January 2009, upon the request of the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) is an international network created to support WOPs. GWOPA has analyzed success factors, developed guidance material, documented case studies and developed a strong alliance of water operators, UN Agencies, water associations, development partners, labour and civil society bodies, International Financial Institutions and the private sector. GWOPA has to date played a significant role in promoting and facilitating WOPs around the world.
“Rapid urbanization is one of the most significant global trends of the 21st century, over 50% of humanity is now urban” said Mr. Bert Diphoon, Head of the GWOPA Secretariat. “Urbanization does not only bring challenges, but it also brings conditions for improving water management. It is a vehicle for national economic and social transformation.”
The GWOPA General Assembly will be held on Friday 29 November, during which GWOPA’s Steering Committee will be renewed.