Executive Director’s Foreword
The on-going water and sanitation sector reforms, particularly in developing countries, have provided opportunities for creating more efficient, customer focused and autonomous water and sanitation utilities. However, water and sanitation utilities continue to face enormous challenges in meeting the ever-increasing demands of growing populations.
Most utilities suffer from a number of interrelated institutional weaknesses, including inadequate cost recovery compounded by a low customer base and limited physical coverage, dilapidated physical infrastructure, high levels of unaccounted for water, the low skill levels of the staff and poor customer relations, among others. There is also the inability to serve the needs of the urban poor, the main targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
To manage and sustain the positive outcomes of the ongoing sector reforms, more focus is required in the improvement of the performance of water utilities in terms of service delivery, cost recovery, operation and maintenance, with special emphasis on improvement of access by the poor. As we take stock of the attainment of the MDGs half-way to the target date of 2015, there is a sense of urgency for more imaginative and accountable governance structures for water and sanitation utilities, as well as fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviour and a culture of service and responsibility by governments, utilities and citizens alike.
Fostering collaboration between Water Supply and Sanitation Utilities is a vital element in ensuring exchange of experiences between performing and non-performing utilities. The need for creating a mechanism for the collaboration of water utilities is highlighted in the “Hashimoto Action Plan” which was announced by the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) during the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico.
One of the recommendations of the Action Plan is for the establishment of a mechanism to promote water operators’ partnerships (WOPs). The rationale behind the WOPs mechanism is that most of the capacity for improving water and sanitation services lies with the operators themselves. It also builds on the fact that about 90% of all utilities are publicly managed, and that even modest improvements in these utilities will go a long way in contributing to meeting the internationally agreed development goals and targets for water and sanitation. Thus the WOPs are to be based on mechanisms to enable operators to systematically communicate amongst themselves and to share their experiences and learn from each others’ practices for the benefit of all.
Following on the recommendations of the Hashimoto Action Plan, the United Nations Secretary General has mandated UN-HABITAT to promote and coordinate activities related to WOPs at the international level. UN-HABITAT has taken up this challenge, and has devoted human and financial resources to initiate a process for the establishment of a Global WOPs Alliance Centre within the organization.
This “Framework for the Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance” is a culmination of the initial activities that have been undertaken in response to the UN-Secretary General’s mandate to UN-HABITAT, including: initiating donor consultations; support to at least four regional WOPs meetings; initiating staff recruitments for the Global WOPs Alliance Centre; and the formulation of this framework document.
UN-HABITAT will continue and expand on these initial activities and invites all partners to contribute to this process.
Executive Director and