Water Operators’ Partnerships were high on the agenda again at the International Water Association’s World Water Congress held from September 20th-24th this year in Montreal.
UN-HABITAT was one of a dozen knowledge institutes hosting events at the forum’s Development Corner, the area of the Congress dedicated especially to exploring emerging topics of interest in the developing world. Within this forum, Global Water Operators' Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), together with the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, IWA and the Greater Moncton Sewerage Corporation, organized a dialogue session to expose Canadian operators and stakeholders to Water Operators’ Partnerships and explore opportunities for them engage in peer support relationships internationally.
Following an introduction to WOPs’ solidarity-based approach to maximizing the potential of public utilities, practitioners from around the world - including Samir Bensaid from Morocco’s ONEP, Cyprian Gibson from the Caribbean WOPs platform, and Long Naro from Phnom Penh’s award-winning Water Supply Authority (PPWSA)– shared their own experiences with WOPs, both as recipients of peer support and as mentors to other, needier utilities.
Participants from utilities in Norway and the Netherlands spoke about serving as WOPs mentors, noting both the challenges and deep rewards. The Canadian operators present were particularly interested to hear how sharing knowledge with weaker utilities through WOPs had not been an entirely selfless endeavor for these utilities, but had also helped them attract and retain capable staff. They were also curious to learn that Dutch utilities - like those of some other European countries - are legally empowered to fund WOPs through their own revenues.
Jennifer Jackson, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association Executive Director, commented that WOPs provided an exciting opportunity for Canadians to get directly involved in international aid efforts and share their rich expertise. CWWA expressed its interest in leading Canadian engagement in WOPs, through its participation in the Global WOPs Alliance. Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees present were supportive of WOPs not-for-profit orientation, and suggested that WOPs could build on some of the existing linkages between unions in Canada and developing regions.
Another Development Corner session hosted by UN-WATER with support from GWOPA and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication, heard how social tools, such as communication and awareness-raising efforts, can help change behaviour on water and sanitation issues. Outstanding communication practices from South Africa’s Rand Water, Columbia’s Water and Electiricy Company (EPM) and Phnom Penh, were featured in this interactive session.
Outside the development corner, WOPs Sessions were also held in the African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean and Middle East North Africa regional fora. These sessions, which gathered water and sanitation sector professionals from within each region, served to share some of the ongoing activities, challenges and recent successes of WOPs implementation on the ground.