The European Union, represented by the European Commission, and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), have signed a 9 million Euro (US$10.6 million) agreement to implement the four-year EU WOP Programme. The initiative, set to kick off in September 2020, will finance 25 Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) over four years with the goal of advancing the operational, financial, social and environmental performance of beneficiary utilities, and improving the lives of the communities they serve.
The newly-approved EU WOP Programme will be implemented by the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), an extensive UN-Habitat-led network with more than ten years’ expertise in promoting, facilitating and tracking WOPs. Commenting on the signing of the agreement, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, highlighted that, “the EU-WOP Programme comes at a critical time as the world is once again reminded of the importance of water and sanitation utilities, and the enormous potential for them to learn from one another.”
Under-performance in a water utility often means unsafe water, frequent cuts, and limited coverage for communities, with women, the poor and other vulnerable groups disproportionately impacted. While the current COVID pandemic has highlighted the extent to which extent resilient water and sanitation utilities can ensure the wellbeing of communitie even during a crisis, many utilities are facing mounting challenges. Among the different approaches adopted to support them, WOPs stand out because of their emphasis on strengthening local capacity through peer mentoring. By building the local capacity of utilities, WOPs favour more sustainable, affordable and higher quality services over the long-term, and support local achievement of global targets such as SDG6 and the universal human rights to water and sanitation.
Jointly designed by the EU and UN-Habitat, the EU WOP Programme will begin with the launch of an international call for proposals for North-South and South-South partnerships between utilities. An independent selection committee will evaluate the proposals and select those that best meet programme criteria. Successful utilities will then be funded to implement their WOP over a three-year period with ongoing guidance and support from GWOPA.