Agreement to speed delivery of safe drinking water, sanitation to Asia

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), International Water Association (IWA) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed an agreement at World Water Week to establish an Asia-wide partnership called WaterLinks that will help provide clean drinking water and sanitation throughout the region by coordinating, promoting and aligning efforts to create Water Operators Partnerships (WOPs). WOPs have proven their value in many parts of the world...

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Aug. 19, 2008 -- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), International Water Association (IWA) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed an agreement at World Water Week to establish an Asia-wide partnership called WaterLinks that will help provide clean drinking water and sanitation throughout the region by coordinating, promoting and aligning efforts to create Water Operators Partnerships (WOPs).

WOPs have proven their value in many parts of the world by successfully pairing, or "twinning," water operators in search of solutions with other operators who have addressed similar challenges. These twinning arrangements have helped recipient water operators improve their efficiencies and capacities, resulting in more people gaining access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The rationale behind the WOPs is that most of the capacity for improving water and sanitation services lies with the operators, 90 percent of which are publicly managed. The United Nations Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation proposed the development of WOPs as structured programs of cooperation among water operators, based on mutual support and on a not-for-profit basis, in its 2006 Hashimoto Action Plan. Mandated by the United Nations Secretary General to promote and coordinate activities related to WOPs, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN- HABITAT) has established a Global WOPs Alliance Centre and identified the need to establish Regional Partnership Networks for WOPs.

The agreement with WaterLinks supports the WOPs initiative through:
• Brokering and facilitating twinning partnerships between expert water operators and Asian utilities and municipal agencies on selected water and sanitation operations;
• Organizing water operator capacity building activities such as workshops, conferences and training events; and
• Developing and maintaining a knowledge hub web portal (www.waterlinks.org) on WOP initiatives and best practices. The portal collects and disseminates WOP approaches, training, toolkits and other capacity building materials, and WOP-related scheduled events organized by the partners

Participating development partners combine efforts and contribute to WaterLinks based on their own strengths and interests. IWA takes the lead in dissemination and knowledge sharing and works through its member network to broker new WOPs. USAID, through its Environmental Cooperation-Asia (ECO-Asia) program, focuses primarily on the facilitation of WOP arrangements, while contributing to regional capacity building initiatives led by the ADB.

ADB provides technical assistance to water operators in Asia by financing twinning arrangements, supporting water utility networks, and organizing technical workshops. USAID and the ADB also leverage their resources by jointly supporting selected WOP arrangements.

"One of the biggest challenges in the water sector is enabling intra-regional and international cooperation. This is especially true among water service providers in utilities and municipalities, who by nature are locally focused," said Mr Bert Diphoorn, Director of Human Settlements Financing Division of UN-HABITAT and the lead for the Global WOPs initiative. "WOPs have demonstrated their value in helping to build service capacity. WaterLinks is a vital step forward in unleashing this potential in Asia in a coordinated manner that involves all major stakeholders."

WaterLinks currently operates as an unofficial collaborative network of development partners, although plans are underway to create a permanent WaterLinks secretariat in the near future.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a U.S. Government (USG) agency providing economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide. Among its programs, the Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA), works throughout Asia to sustain and replicate environmental improvements through regional cooperation. ECO-Asia, an RDMA program, promotes improved access to clean water and sanitation in support of the USG's Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The International Water Association's (IWA) core purpose is to unite water professionals in achieving sustainable water management on a local, national and international level. The Association is a non-profit, self-governing organization comprising over 10,000 members across 130 countries from the scientific, utility, consultant, regulatory, industrial and technology communities. IWA's work covers all fields of the water cycle, from supply, industrial water use and sanitation in both developing and developed countries.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a broad-based development institution for the Asia and Pacific region, committed to reducing poverty through lending and non- lending activities to support pro-poor sustainable economic growth, good governance and inclusive social development. Under a Regional Technical Assistance program funded by the Japan Special Fund, ADB is implementing the WOPs Program in Asia which includes the establishment of water utilities networks in South Asia, Central Asia and support for the existing network in Southeast Asia.

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