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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Localizing SDG 6- Transforming Access to Water by Strengthened Capacity of Operators Closest to Water Provision

Global Water Operator Partnerships' Alliance GWOPA/UN-Habitat (
United Nations / Multilateral body

    This initiative commits to accelerate support to achieve SDG 6 and 11.1 at the local level by a large-scale effort to implement solidarity-based partnerships between water operators to improve health, livelihoods, water and food security, and wellbeing for an estimated 100 million people. UN-Habitat and UNICEF have also submitted the commitment as one of the High-impact Initiatives for consideration at the SDG Summit.

    Thousands of water and sanitation operators provide services to billions of people but are often overlooked as a crucial actor in delivering the SDGs. They are well positioned to address the service gap for those left behind. The role of water and sanitation providers was underscored during the severe need for water brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in this group of local actors is essential— both for day-to-day water needs, and to build resilience for future shocks.

    Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance (GWOPA) in 2009, in response to the recognition that many of these essential water and sanitation operators (90% of which are public) need guidance and technical support, while others are highly capable and willing to support them on a not-for-profit basis. Over the past 15 years, GWOPA has assembled a wide network of partners and led a global movement to professionalize these peer support arrangements called Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs).

    The initiative pledges to accelerate the approach of GWOPA to engage at least 100 public water and sanitation service providers across the globe to sign up for a set of criteria of peer exchange and support. This Action is aligned with the UN SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework and is committed to addressing the capacity building of water and sanitation services provides through the scaled implementation of Water and Sanitation Operators Partnership practice, to develop a comprehensive open source infrastructure to provide data driven programming and capacity building and performance monitoring for utilities, to mobilize member states commitments towards establishment of a utility technical assistance facility to support infrastructure planning and financing to improve access to financing, innovative solutions to help with climate transitioning services and infrastructure, and to facilitate knowledge development, sharing and learning through community of practices, global and regional forums.

    The initiative will engage in multi stakeholders’ partnerships that assess challenges, builds, and embed knowledge, and design and implement solutions, drawing on a set of global normative tools. This will contribute to strengthening water governance and partnership ecosystem over time.

    The Action taps into the growing and broad-based GWOPA members and partners, building on the ongoing engagements by GWOPA utilities, governments, financial institutions, and municipalities, to support more public service providers to provide high quality mentorship to their peers. It expands on the investments already being made in Water Operators Partnerships to scale-up essential capacity development alongside billions of dollars of investments needed in local water and sanitation infrastructure.

    Expected Impact

    Goal 6 of the Water Action Agenda, to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, underlies the attainment of every single other SDG, from ending poverty to eliminating hunger, gender equality, ensuring education, combatting climate change, ensuring life on land, providing renewable energy, supporting industry, and fostering peace and security.

    Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic human right for health and well-being. Billions of people will lack access to these basic services in 2030 unless progress rapidly accelerates, including lagging behind on SDG 11.1 on access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgraded slums. Improved water and sanitation services furthermore help end poverty by reducing costs to the poor and improving livelihoods.

    Strong utilities contribute to the achievement of all SDG 6 targets, while poor management and institutional capacity of these entities undermine progress. Water is pivotal to global progress, whether addressing inequalities, combatting climate change, or advancing peace and security. The role of local service providers as frontline actors is increasingly recognized in international processes and platforms such as the annual High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development and the biennial World Urban Forum, which convene an array of partners to discuss global development imperatives and opportunities.

    The Action is a low-cost global-scale movement to radically improve the ability of local service providers to play their full role in achieving the SDGs. Its innovation lies in the multiplier effect, and each new water operator partnership can easily be scaled at national levels. With the backing of Member States, the Initiative is expected to strengthen 100 utilities between now and 2030, benefitting an estimated 100 million people with safer, more responsive, more resilient or more accessible basic services. At the heart of its methodology and implementation strategy is solidarity between water operators globally to improve services, and ultimately access to water for the whole population, including the most vulnerable, in particular women and girls and under-served areas.

    Directly addressing SDG 5.5, gender mainstreaming in water and sanitation utilities and Water Operator Partnerships is an integral component of the methodology. Utilities can only improve their performance and achieve SDG6 and the Human Right to Water and Sanitation if they include the gender perspective, both in their service provision and their organizational structure providing opportunities for women equally to those of men still dominating the profession.

    By focusing on capacity development and institutional anchoring, the benefits will be multiplied over time by leveraging of finance for investments, which often benefit of spin off from these partnerships. There will be ripple effects, whereby benefiting utilities go on to support more peers through further partnerships.

    Beyond direct impacts, the peer-to-peer support mechanism will contribute to practical understanding of solidarity-based partnerships in support of SDG 17 including North-South and South-South water operator partnerships. It will raise the profile of water operators as a key actor in localizing the SDGs, raising the global recognition of basic services providers in achieving the SDGs.


    GWOPA Alliance Members (80+ as of March 2023)

    Additional information

    Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) are peer-support partnerships between water and sanitation service providers. WOPs work by harnessing the skills, knowledge and goodwill within a strong utility to build the capacity and improve the performance of another utility that needs assistance or guidance. Critically, WOPs follow a Code of Conduct (French/Spanish) that sets out the principles for practice. (

    Women in Water and Sanitation Utilities and WOPs
    Women and girls carry the heaviest burden of responsibilities around water collection and caregiving. Access to these basic services directly affects the health, education, income and safety of women and other vulnerable communities. Moreover, less than one in five water workers are women, which GWOPA is working to address. Women are also underrepresented in technical and managerial positions. (

    Useful Resources: ( Links accessible on:
    Learning Approaches in Water Operators’ Partnerships. Framing the Issues. BEWOP
    Framework for Analyzing Water Operators’ Partnerships. BEWOP
    Building WOPs for Sustainable Development in Water and Sanitation. IWA, GWOPA/UN-Habitat, Vitens-Evides International
    South-South WOP factsheet. BEWOP
    North-South WOP factsheet. BEWOP
    National WOP factsheet. BEWOP
    WOP case studies: Belize Water Services – Contra Costa Water District;Water Authority of Fiji – Hunter Water Australia;FIPAG – Vitens Evides International; More
    Utilities Fight COVID-19. GWOPA/UN-Habitat
    WOPs and solidarity: A global effort to realise the human right to water and sanitation. Aqua Publica Europea

    Goal 5

    Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

    Goal 5


    End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere


    Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex


    Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

    Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age


    Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by age and place of occurrence


    Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

    Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18


    Proportion of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age


    Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate


    Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location


    Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life


    Proportion of seats held by women in (a) national parliaments and (b) local governments


    Proportion of women in managerial positions


    Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences


    Proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care


    Number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education


    Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws


    (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure


    Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control


    Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

    Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex


    Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels


    Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Goal 11

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    Goal 11


    By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums


    Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing


    By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

    Proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries

    Ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate


    Proportion of cities with a direct participation structure of civil society in urban planning and management that operate regularly and democratically


    Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage


    Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional, and local/municipal)


    By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations


    Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population


    Direct economic loss attributed to disasters in relation to global domestic product (GDP)


    (a) Damage to critical infrastructure and (b) number of disruptions to basic services, attributed to disasters


    By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management


    Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities out of total municipal waste generated, by cities


    Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5 and PM10) in cities (population weighted)


    By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

    Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    Proportion of persons victim of physical or sexual harassment, by sex, age, disability status and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months


    Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning


    Number of countries that have national urban policies or regional development plans that (a) respond to population dynamics; (b) ensure balanced territorial development; and (c) increase local fiscal space


    By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels


    Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030


    Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies


    Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

    Goal 17

    Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

    Goal 17


    Strengthen domestic resource mobilization, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection

    Total government revenue as a proportion of GDP, by source
    Proportion of domestic budget funded by domestic taxes


    Developed countries to implement fully their official development assistance commitments, including the commitment by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of ODA/GNI to developing countries and 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of ODA/GNI to least developed countries; ODA providers are encouraged to consider setting a target to provide at least 0.20 per cent of ODA/GNI to least developed countries

    Net official development assistance, total and to least developed countries, as a proportion of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee donors’ gross national income (GNI)


    Mobilize additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources


    Additional financial resources mobilized for developing countries from multiple sources 

    Volume of remittances (in United States dollars) as a proportion of total GDP


    Assist developing countries in attaining long-term debt sustainability through coordinated policies aimed at fostering debt financing, debt relief and debt restructuring, as appropriate, and address the external debt of highly indebted poor countries to reduce debt distress

    Debt service as a proportion of exports of goods and services


    Adopt and implement investment promotion regimes for least developed countries


    Number of countries that adopt and implement investment promotion regimes for developing countries, including the least developed countries


    Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism


     Fixed Internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, by speed


    Promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed


    Total amount of funding for developing countries to promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies


    Fully operationalize the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017 and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology

    Proportion of individuals using the Internet


    Enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the Sustainable Development Goals, including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation


    Dollar value of financial and technical assistance (including through North-South, South‑South and triangular cooperation) committed to developing countries


    Promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization, including through the conclusion of negotiations under its Doha Development Agenda

    Worldwide weighted tariff-average


    Significantly increase the exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the least developed countries’ share of global exports by 2020


    Developing countries’ and least developed countries’ share of global exports


    Realize timely implementation of duty-free and quota-free market access on a lasting basis for all least developed countries, consistent with World Trade Organization decisions, including by ensuring that preferential rules of origin applicable to imports from least developed countries are transparent and simple, and contribute to facilitating market access


    Weighted average tariffs faced by developing countries, least developed countries and small island developing States


    Enhance global macroeconomic stability, including through policy coordination and policy coherence

    Macroeconomic Dashboard


    Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development

    Number of countries with mechanisms in place to enhance policy coherence of sustainable development


    Respect each country’s policy space and leadership to establish and implement policies for poverty eradication and sustainable development 

    Extent of use of country-owned results frameworks and planning tools by providers of development cooperation


    Enhance the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all countries, in particular developing countries


    Number of countries reporting progress in multi-stakeholder development effectiveness monitoring frameworks that support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals


    Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships 


    Amount in United States dollars committed to public-private partnerships for infrastructure


    By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts


    Statistical capacity indicator for Sustainable Development Goal monitoring

    Number of countries that have national statistical legislation that complies with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

    Number of countries with a national statistical plan that is fully funded and under implementation, by source of funding


    By 2030, build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries

    Dollar value of all resources made available to strengthen statistical capacity in developing countries

    Proportion of countries that (a) have conducted at least one population and housing census in the last 10 years; and (b) have achieved 100 per cent birth registration and 80 per cent death registration

    Name Description
    1. Water Operators’ Partnerships strengthening at least 100 utilities in the Global South to improve the capacity of utilities by 2030.
    2. Increased Member States commitment to integrate Water Operator Partnerships into their WASH strategies with a commitment of an enabling environment to deliver water and sanitation services to those most in need by 2030
    3. A comprehensive open-source infrastructure enabling partners to learn from one another, including matchmaking, advocacy for attainment of SDG6, and community of practices to facilitate knowledge exchange and learning, by 2030.
    4. Water Operator Partnerships support access to and effective use of investments to make utilities more efficient, inclusive, green or resilient.
    Staff / Technical expertise
    GWOPA Secretariat Staff and its Allianace membership of 80+ global partners and operators
    In-kind contribution
    Water Operator Partnerships are solidarity-based partnerships as a principle
    Financing (in USD)
    Seed and catalytic funding provided by the GWOPA Secretariat and partners
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    Action Network
    water logo
    01 April 2023 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    Global Water Operator Partnerships' Alliance GWOPA/UN-Habitat
    1. Global
    Other beneficiaries

    Water operators in the network particularly based on the South; ultimately local communities/men/women/children in need of access to water.

    More information
    United Arab Emirates
    United Arab Emirates
    Contact Information

    Åsa, Head of Programme, GWOPA/UN-Habitat