The EU WOP Programme is a four-year initiative, led by UN-Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alli- ance (GWOPA) and funded by the European Commission DEVCO. Through the programme, a total of 8.3M USD is available for between 20 and 30 Water Operators’ Partnerships projects of 36 months’ duration.
UN-Habitat is calling on eligible water and sanitation operators to collaborate with partners to present Water Operators Partnerships (WOPs) Project Proposals for funding under the programme. The present document gives background on the EU WOP programme and instructions on how to apply to this Call for Proposals
The world is facing a huge water and sanitation challenge. Currently, 2.1 billion people still cannot count on contamination-free water, and 4.5 billion lack sanitation systems that protect them from disease.¹ Water quality is declining, and freshwater ecosystems are being degraded, threatening the continued availability of water for basic services. The COVID-19 crisis is exposing, and exacerbating, service provision disparities.
Many of the water and sanitation service providers that are counted upon to provide basic services in communities around the world struggle with technical, financial and managerial challenges. Under-performing utilities regularly feature unsafe water, frequent cuts, and very limited coverage within their service area. High water losses, poorly designed tariffs and weak billing and collection systems contribute to financial problems that worsen infrastructure and services and further exclude those without access. Sanitation services and wastewater treatment are generally inadequate or inexistent.
Operators are at the front lines of delivery on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, yet few operators have services that fully respond or are adapted to the needs of the most poor and marginalized, including women, older persons, children and youth, and people living with disabilities, and few prioritize service delivery to low- income communities or critical public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.
In many locations, the external pressures upon utilities are mounting as well, as rapid, unplanned and inequitable urbanization, diminishing freshwater resources and deregulated hydrological regimes exacerbated by climate change, compound existing weaknesses in water and sanitation service provision. Many utilities need to improve not only their current performance but also bolster their resilience to future risks. The World Bank estimated in 2015 that a tripling of funds to US$ 114 Billion per year will be needed just to meet the water and sanitation access targets of SDG 6.² However, for utilities to access and sustainably manage the needed investments for water and sanitation infrastructure, more robust capacity and performance is needed.
About Water Operators’ Partnership
Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) are an opportunity to address these challenges. WOPs are peer support exchanges between two or more water operators, carried out on a not-for-profit basis with the objective of strengthening operators’ capacity and performance to provide a better service to more people. The UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board for Water and Sanitation first called on development actors to support these partnerships in 2006 and requested UN-Habitat to create GWOPA to lead their scale-up. Over 350 of these decentralized partnerships between water and sanitation service providers have since been documented, with more than 50% of them being South-South partnerships.
WOPs have a proven track record of helping utilities improve their effectiveness and efficiency to deliver more sustainable and inclusive services. WOPs draw on the motivations and capacities of effective water and sanitation service providers to help their peers realize sustainable improvements. Strong operators have shown themselves to be effective mentors to peers that are striving to improve their financial, technical and managerial performance in order to better serve all.
WOPs make their impact by helping utilities acquire and apply knowledge, establish new practices and implement improved approaches. Partner utilities engage in training to build the skills and knowledge of Beneficiary staff. The resulting capacity and performance improvements can contribute to SDG 6 targets and facilitate utilities’ access to financing for infrastructural investments, supporting further extensions or improvements in services.
WOPs emphasize the strengthening of local workers and their jobs to realize sustainable improvements. Rather than substituting capacity, they focus on helping local utility staff to make lasting improvements that can continue beyond the life of the partnership. Building on peers’ shared understanding of professional demands and challenges, partners conduct joint diagnosis to deepen understanding of challenges and solutions. Dedicated capacity development activities (classroom-based, on-the-job, distance-based learning, exchange visits and other activities) introduce needed knowledge and skills. Jointly developed action plans, tools and systems support change that, once rooted, are reflected in improved utility performance in operational, financial, social and environmental areas. Where WOPs help operators to improve their cost-recovery and their creditworthiness, they can also help facilitate access to finance for service improvements or extensions.
The present COVID-19 pandemic is also a reminder of how essential resilient local water and sanitation service providers are to maintaining health and stability, especially in poor communities. Water Operators’ Partnerships can help strengthen the resident capacity of local utilities to abate such crises and protect communities when they arise.
The EU WOP programme is an opportunity to build on European commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, at the heart of its 2017 European Consensus for Development. It also reflects EU commitments to the Paris Agreement Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the New Urban Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction 2015 -2030 and Human Rights commitments, including the European Citizens´ Initiative declaration of 2013. The new priorities of the European Commission, in particular the EU Green Deal and responses to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, provide further impetus for the EU-WOP Programme.
The overall objective of the EU-WOP Programme is to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 6: Improved availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
The EU-WOP Programme will fund a suite of Water Operators’ Partnerships aiming at the following specific objectives:
Increased access to improved drinking water source and/or sanitation within Beneficiary Partner service areas.
|Improved operational, financial, social, environmental and cross-cutting capacity and performance of the water and sanitation Beneficiary operators.||
Additional finance for water and sanitation operational or infrastructure improvements
Strengthened capacity and commitment among partner organizations
to engage in Water Operators’ Partnerships beyond the scope of this programme.
The present Call for Proposals aims to identify potential EU-WOP projects for funding that will contribute to the programme objectives and expected results.
The EU-WOP Programme design builds extensively on past WOP programmes studied or managed by GWOPA, the evaluation of the 2010 European-funded EU-ACP partnership programme and draws from consultation with senior staff within UN-Habitat and a wide range of external stakeholders
EU-WOP Programme Overview
UN-Habitat will identify potential EU-WOP Projects for funding through a two-stage application process: Phase I Application followed by Phase II Application.
Following the launch of the Call for Proposals, applicants will have three (3) months to submit the Phase I Application. A Selection Committee will evaluate the Phase I Applications received based on the predefined evaluation criteria and following the established selection process. Only top-ranked projects from Phase I will proceed to Phase II.
In Phase II, top-ranked Phase I applicants will then be requested to prepare the Phase II Application, including supplementary project and budget information, a logical framework, as well as supporting documents to demonstrate commitment, capacity and eligibility. Applicants will be given two months from the notification of Phase I selection until the submission of the Phase II Application.
In Phase II, the Selection Committee will evaluate the Phase II Applications based on the predefined evaluation criteria and following the established selection process. In addition, as part of the Phase II evaluation process, proposed projects and partners will be vetted to ensure that they comply with the eligibility criteria and UN rules and regulations. Following the Phase II evaluation and eligibility confirmation, the top-ranked proposals will be selected for funding.
The Lead Partners of the selected projects will then be informed of their successful proposal and enter into two types of agreement9:
|1 Agreements of Cooperation||2 EU-WOP Project Agreements|
Lead Partners of successful EU-WOP projects will enter into Agreements of Cooperation (AoCs) with UN-Habitat through which the Lead Partner will receive the funds to manage the project. This agreement inter alia defines the roles, financial and reporting obligations of the Lead Partner, as the accountable organization in the WOP. The AoC is implemented applying the Lead Partner’s approved financial mechanisms, in line with UN rules and regulations.
|Lead Partners, Beneficiary Partners and any Additional Partners within each EU-WOP project will enter into, or extend, a single WOP agreement (a Memorandum of Understanding or similar) laying out their respective roles and responsibilities under the project, and commitments to implement following the GWOPA Code-of-Conduct. This is normally a non-financial agreement.|
Lead Partners of successful EU-WOP projects will enter into Agreements of Cooperation (AoCs) with UN-Habitat through which the Lead Partner will receive the funds to manage the project. This
agreement inter alia defines the roles, financial and reporting obligations of the Lead Partner, as the accountable organization in the WOP. The AoC is implemented applying the Lead Partner’s approved financial mechanisms, in line with UN rules and regulations.
Lead Partners, Beneficiary Partners and any Additional Partners within each EU-WOP project will enter into, or extend, a single WOP agreement (a Memorandum of Understanding or similar) laying out their respective roles and responsibilities under the project, and commitments to implement following the GWOPA Code-of-Conduct. This is normally a non-financial agreement.
In addition to the above agreements, Lead Partners may need to enter into subsequent financial agreements with Additional Partners¹0, depending on their budget and financial arrangements. The Lead Partners will undertake any subsequent financial agreements applying their own financial rules and mechanisms as vetted by UN-Habitat through the selection process.
WOP Lead Partners will be ultimately responsible for the overall implementation, monitoring and reporting and financial management on their individual EU-WOP project activities. Nevertheless, Beneficiary Partners, as well as Additional Partners as appropriate, are expected to be actively involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of their WOP. Roles and commitments shall be described in the WOP Agreement between EU- WOP partners to be put in place (or extended/amended in the case of ongoing partnerships) during the project inception.
EU-WOP Lead Partners will be required to submit bi-annual technical/substantive reports in English11, reflecting progress, challenges, interim results and emerging lessons. EU-WOP Projects will make use of GWOPA’s Partnership Management Platform, a web-based platform developed to support WOP partners to centralize planning, monitoring, communication, visualization and easy reporting on their projects. The GWOPA Secretariat will train participants in the use of this platform, ensure technical support and maintenance. Reports will include progress on communications and knowledge exchange activities which are required as part of this programme.
During the three-year AoC, the Lead Partner will receive four payment instalments, the amounts of which correspond to the total amount of the grant. Lead Partners will receive a first, advance, payment instalment (30%) upon signing the AoC with UN-Habitat. Second (30%) and third (30%) instalments will be transferred to the Lead Partner upon receipt of satisfactory financial and narrative reports after 1 and 2 years of implementation, respectively. The final instalment (10%) will be granted only upon submission of final narrative and audited financial statements. Financial reports will follow the budget templates provided in the Phase I Application Form. Detailed guidance on financial reporting will be provided to applicants proceeding to Phase II Applications.
During project implementation, the GWOPA Secretariat will remain available to project Lead Partners for consultation on administrative or technical aspects on their partnerships.
UN-Habitat will oversee a midterm review and final evaluation of the EU-WOP programme and knowledge management activities, which may involve visits to EU-WOP project partner organizations. EU-WOP project partners are required to participate in these evaluations, as required.
In addition to the specific activities related to the Beneficiary Partners, EU WOP projects Partners are encouraged to participate in programme-wide communications and knowledge exchange activities.
Each funded EU-WOP Project must contribute to EU-WOP programme communications objectives. The GWOPA Secretariat will provide relevant guidance to successful WOP Projects to support EU-WOP Partners to inform about their WOP activities and results.
All Partner organizations with projects under the EU WOP programme will also have the opportunity to interact through an EU-WOP Programme-wide knowledge management initiative. This initiative, to which Lead and Beneficiary Partners will be expected to participate, will involve exchange, learning, advocacy and documentation of experience gained through the WOP projects. More information on this cross-cutting programme, its opportunities and requirements, will be communicated to Applicants that have successfully passed to Phase II of the EU-WOP application process.