The Global Water Operators' Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) is a UN-Habitat programme focused on strengthening public water utilities around the world and enhancing collaboration between them.

Water and Sanitation Utilities have a critical role in achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals at the local level. In small towns and big cities, water and sanitation operators help deliver on basic human rights (UNGA Res 64/292) providing services that are fundamental to inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities (SDG 11) where no one is left behind (New Urban Agenda).

GWOPA works to scale up peer-support partnerships (Water Operators’ Partnerships or WOPs) between water and sanitation service providers. WOPs strengthen water and sanitation operators to help ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6), contributing to SDG6 targets on inclusive access to services, water quality, water use efficiency, integrated water management and conservation, capacity development and community engagement.

GWOPA is an outcome of the Hashimoto Action Plan, launched in March 2006 by the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), which recommended the establishment of a global mechanism to promote Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) between utilities to exchange their knowledge and to build their capacities for sustainable performance improvement.

Upon request by the former UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, UN-Habitat led the foundation of GWOPA in Nairobi in 2009. Ten years later, WOPs are now widely recognized as a low-cost and relevant approach to strengthening utilities sustainably. WOPs align with best practice in capacity development and exemplify principles of effective development cooperation. Most of them are South-South.

As not-for-profit partnerships, WOPs offer high value for money. They are embraced for their ability to help utilities achieve financial sustainability, and to secure and manage much-needed finance for sustainable infrastructure. At least 390 million USD have been mobilized for WOPs in the past decade.

GWOPA now counts 340 of these WOP partnerships around the world enhancing capacity for improved services, and a network or regional and national WOP platforms and programmes implementing them. The WOPs practice is growing steadily with new utility associations, development banks and governments around the world adopting the practice at scale.

GWOPA works as an Alliance and it counts among its members public water utilities and their associations on all continents. As a global convener, GWOPA brings diverse water and urban stakeholders including governments at local, regional and national levels, financial partners, development organizations, private utilities, civil society and labour unions together around the same table at global events like the WOPs Congress, the World Water Forum and the World Urban Forum.

The GWOPA Secretariat is managed by UN-Habitat and guided by a multi-stakeholder International Steering Committee, chaired by UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, which meets annually. The Steering Committee is elected from GWOPA’s General Assembly, held every two years together with the Global WOPs Congress.

GWOPA’s work supports the strategic objective of UN-Habitat “to advance sustainable urbanization as a driver of development and peace, to improve living conditions for all” and will contribute to all four Domains of Change within UN-Habitat’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.

Following establishment (2009-2012) and consolidation (2013-2018) phases, GWOPA’s new Strategy (2019-2023) focuses on significantly scaling up this partnership practice to equip more operators worldwide with the capacity to contribute to global development agendas. Prepared with the wide inputs of partners and stakeholders, the strategy strengthens the GWOPA Secretariat’s role as the catalyzer, convener and knowledge leader for WOPs worldwide. GWOPA will work extensively with its Alliance to implement its strategy.

Like other UN-Habitat programmes, GWOPA is extra-budgetary, meaning that it relies exclusively on contributions from partners. It has a Project stream (GWOPA currently has projects with the OPEC Fund for International Development, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, and the Governments of Spain and the Netherlands) with which it supports the effective implementation of WOPs, as well as a Hosting Stream.

A Hosting arrangement ensures the GWOPA Secretariat stable revenue with which to implement key aspects of its strategy that could not be covered by project funding only. Hosting funds contribute to the staff and operational costs of GWOPA’s work, including advocacy and communications, hosting of global events, WOP monitoring and research activities, and the development of guidance materials and tools for effective Water Operators’ Partnerships. Hosting funds permit GWOPA to work globally and to collaborate with regional organizations in order to extend the reach of its work.

A New Hosting Call for the GWOPA Secretariat

UN-Habitat is opening a new call for a Host to the GWOPA Secretariat for the 2020-2024 Period. The opportunity arises upon the expiry of the current hosting agreement with Barcelona, Spain where the GWOPA Secretariat has been based since 2013, thanks to the financial support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.

Benefits to Host Countries

Serve as the global headquarters of the GWOPA Secretariat - hosting this United Nations programme demonstrates leadership and commitment to international water sustainability and solidarity.

Help realize global development goals Backing GWOPA’s work helps utilities make measurable contributions to Sustainable Development Goals 6, 11, and 17, the New Urban Agenda and the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation.

Contribute to tangible local results around the world during the hosting period, GWOPA aims to catalyze at least another 130 Water Operators’ Partnerships, which are expected to make measurable capacity or performance improvements in utilities serving an estimated 20 million people.

Local and International visibility GWOPA hosting helps raise the international visibility of the host country’s water and sanitation activities. GWOPA’s bi-annual Global WOPs Congress and other international meetings and events can draw in hundreds of delegates from nations around the world and lend international exposure and economic impact to the local host.

Opportunities for collaboration – GWOPA’s presence in a host country offers opportunities for collaboration with a country’s institutions, including its local governments, utilities, universities, and development agencies.

Hosting Requirements and Selection Criteria

Hosting proposals must include the following minimum commitments:

  1. A contribution of at least $800,000 USD annually for a minimum of 5 years (Information on the proposed use of the cash contribution to UN-Habitat will be provided as part of the bidding proposal.)

  2. A contribution to the installation cost of staff to new duty station

  3. Complimentary office space suitable for 10-15 staff and which is UN Safety compliant

  4. Endorsement by the national government of a UN Member State (The government of the selected host will enter into a Host Country Agreement with UN-Habitat to accord Privileges and Immunities to the UN Staff)


Additional, desirable contributions to be evaluated in the selection include:

  • Additional financial support to the work of GWOPA

  • Support the hosting of the Global WOPs Congress (estimated at 125,000 USD annually, plus conference


  • Staff secondments or the financing of UN National or Junior Professional Officer positions to GWOPA

  • Support to GWOPA’s regional platforms


    The GWOPA hosting call and selection process will be undertaken by an independent selection committee within UN-Habitat, according to the following timeline:

    • June 7th, 2019 UN-Habitat launches the call for Expressions of Interest to all UN Member States. The call will also be announced on UN-Habitat and GWOPA websites.

    • July 12th, 2019 Deadline for interested parties to submit an Expression of Interest indicating their intention to submit a hosting proposal.

    • July 15th, 2019 Based on Expressions of Interest received, UN-Habitat invites detailed proposal for hosting of the GWOPA Secretariat

    • July-October, 2019 UN-Habitat responds to queries from recipients of the call for proposals

    • October 18th , 2019 Deadline for UN-Habitat to receive full hosting proposals from interested parties.

    • October 18th - 23rd , 2019 Assessment of complete proposals by the selection committee.

    • October 23rd, 2019 Announcement of the successful candidate.

    • October - December 2019 Signing of Host Country and Contribution Agreements.

    • January 2020 Establishment of the GWOPA Secretariat at selected host location.




Any UN Member state or public entity endorsed by its national government to do so may apply. A joint proposal by more than one country may also be considered.

Submitting Expressions of Interest

Expressions of Interest. A party wishing to express its interest to Host the GWOPA Secretariat must submit an official letter (on letterhead with signature, addressed to the GWOPA Chair, UN-Habitat Executive Director, Mme. Maimunah Mohd Sharif) by July 12th, 2019.

Those who have submitted Expressions of Interest will then be contacted and provided with instructions, including a package of information on GWOPA, for preparing a final hosting proposal for review by the Selection Committee.

All enquiries, EOIs or hosting proposals must be submitted to with the header “GWOPA”, respecting the deadlines provided above.

Further Information

GWOPA Strategy 2019-2023
Connecting Water Utilities for Sustainability (2018 Brochure)
GWOPA Strategy 2013-2017
Annual Reports 2013-2017
GWOPA Strategy 2013-2017 Evaluation
Global WOPs Congress Reports
UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water Hashimoto Action Plan



Banner image: Modern urban wastewater treatment plant  [Por Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock]