Improving collaboration between water user associations and water service providers in SomalilandHargeisa 16 June 2015-- Within the framework of the European Union–funded project titled Improved Urban Water Service Delivery in Somaliland, UN-Habitat recently organized a two-day workshop with water user associations and water service providers from around Somaliland. UN-Habitat, UNICEF, Pro-Utility, and Uganda’s National Water and Sewerage Corporation jointly facilitated the event. Attendees included more than 20 representatives from water user associations and water service providers from Boroma, Tog Wajaale, Erigavo, Burao, and Hargeisa, representatives from the Somaliland Ministry of Water Resources, and members of the Hargeisa Water Board. Most of the participants had taken part in knowledge-exchange visits to Uganda in December 2014 and November 2015.

This resulted in a peer partnership with that country’s National Water and Sewerage Corporation to support the transfer of knowledge, exchange best practices, identify solutions to common problems, and get acquainted with innovative ideas and technologies. Building on recent practical experience in Somaliland and the lessons learned from Uganda, the workshop was organized to strengthen collaboration between water user associations and water service providers, with the overall aim of enhancing functionality and improving the coverage, safety, affordability, and efficiency of urban water supply services. UN-Habitat has been supporting this process since its inception: it developed terms of reference and built the capacity of the user groups through training, exchange visits, office space and basic tools, and practical exercises.

While public and public–private water service providers have been tasked with the operation and management of urban water supply systems in Somaliland for many years, water user associations are relatively new entities, having been established in 2014 through the Somaliland Water Act. These associations provide a forum for advocacy though the representation of all water users, and typically consist of representatives of civil society, women’s groups, marginalized groups (internally displaced persons, the urban poor, minorities, and communities without current access to water), and the business community, as well as religious and traditional leaders, local intellectuals, and youth. At least 30 percent of the members are women. At the grass-roots level, these home-grown groups actively engage with local utilities in the planning, development, monitoring, and oversight of urban water service delivery.

Improving collaboration between water user associations and water service providers in Somaliland_1This mechanism improves the accountability of the service providers and their responsiveness to the actual needs of the users. After reviewing the respective roles and responsibilities of the entities and presenting the progress made in their respective towns, the water service providers and water user associations analysed their current interaction and developed a strategic plan to improve their collaboration. The formal draft strategy will be under the oversight of the Somaliland Ministry of Water Resources. It was also agreed that water user associations would be formally registered as legal associations with the Ministry of Planning and National Coordination.