Partnerships for Localising Multilateralism: Improving Urban Development through Water Action

In an effort to address the growing need for sustainable water and sanitation solutions in urban areas, GWOPA (Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance) hosted a side event at the 2nd UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya. The event, titled “Partnerships for Localising Multilateralism: Implications of the Water Action Agenda on Urban Development,” brought together key stakeholders to discuss the implementation of the Water Action Agenda and its impact on urban development. With increasing urbanisation and the challenges posed by climate change, the event aimed to foster collaboration and strengthen partnerships to ensure safe and affordable access to water and sanitation services. 

The Water Action Agenda, a result of the UN 2023 Water Conference, holds great significance in accelerating progress towards SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities). Access to essential services such as water and sanitation is crucial for achieving safe and affordable housing in urban areas. With urbanisation and climate change adding pressure on existing systems, it is estimated that the demand for water in cities will rise by 50-70% over the next three decades. Localising water and sanitation service delivery through multi-stakeholder partnerships reflects the spirit of multilateralism and presents opportunities for accelerated progress toward SDGs 6 and 11.1. 

The side event witnessed the participation of over 60 individuals, including prominent keynote speakers. The discussions revolved around the importance of collaboration across sectors and the need to strengthen partnerships at the local level. Key emphasis was placed on inclusivity and the availability of financial support to drive sustainable action on water-related issues. Several influential speakers highlighted the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration and inclusive decision-making processes.

Dr. Rose Kaggwa of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation emphasised the need for collaboration across sectors and boundaries, particularly by engaging the youth and allocating adequate budgets.

Ms. Dian Irawati from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Indonesia, stressed the significance of cross-sectoral action to engage all stakeholders, create innovative solutions, and mobilise effective action. Mr. Arnold Cole of UNICEF’s Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa highlighted the need to strengthen systems, institutions, and governance while emphasising the role of finance as an enabler to achieve SDG 6. 


Enhancing Partnerships through Water Action 

The event shed light on the crucial role played by GWOPA in enhancing partnerships at the local level. Ms. Zainab Mpakiraba, Principal Engineer at the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Uganda, added that utilities are key actors in the implementation of sustainable solutions. GWOPA’s Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Congress has inspired utilities to take action by addressing their challenges and seeking support from each other. Ms. Rasa Ščeponavičiūtė, Deputy Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN-HABITAT, European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kenya, further stressed the supportive role of GWOPA in providing water services in urban areas, highlighting the importance of UN coordination in this sector. 

The side event hosted by GWOPA at the 2nd UN-Habitat Assembly was an important platform for stakeholders to discuss and collaborate on improving urban development through the Water Action Agenda. The event highlighted the need for strong partnerships, inclusivity, and financial support to address the challenges posed by urbanisation and climate change. By localising water and sanitation service delivery and adopting a multi-stakeholder approach, progress can be accelerated towards achieving SDGs 6 and 11.1.

With GWOPA’s role in enhancing partnerships at the local level, and the commitment and dedication of all stakeholders, there is hope for sustainable water and sanitation solutions in urban areas. As we continue our work, it is crucial to be bolder in our actions, articulate our expectations, and establish robust monitoring mechanisms to ensure accountability. We look forward to sharing more solutions and insights at the upcoming IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition in Kigali, Rwanda on 10-14 December 2023. Registration is opening soon – find out more. 

Åsa Jonsson

Head of GWOPA
Åsa Jonsson is the Head of the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), Urban Basic Services Section, Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat based in Bonn, Germany. She is an urban development practitioner having held multiple positions ... Read full biography