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FEATURE STORY July 1, 2017

New Partnership Aims to Help Countries Achieve a Water-Secure World for All


  • Water is a crucial aspect of development.
  • The Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership launches July 1st.
  • The Partnership identifies sustainability, inclusion, institutions, financing and resilience as crucial for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.


Water touches nearly every aspect of development. It drives economic growth, supports healthy ecosystems and is fundamental for life. However, this critical resource can harm as well as help. Water-related hazards such as floods, storms, and droughts are responsible for 9 out of 10 natural disasters.  Climate change is expected to increase this risk and place even greater stress on scarce water supplies.

New challenges and new contexts require new responses.  That’s why today, July 1st 2017, the World Bank, together with its partners, is delighted to launch a new partnership for a water-secure world, the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP).  Building on a nearly half-century of collaboration driven by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), the Water Partnership Program (WPP) and others, the GWSP aims to provide action equal to the ambition articulated within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.) 

The GWSP will primarily focus on advancing knowledge and building capacity.  It will support client governments to achieve the water-related SDGs through the generation of innovative global knowledge and the provision of country-level support, while leveraging World Bank Group financial instruments and promoting global dialogue and advocacy with key partners and clients to increase reach and impact. This Partnership will provide new opportunities to test and scale-up innovations, build country capacity where needed and influence client demand and World Bank operations.

Five priority themes have been identified where action is critically needed to achieve the SDGs for water:

Sustainability – Sustainability is ultimately about ensuring that available resources today can continue to deliver benefits to future generations. The partnership focuses on two critical aspects for ensuring long-term sustainability of water investments.  Firstly, the sustainable management of water resources.  This means securing the long-term availability of water resources, taking into account the impacts of population growth, rapid urbanization and climate change. Secondly, infrastructure assets should be adequately built and maintained, to ensure for example that handpumps do not break down prematurely or that treatment plants are not abandoned for lack of adequate maintenance. 

Inclusion – Inclusion is the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity to take part in society.  Water belongs to everyone and yet many are excluded from its benefits and often excluded from ownership and control of this critical resource.  So ensuring that a project enhances the inclusion agenda requires better knowledge on the nature of water inequality, enhancing the capacity of both Bank staff and clients and putting in places incentives both within the Bank and through the clients will enable better outcomes.  Underlying such design of course requires strong institutions that will hold state and service providers accountable. 

Institutions – Expanding access to and improving the quality of services can only be achieved and sustained if the institutional arrangements provide the right incentives and resources and the organizations tasked with service delivery also have the requisite capacity. Institutions comprise the formal and informal ‘rules of the game’ within which these organizations operate and, through this, impact the quality and sustainability of services.  To the extent that providers of WASH and irrigation services are (quasi) government entities they are influenced by broader governance environment and the institutional architecture of the “public sector” that goes beyond the “water sector”. To strengthen institutions and accountability for service provision, GWSP works to understand the rules of the game and incentive structures to facilitate a pragmatic change process that is grounded in local cultures, economies, and political circumstances.

Financing – To deliver on the ambition articulated in the SDGs, financing needs to expand access to safely managed water and sanitation services alone have been estimated at US $114 billion per year up to 2030. That’s vastly more than the amount historically invested to expand access, and much more will be needed to deliver universal access and manage water resources and infrastructure sustainably.  A two-pronged approach is needed.  Firstly, improving the financial viability of the water sector to ensure that “water can pay for water”, whilst ensuring affordability of services for the poor.  Secondly, leveraging commercial and non-state sources of financing will be critical so that the sector can tap new financial sources. 

Resilience - Management of water resources and water facilities will increasingly be subject to shocks in years to come. That’s because climate change is predicted to increase climate variability and extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts.  Resilient solutions call for strategies and tools at the country, basin, and project level capable of incorporating not only climate and disaster risk consideration into the analysis, but also innovative solutions to ease water scarcity constraints as well as socioeconomic and environmental considerations. Building climate resilience will require developing tools and approaches that can help save lives and livelihoods. Resilient water services (water and sanitation, irrigation, etc.) are better able to adapt to shocks and stresses and continue delivering essential services to the population. 

Of course, these themes do not exist in isolation and need to be operationalized simultaneously so that actions under each of these themes can mutually reinforce each other and can contribute to the many other SDGs which are so closely interlinked with the achievement of a water-secure world for all.

The GWSP will help deepen the collaboration with global partners, who bring much-needed thought leadership, complementary experience, and critical external trust fund support. In this new era, a new type of partnership between the World Bank and development partners is needed to leverage the investments and knowledge of the Bank to achieve far more than could be reached with World Bank resources alone. Business as usual just won’t cut it.

As Guangzhe Chen, Senior Director for the Water Global Practice of the World Bank explains: “The GWSP can act as a global platform for innovation.  It can incubate and test bold new initiatives in a range of interconnected water challenges, and scale up rapidly where there is potential.

The GWSP has the architecture, the experience, the knowledge, and the people to test innovations, build country capacity where it is needed most, and shape the future of client demand for the financial resources and knowledge services offered by the World Bank and other development partners. I believe it will help our clients to go that extra mile and this is crucial if the world is to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Added Dr. Fred Boltz, Managing Director at The Rockefeller Foundation: “There is no debate: water is vital to human well-being, economic and social progress, and resilience. Eradicating poverty and hunger will depend fundamentally on water security - for both people and ecosystems."

“As with all great challenges throughout history, building global water security will require collective action. In keeping with our long tradition of transformative partnerships, The Rockefeller Foundation’s support of the World Bank’s Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) is one that we believe will help to shift the course of water management for lasting benefit to people and planet.”

Maarten Gischler, Deputy Head, Water and Environment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands said: “We are excited about this launch, and about the Water Global Practice’s commitment to go ‘the extra mile’ with clients in the five priority themes. These themes are not new. But to realize the ambition of the SDGs, they need to be addressed now more than ever."

“That is why the Dutch government is investing in this partnership. We are convinced it will enable the Bank to make even more of a difference on the ground. We expect to learn from you - and with you - along the way and will certainly apply the lessons the GSWP learns in our operations as well. And in 2022 we are confident we will see evidence that the GSWP is indeed delivering more water security for millions of people.” 

The total estimated budget for the Partnership is US$ 200 million until 2022.  The GWSP will support analytical work and technical assistance and provide new opportunities for transformation and a robust set of indicators have been agreed to ensure the GWSP is measuring what matters most and learning by doing.  Together, the World Bank and development partners have the opportunity to fulfill the vision of a water-secure world for all.