Water touches every aspect of development and flows through nearly every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). It drives economic growth, helps ecosystems flourish, supports climate adaptation, and handwashing with water and soap is one of the most effective ways of slowing the transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Delivering on such complexity and scale will always exceed the capacity or capabilities of any one individual organization, and partnerships provide a strategy and offer a platform to marshal the necessary resources, skills and ideas. That’s why the World Bank’s Water team—or Water Global Practice (GP)—works in partnerships with often very different organizations. From universities, to the private sector, to multilateral institutions, to country governments, to global, national and local civil society organizations, the World Bank’s Water team collaborates in a deliberate way with a wide range of partners to deliver on our vision of a healthy and water-secure world for all.
There are many ways in which partnerships support our efforts:
1 – Working with partners around high-level advocacy to drive delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
A High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), consisting of 11 Heads of State and a Special Advisor and convened by the World Bank and the United Nations resulted in a call for accelerated action in this crucial area. With messages from heads of state, a global report launch, a video viewed more than 120,000 times and a day of action around World Water Day, the HLPW helped drive attention and secure commitment to delivering the water-related SDGs.
More recently, the Water team has worked closely with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the centrality of water, sanitation and hygiene element to the COVID-19 response, and worked closely with Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) to reach ministers of finance directly to advocate for the importance of investments in these areas.
2 – Working with partners helps showcase one another’s work and harness one another’s networks and platforms
Every year on Menstrual Hygiene Day, we work in coalition with the NGO WASH United and over 500 other partners from around the world to raise awareness and catalyze action around this crucial issue. In 2019, this coalition made over 114,000 contributions on social media, delivered 724 events in 74 countries, and helped us bring new evidence and ideas to our audiences.
3 – Partnerships bring together experts and practitioners working to achieve similar goals
This year, the World Bank teamed up with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and Project Clear to produce a brief and a blog providing guidelines and principles to help governments develop national communications strategies for behavior change to combat COVID-19.
Professor Val Curtis, Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explains why the Bank were natural partners for this work: “The Bank is a partner of choice as it has a firm understanding and commitment to the need for professional communications at the heart of program design and implementation. They understand that behavior change is fundamental to any social change, and for the need to take a scientific and strategic approach to it.”
4 – Partnerships provide opportunities to crowd-in innovation
Good ideas spring from many sources, which is why, in May 2020, the Bank, alongside water innovation accelerator Imagine H2O, hosted a virtual event for staff across the world showcasing 14 water technology businesses with promising products and services. Facilitating these connections have already delivered tangible results—the Water team at the Bank, previously connected Drinkwell with the Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, leading to the first deployments of four water ATM booths providing safe drinking water access to 5,100 people. In cooperation with the utility, Drinkwell will be rolling out an additional 96 systems in 2020 and 2021 across Bangladesh’s second largest city.
5 – Partnerships both advance global knowledge and sharpen the World Bank’s analysis of the latest trends
Every two years, the World Bank’s Water team brings together key partners and clients for dialogue on critical challenges. Water Week 2019 included keynote speakers from a wide range of institutions. Another regular event has traditionally been the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Water Week. These fora offer the chance to speak directly to so many of the people who are engaging on water and sanitation issues, where World Bank staff can collaborate with global experts, share what they are learning through our research and seeing on the ground, and learn about what other people in this space are working on.
6 – Partnerships generate new ideas and policy proposals
Last year, the World Bank partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI) on Integrating Green and Gray—Creating Next Generation Infrastructure, which provided examples and evidence to help harness the power of nature.
Suzanne Ozment, senior associate with Natural Infrastructure for Water at the World Resources Institute, believes the World Bank and WRI possess very complementary strengths: “The World Bank brought deep expertise as the world’s premier adviser on large-scale infrastructure projects, which complemented our specialization on nature-based solutions. The Bank’s track record of working with clients in the field allows them to provide exceptional insights on the best ways to design and build next generation infrastructure.”
We also partnered with WRI to develop a Water Action Track for the Global Commission on Adaptation, working together on an evidence base to help shape policy.
7 – Partnerships support common goals and strengthen dialogue
The World Bank’s multi-donor trust fund, the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) is another pillar of the Water Global Practice’s approach to partnerships. Launched in 2017, GWSP aims to provide action equal to the ambition articulated within the SDGs.
Ana Gren, from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, explains why this partnership works for them and how it is opening up channels of communication: “The way the GWSP is informing World Bank programs is really following many of the directions that we have in our strategies. We have an excellent dialogue with the Bank in terms of how you’re implementing your programs globally, leaving no-one behind.”
8 – The private sector has a key role to play in fostering solutions
The 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) is a public, private, civil society partnership hosted by the World Bank. The partnership supports country-level collaboration designed to unite diverse groups with a common interest in the sustainable management of water resources.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Nestlé S.A. and Co-Chair of the 2030 WRG Governing Council Paul Bulcke says the private sector can act as a change agent: “Together with the public sector and civil society, companies can drive transformative leadership in the way water resources are managed. The multi-stakeholder approach, fostered by 2030 WRG, offers a very valuable platform for the World Bank Group for dialogue with key private sector players around water policy issues in countries. reform opportunities.”
Jennifer Sara, Water Global Director, says partnerships represents a core part of the Water GP’s identity: “Our partnerships are our strength. We are always open to new partnerships since the way forward is working together on these crucial issues of water and sanitation. The complementary experience, knowledge and skills that our partners bring to the table mean that together we can make even more of a difference.”