Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership: Five Years of Advancing a Water-Secure World for All


  • Over the past five years, climate considerations have become embedded in GWSP support, leading to a rising number of projects with climate co-benefits.
  • The World Bank Water Global Practice’s work in fragile, conflict and violence-affected areas has grown significantly, and Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership now supports active engagement in 33 countries.
  • There is more social inclusion in the water sector. The average share of female engineers in 23 participating utilities in Ethiopia increased from 8 percent to 12 percent in just two years.

GWSP reviews its progress since launching in 2017 amid the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, rising interest rates and inflation, the war in Europe, and the growing impact of climate change. While these challenges affect its mandate to ensure sustainable water service delivery, the latest GWSP annual report reveals that there is still hope.  

Water is crucial for all forms of life and links to almost every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Progress towards meeting water targets has been uneven, with inequality gaps widening both between countries and within them. And while the technical solutions to many water sector problems are known and available, the main issue is that water is undervalued, underpriced, underinvested, and often poorly managed.

GWSP is an action-oriented, global think tank that offers client countries and development partners with the latest knowledge, innovations, and technical support towards a more water-secure world. In the 2022 fiscal year alone, we supported teams delivering $13 billion in World Bank lending.

During the same period, the active water lending portfolio managed by the Water GP included 148 projects valued at more than $25.6 billion. The World Bank’s total portfolio of all water-related lending was over $50 billion in FY22, making it the world’s largest multilateral source of water financing in developing countries.

In its latest annual report, GWSP looks at the issues it has been at the forefront of addressing for several years. Some examples of our work in these areas are highlighted below.

Water and climate change

A warmer climate impacts nearly every phase of the water cycle, with potential catastrophic consequences for food production, energy generation, health, and livelihoods. Over the past five years, climate considerations have become embedded in GWSP support, reflected in the rising number of projects with climate co-benefits.

One such example is GWSP support for a partnership with Deltares, an independent institute for applied research in the field of water, to develop the Enable, Plan, Invest, and Control (EPIC) Response Framework. This framework, currently piloted in India and the Gambia, provides a new perspective on holistically and collaboratively managing floods and droughts.

Protecting biodiversity

Water and biodiversity go hand in hand—rivers, wetlands, forests, and other ecosystems are vital in meeting water management goals. This means that protecting and conserving biodiversity is fundamental to sustainable development. Over the past five years, GWSP has supported client countries in developing the potential of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions alongside traditional infrastructure investments.

In Colombia, a GWSP-supported water diagnostic identified clear warning signs of increased risk from contaminated water. The analysis informed policy suggestions for ways to address this risk while also restoring degraded ecosystems and increasing biodiversity. These included using nature-based solutions to increase storage capacity by restoring ecosystems such as wetlands and estuaries, and crafting policies that reward efforts by industrial and other large water users to restore the natural integrity of waterways and support biodiversity.

Water sector spending

Public expenditure reviews assess how public funds are spent, how well they are spent, and what the funding and financing gaps are. With GWSP support, water sector expenditure reviews have been completed in close to 20 countries around the world. These generate a vast amount of evidence on spending trends and represent the first ever attempts to understand public spending across the entire water sector using new data sources, including budget data and national accounts. 

In Bangladesh, an expenditure review revealed that most of the benefits of public spending on sanitation flowed to the wealthier sections of society, rather than those most in need. In Nepal, the review quantified the extent to which public expenditure in the water sector was heavily skewed toward hydropower. The spending review undertaken in the Dominican Republic had a major impact on policy and institutional reform and helped build the government’s commitment to reforms across the entire water sector.

Inclusive development

Social inclusion is essential to ensuring equal access to water services, jobs, and markets. GWSP’s social inclusion program started with a focus on gender but has since broadened to include guidelines and tools for reaching other marginalized groups, such as persons with disabilities, and effectively engaging citizens.

While achieving real change is possible, progress requires the challenging work of changing institutions, shifting social norms, and identifying opportunities to better align incentives to promote inclusion. In Ethiopia, in just two years, the average share of female engineers in 23 participating utilities increased from 8 percent to 12 percent, and the share of female board members grew from 16 percent to 24 percent. In Argentina, AySA, one of the largest utilities in the region, increased the share of women in leadership positions from 22 percent to 24 percent in a little over a year.

Water in areas affected by fragility, conflict, and violence

Fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) disrupt development and pose a significant challenge to efforts to eradicate poverty. The World Bank has a long history of working in FCV-affected countries, particularly in the water sector. When GWSP was established in 2017, it was able to build on extensive work carried out in fragile states under the Water and Sanitation Program.

The Water GP’s work in FCV-affected areas has since grown significantly, and GWSP now supports active engagement in 33 countries. Building partnerships between the Water GP, with GWSP support, and humanitarian agencies means that all parties are able to benefit from shared knowledge and expertise. A 2021 report, Joining Forces to Combat Protracted Crises: Humanitarian and Development Support for Water Supply and Sanitation Providers in the Middle East and North Africa, jointly published by the World Bank, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and UNICEF, examines problems reported by water service providers during protracted crises and offers recommendations.  

The 2022 GWSP annual report is available for download here.