Representatives of water utilities from Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras and the Caribbean participated in the 3rd WOP-LAC Steering Committee meeting held in Santiago de Chile this April 15th. Within the framework of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)'s annual meeting for its Water and Sanitation Division, the WOP-LAC Steering Committee discussed results of the 2010 activities and adopted the Work Plan for 2011.
The meeting was organized by WOP-LAC's joint secretariat, made up of representatives from the IDB, the International Water Association (IWA), UN-HABITAT (the Global WOPs Alliance Secretariat).
The results of a study evaluating 12 WOPs carried out by the WOP-LAC platform since its launching in 2007 was a key item on the agenda. A chief recommendation in the report was to extend the duration of the WOPs carried out under the platform, as the evidence suggested these yielded greater results. The Steering Committee accordingly agreed to shift towards longer-term technical cooperation/framework agreements, following the example of recent agreements entered into by AyA (Costa Rica) and SABERSP (Brazil) as well as between EPM (Colombia) and EMAAP-Q (Ecuador).
The Steering Committee concurred on the need for systematic monitoring and evaluation of WOPs agreements. Accordingly, the WOP-LAC Secretariat committed to hiring a consultant to monitor ongoing WOPs and evaluate completed ones. EPM (Colombia) and AA (Chile) offered to lead the development of a first draft evaluation toolkit that, upon adoption by the Steering Committee, would be made available for the all WOPs implementers under the platform.
Participants also stressed the importance of having formal agreements between the WOP-LAC Secretariat and its sub-regional platforms, like Cari-WOP for the Caribbean or NEXOS HÍDRICOS for Central America, as well as with national platforms such as WOP-Mexico, WOP-Brazil and WOP-Colombia.
The following insights were offered in a session intended to share lessons from WOPs implementation:
- Sustaining the initial interest of the recipient utility is essential to ensuring the expected performance improvements are achieved through the WOP.
- The WOP-LAC and GWOPA platforms need to help utilities understand what support they can access in implementing WOPs.
- At the utility level, WOPs must systematically feed into strategic action plans in order to ensure the managerial or institutional follow-up required for change. The involvement of governmental bodies would also facilitate follow-up, such as in the example of the intergovernmental WOP agreement by SABESP (Brazil) for its WOP with AyA (Costa Rica)
- The potential impact of WOPs is compromised when a utility's management is not officially and actively involved. A success requirement, managers' support needs to be assured to avoid undermining the credibility of the WOPs mechanism.
- Pre-feasibility studies that examine legal and regulatory frameworks and existing governmental support can help implementers design more effective WOPs interventions.
- Greater support from national associations of water operators is needed to realize the objectives of the WOP-LAC Platform and sub-regional WOP platforms. Similiarly, greater political and financial ownership of the WOP-LAC Platform would help in the realization of activities.
The members of the steering committee also discussed the idea of an on-line capacity building program to reach more utilities interested in addressing specific performance topics. The Centro del Agua, hosted by IADB, FEMSA and Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico), was identified as a suitable implementer for such an activity. The upcoming launching of the official website of WOP-LAC Platform will be an important milestone that will also offer the possibility of hosting this training.
Finally, there was a discussion on innovative ways of mobilizing resources for WOP-LAC in 2011, in light of a reduced funding scenario, coupled with the heightened expectations of WOP-LAC partners.