Global Water Partnership

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In response to the demands made at several key international environmental meetings, a group of agencies and governing institutions, including the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), collaborated to create the Global Water Partnership (GWP). The GWP essentially carries out the operational mandate of the World Water Council (WWC) and also acts as a "working partnership among all those involved in water management: government agencies, public institutions, private companies, professional organizations, multilateral development agencies and others committed to the Dublin-Rio principles" [1]. In effect, as Ann Christin Holland points out, the GWP "serves as a mechanism for alliance building and information exchange"[2].

GWP's main operating principle and is based upon the idea that water is an economic good. Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke note that this principle, guided by the Dublin Statement, "lies at the core of the GWP's main programs to reform water utility systems and water resources management in countries around the world"[3]. This principle is reflected in the policy manadates of a number of affiliated organizations that carry out the GWP's intiatives. For example, one such organization, Cap-Net - an international water network dedicated to "capacity building and Integrated Water Resource Manangement (IWRM)" - asserts that there is a "widespread need for water sector reform..." The challenge, however, from Cap-Net's point of view, "is to reach mutual agreement about the level at which...government responsibility should cease, or be partnered by autonomous water services management bodies and/or community-based organizations"[4]. Moreover, in a recent policy paper, Cap-Net implies that the free market is the appropriate means by which water services should be allocated. They write:

"Treating water as an economic good is an important means for decision making on the allocation of water, This is particularly important when extending supply is no longer a feasible option. When there is competition for water resources it brings into the open the need to justify the allocation of water to one user rather than to another"[5].

Such statements imply that exclusion to socially necessary fresh water goods and services is necessary and justified in terms of market logic.

Critics of the GWP are concerned with the organization's close ties not only to governing institutions and development banks, but also to private industry. For example, the current chair person of the GWP, Ms. Margaret Catley-Carlson, is a fomer president of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and sits as chair of the Water Policy Advisory Committee of Suez - one of the world's largest transnational water corporations. In addition, Rene Coulomb, a senior executive of Suez and one of the founding members of the World Water Council (WWC), sits on GWP's steering committe. Also, Ivan Cheret, a representative of Suez, sits on the GWP's Technical Advisory Committee.


  1. Global Water Partnership, About Us: Small Planet. Big Job. Our Mission, accessed 22 February 2006.
  2. Ann-Christin Sjolander Holland (2005) 'The Water Business: Corporations Versus People', Black Point: Fernwood Publishing, p.115.
  3. Maude Barlow & Tony Clarke (2002) 'Blue Gold: The Battle Against the Corporate Theft of the World's Water', Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited, p.157
  4. Cap-Net, Institutional Framework, accessed 22 February 2006.
  5. Cap-Net, Water Management Principles, accessed 22 February 2006.