Partnering with GEF for Private Sector Participation in Source-to-Sea-and-beyond sustainable financing

A global-level Dialogue focusing on ways to enhance the partnership with the private sector for the sustainable source-to-sea and beyond management, is being fostered by the GEF IW:LEARN (International Waters Learning Exchange & Resource Network) and facilitated by the Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med). The Dialogue aims to identify, debate, agree on and eventually disseminate viable approaches on how to partner with the private sector in the pursuit of more sustainable financing modalities.

This Dialogue has been reinforced through the organisation of the International Roundtable on Partnering with the Private Sector for Sustainable Financing from Source-to-Sea and beyond’ in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on 14-15 May 2016 and back-to-back with the 8th GEF Biennial International Waters Conference (Negombo, Sri Lanka, 9-13 May 2016).

The International Roundtable, co-organised by GEF IW:LEARN and GWP-Med and in partnership with the CEO Water Mandate, brought together more than 70 IW stakeholders, representing relevant public authorities, civil society, international and regional organisations, donors and the private sector, with the threefold objective to:

(1)    Shed light on the role the private sector, including banks, can play in the source-to-sea sustainable management and financing, as well as the potential forms and modalities of such an involvement;

(2)    Assist with the design of new projects, whose approaches can catalyse financially sustainable source-to-sea management and investments, including through identification of means to finance the implementation of GEF-supported Strategic Action Programme provisions; assist also with the set-up of the right enabling environment for private sector engagement;

(3)    Help coordinate efforts among UN Agencies, International Financing Institutions and NGOs toward a coherent and tangible approach to private sector engagement in source-to-sea management, as well as the interface of these actors with private companies, banks and other private actors for sustainable investments, keeping the new global commitments in mind - especially the Sustainable Development Goals).

A Background Note was prepared and disseminated in advance of the meeting, setting the tone and offering food for thought for the discussions during the Roundtable.

In addition to specialised presentations and targeted interventions, the Roundtable participants were involved in a series of working group exercises for unveiling the specificities of private sector engagement and the enabling environment for making it happen within the context of sustainable financing for source-to-sea and beyond development and management. The working groups, benefiting from participants’ experience through specific projects and activities, discussed on the one hand, the key challenges and opportunities for private sector participation and, on the other hand, plausible responses for enhancing such involvement in ongoing and future projects.

Based also on the input provided during the working groups, the final session deliberated on plausible steps forward and towards improved engagement and partnership with the private sector for sustainable financing from source-to-sea and beyond. Agreement was reached on a step-wise approach, aiming to strengthen internal GEF IW capacity through the set-up of an Advisory Panel and the elaboration of a Strategy and Action plan. In this endeavour, co-financing –as relevant and feasible- through resources from existing GEF projects is foreseen, as well as the capitalisation of findings from the ongoing work of the IW:Learn and LME:Learn (Large Marine Ecosystems) projects.

The Roundtable benefitted from GWP-Med’s ongoing work, already since 2006, on sustainable water financing and private sector engagement, as well as from the ongoing work, since 2008, on corporate social responsibility through the Non Conventional Water Resources Programme. Related insights were shared through targeted presentations and input during the working groups and discussions. Τhe added value of such experience, as well as the neutral and advocacy role of GWP-Med, were well recognised and considered critical for the success of the process.

The participants expressed high appreciation for the usefulness and high quality of the International Roundtable’s presentations and facilitated discussions, and stressed that this is not a one-off event but rather the beginning of a process. To that end, they confirmed their intention to be actively involved in the follow up of this process, including also through direct participation in the Advisory Panel. The timeline is expected to closely align with the preparatory process towards the 9th International Waters Conference (IWC9) scheduled for November 2017.