Tonga, 11 August 2016: Prof Gary Jones with Tongan PM Samuela ʻAkilisi Pōhiva and Australian High Commissioner Andrew Ford (far left).
The AWP has embarked on a multifaceted activity with Pacific Water & Wastewater Association (PWWA) and its member utilities. The PWWA is a regional association of organisations in the water and wastewater sector whose mission is the delivery of quality water-related services that enhance the wellbeing of people throughout the Pacific region. The membership comprises various Pacific water stakeholders including 26 Pacific Island water and wastewater utilities across 20 nation states, various government departments, allied members and interested individuals.
While there are various capacity development programs already funded by international agencies for individual utility members in the Pacific, there are significant gaps in these programs and few regional-scale initiatives that promote Pacific water utilities networking and assisting each other aided by experts where needed. This proposal targets those regional-scale gaps identified in preparing the Development Plan where Australian partners of AWP can assist with strengthening the capacity of PWWA and its utility members.
There are a number of elements in the overall AWP activity with the PWWA:
- Development Support Program for new PWWA CEO and Secretariat – for example, to help the Secretariat transform from mostly voluntary to professional staff.
- Development of Board members of Pacific utilities – While there are a variety of current programs for developing staff in water utilities, there is no program available for the development of Board members. It is proposed for the PWWA to partner with Vicwater in the capacity development of Pacific Board members.
- Young Pacific water professionals – There is currently no regional program to developing young water professionals across Pacific water utilities. The plan is to develop a program with a focus on exposing rising Pacific water utility staff across a range of disciplines to various training programs, networks and water events in the Pacific and Australia
- Attendance at key Australian water conferences and events – It is proposed to have a program of key events each year that lead to greater exposure of Pacific water leaders to the Australian water industry.
- Water standards, technical specifications and expert networks – The Water Services Association of Australia has the most advanced library of water standards and specifications for this part of the world and many Pacific water utilities would greatly benefit if they could get ready access to relevant water standards and technical specifications.
- Pacific Utility – Australian utility partnerships for capacity development – There are a number of targeted opportunities for Australian utility partners of the AWP to partner with Pacific water utilities in capacity development efforts, outside the current twinning efforts of the Asian development Bank.
There are obvious benefits to PWWA from these programs in that it allows PWWA to establish a new Secretariat in a timely way and expand its services to meet the growing needs of its member organisations and the annual Forum of Pacific Water Ministers.
The program of work is on a regional-scale and targeted at priority gaps in current donor and local programs. Gender equity is embedded as an objective in the design each of these programs.
The overall proposal relies on growing the number of Australian partners that are actively interfacing with the PWWA and its Pacific utility members. This is to the benefit of satisfying AWP activity objectives of collaboration, learning experiences, meeting key influencers and development of a body of knowledge and relationships in both directions. It sets the scene for more ongoing trading opportunities for Australian service firms across 20 Pacific nations.
In terms of inter-governmental relationships, this proposal provides the opportunity for these relationships to be created and nurtured in multiple ways. The Forum of Pacific Water Ministers is unique and will have growing influence throughout the region over time, especially when it becomes supported by a professional PWWA Secretariat that has the resources and a water policy development framework to fully support its needs.
Recently Tonga PWWA members approved governance and planning reforms viz. new constitution and business development plan. Key water-related issues facing Pacific nations were identified at these meetings and a subsequent PWWA conference. Planning for first PWWA-AWP Partnership Workshop in Canberra in November is underway. Any announcements about this will be made via the AWP Newsfeed.