Management 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships exchanges knowledge

On September 7, the Dutch management of the 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships came together in the Dutch province Fryslân for a meeting. The objective for this gathering was: how can we learn from each other about managing large partnerships?

The meeting was amongst the partnerships of Mozambique, Colombia, Eswatini and South Africa. The managers were invited to Friesland, at the invitation of the partnership manager of Mozambique, of which Wetterskip Fryslân (the Dutch water authority in the area of Fryslân) is the lead partner. This was the third time that the major partnerships organized such a consultation. This time was extra special, thanks to a boat trip through the beautiful Alde Feanen nature reserve.

Topics to discuss

The colleagues exchanged, for example, their experiences with working with a so-called ‘talking sheet’. This sheets makes it visible which Blue Deal topics the partnership is working on, and where there are topics that still need to be addressed. “It helps to establish a relationship of the concrete activities which are implemented with the longer-term goals,” says one of the participants. “Large partnerships deal with many people and interests. Visualising this helps to get an overview of how all our activities contribute to our larger goals, and what we should continue or stop.”

The participants also discussed, among other things, their annual plans for 2024, presented to each other how they have organised their partnerships and discussed decentralization in one of the partner countries. They also covered the safety assessments of work visits, finances, accountability, and much more.

Learning from each other

An important part of the Blue Deal is learning from each other. Therefore, the Blue Deal learning programme also includes a training for new partnership managers. Thanks to this joint intervision of the partnership managers, the 4 largest partnerships are now going one step further to exchange knowledge with each other.

Yepper Gcinile Dlamini at UN Water Conference: “Support local teams”

Gcinile Dlamini is one of the Young Experts of the Blue Deal programme in Eswatini. She was part of the Blue Deal delegation that went to the UN Water Conference 2023 that took place from March 22 until March 24. “Sometimes it just takes one person taking responsibility, even if it is attending to minor issues. And when the next person is doing the same, then we can actually achieve something bigger.”

The conference was co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands. It was the first time in 46 years that the UN convened a Water Conference to raise attention to water. The Blue Deal went there with a delegation. Dlamini was invited to join, to be the voice of the youth for the Blue Deal.

What was it like to go to the UN Water Conference?

“The UN Water Conference really inspired me, it was amazing to be part of something that big. Usually, when we see problems around us that are as overwhelming as the water crisis, it’s easy to push the responsibility to take action and think: it’s not my job, it’s not my baby to care for. The problems we face with water every day, you think that as an individual there’s nothing you can do. But going to the conference… there was the urge and encouragement to do something. To think about: what can we do, how can we change the situation?”

“Sometimes it just takes one person taking responsibility, even if it is attending to minor issues. And when the next person is doing the same, then we can actually achieve something bigger. It doesn’t take rocket science to solve the issues in the water sector.”

What was most inspiring to you?

“The youth. They had fire, they want to be involved. They want to do the work. They are actually taking the initiative, they did not sit back and wait to be called to the table. It was amazing to see that. I’m not used to seeing young people do that. Because youth unemployment is so high in Eswatini, usually we just want to get a job and make a living. Things like water youth parliaments, we don’t have that in our country.”

What are you going to do with what you learned at the conference?

“I want to get together a group in my country in the water sector, a platform for the youth. I want people to talk about these issues, so they can be addressed.”
“And I also want to be the inspiration in my work team. I work for a government in a developing country. And there’s always lack of resources. So it’s easy to make an excuse, to not do anything. There’s always something missing to be efficient. But going to the UN motivated me. Sometimes we don’t have the resources, but we do make a difference.”
“When you think no one is supporting you, you lose the zeal to continue working. It is collaborations and partnerships, such as the one my country (the Joint River Basin Authorities-Project Board) has with the Blue Deal, that help us continue to carry out our mandate of managing water resources. During the UN Water Conference the Blue Deal team members made it their priority to ask for assistance and support for local water authorities. So we are not alone. I need to be the voice that reminds my work team that we are doing a great job and that we have the support we need to keep going.”

You also spoke as a panellist during one event. What was your message?

“I was a panellist during the event: ‘Forget about SDG6 without strong water management organizations’. This event was collaboratively organised by WaterWorX, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Blue Deal and UNGWOPA. My message was that if we don’t work on supporting local water authorities, then we won’t achieve the SDGs. We, as local teams, are the people who deal directly with water issues. If we are not strengthened, in terms of skills and finances, how are we going to achieve the goals? The focus has to start from the ground up. And then, maybe, there will be a difference.”

How was it for you personally to join the conference?

“It was a great opportunity for me. And I met so many interesting people that I want to keep sharing knowledge and ideas with. Speaking at the event really helped me with my confidence. It’s nice to be heard, even if maybe what you shared is not immediately addressed but it’s no longer on your shoulders alone. It makes everything better.”

“Everyone was popping with ideas. Everyone wanted to figure out how to address this water crisis. No one was sitting back and watching. It was amazing to have everyone stand up for water.”

Ministry of eSwatini visits the Netherlands

At the beginning of March, the Principal Secretary and the Director of the Department of Water Affairs of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy from eSwatini visited the Netherlands. They were joined by the CEO of JRBA, partner organization of the Blue Deal in eSwatini. The visit focused on multi-layer governance of Dutch water management.

The 3 visitors from Swazi had many good and enlightening conversations, such as with Martien Beek (in the middle of photo) from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

During the week, there were discussions with the Executive Board and the management of the Dutch water Authority Vechtstromen. There was also a field visit to the cross-border agency GPRW, which led the Swazis to Germany 3 times in 1 day.

The Hague was of course also an important part of the programme, with a visit to the Association of Dutch Water Authorities, the Delta Commission, the Waddenzee Authority, the Dutch water authority Rijnland. Also, at the province of South Holland, the Swazi’s saw Dutch democracy in action because the Provincial Executive was in session.

3 countries meet for regional knowledge exchange

The water challenges in Southern Africa are immense. Floodings, droughts; water and climate related disasters always seem to be just around the corner. On November 25, the Blue Deal partnerships of eSwatini, Mozambique and South Africa joined forces in the first joint regional Blue Deal exchange meeting in Johannesburg. Here they discussed the issues regarding data management of water data.

Similar challenges

The 3 countries face similar challenges: how to ensure financial stability? How can data sharing within and between countries be improved? And many technical hurdles, for example how to integrate the now often still separate data systems? As Ntombikayise Dhladhla, participant of the Blue Deal Young Expert Programme, explained: “In eSwatini, the main issues are reliability of the data, which leads to limited data sharing. We are working in silos.”

Lessons learnt

During the day the Blue Deal teams of the 3 countries looked back on Phase 1 of the Blue Deal. Experiences and lessons learnt were shared. Looking to the future, people shared their ideas on which topics the partnerships can work together. Ideas included working together on a central database, organizing shared lab facilities and connecting existing databases.

Different perspectives

Ambassador Han Peters mentioned the importance of long-term equal partnerships, which are the basis for the Blue Deal: “No one country can solve the problems of today on their own. You need different perspectives, you need people from different backgrounds if you want to get to the greatest solutions.” And with this first regional meeting of 3 Blue Deal partnerships, a strong start has been made.

Collaboration with eSwatini confirmed during work visit

At the beginning of September, Nettie Aarnink, member of the executive board at the Dutch water authority Vechtstromen, visited eSwatini. The most important part of this work visit was the visit to "the honorable Minister Mabuza" of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy. During this visit they made agreements about the role and input of the national government for the next phase of the Blue Deal partnership.

Agreements have been made about the personnel and financial input that the national government will provide in eSwatini. Agreements have also been made to support one of the most important processes for the further decentralization of water management in Eswatini. The visit and speeches of Mabuza and Aarnink received a lot attention on television and in the newspapers.

Gender workshop

Another important part of this work visit was to contribute to the gender workshop for the Joint River Basin Authorities (JRBA) and the main partner organizations of the JRBA. As in the Netherlands, there are fewer women than men active in the water sector in eSwatini. But there is an important difference: much more than in the Netherlands, the work of the water authorities has a direct influence on the lives and futures of girls and women.

Often it is the girls who have to fetch water for the family. A great deal of time is lost when the distance between the water well and the home is increased. For girls, this is at the expense of school time, sometimes girls are no longer able to go to school. In addition, it is often the women who grow the crops for their own family. Good water management is of vital importance to them. Hence the focus on gender. Aarnink contributed to this by sharing her experiences in the Netherlands and in other African countries and by talking to the board members of the JRBA.

UNDP, European Union delegation and WaterAid

Finally, visits were also made to the UNDP, the European Union delegation in eSwatini and to WaterAid. These organizations are already involved and the Blue Deal would like to connect them (even) more to the activities in eSwatini. All in all, a very useful work visit that will have an impact on the cooperation within the Blue Deal partnership.

> Read more about the Blue Deal partnership in eSwatini

Celebrating 10 years of cross-border cooperation in southern Africa

Regional water managers in the Netherlands, Germany, eSwatini, Mozambique and South Africa have been sharing experiences for ten years now. What binds them is how you work together in border regions.

From 17-19 November, the lustrum took place at the River and Environmental Management Cooperation in South Africa. Problems such as drought, flooding, climate change and women empowerment were discussed. The Deputy Minister of South Africa endorsed the importance of seeking solutions in the Blue Deal partnerships.

Launch of umbrella organisation for water authorities in eSwatini

After five years of hard work, the Blue Deal partners in eSwatini launched an umbrella organisation for water authorities on 10th November with a festive African ceremony.

Among others, Peter Bhembe, Minister of Natural Resources & Energy and ambassador of the Blue Deal was present. Prior to his speech, the minister noted that water is a women’s issue in Africa. He was referring to adding more women to the boards of water authorities and to the fact that it is women who fetch water.

Lecture: solutions for complex water problems

The KIWI learning programme recently organised a lecture by professor Guy Alaerts about the unruly nature of international water management and solutions for complex water problems.

Water managers worldwide are looking for integrated solutions for complex water problems. Major investments are often required to become climate proof, but finding financing is difficult. Water managers and financial institutions do not know where to find each other and converting globally available financing into concrete projects on a large scale is difficult. Watch the lecture below. The lecture is in Dutch, but can be viewed with subtitles.

Study: water management knowledge exchange

TU Delft and Erasmus University, in collaboration with Dutch Water Authorities, have launched a study into water management knowledge exchange. The universities are investigating which lessons the Dutch regional water authorities take abroad.

Meeting room with people seated at tables for a traning session. One man is stood, giving a presentation.
Dutch Water Authorities and local partners attending a training session.

As part of the study into water management knowledge exchange university researchers are looking at the lessons learned at an individual level, group level and organisational level. The aim is to find out exactly what effect these lessons have on organisations.


A questionnaire is sent out via the Dutch Water Authorities foreign coordinators. It is hoped that insight can be gained into the possibilities and limiting factors of international knowledge sharing.

More on Dutch Water Authorities and knowledge exchange

Blue Deal Annual plan 2021

The 2021 annual plan of the Blue Deal programme has been approved by the steering committee. The partnerships will continue their work in 2021 to improve water management in 14 countries.

Two men inspecting a waste water treatment plant.

The focus of the Blue Deal Annual plan 2021 is on three crucial elements: sufficient knowledge and skills, a well-functioning organisation and collaboration with key stakeholders.

Online learning

As COVID-19 continues into 2021, the Blue Deal partnerships focus on online learning and training in the first six months. This is not easy in all countries, for example due to slow internet connections or recently initiated partnerships. Therefore, the partnerships also focus on additional local representation. Dutch Water Authorities hopes to physically meet its partners again in the second half of 2021.

More on the Blue Deal