Tackling challenges together - municipal utilities in development cooperation

Utility platform workshop at the 15th Federal Conference of Municipal Development Cooperation (BUKO) in Bonn

The 15th Federal Conference of Municipal Development Cooperation (BUKO) took place from 14 to 16 June 2021 in Bonn under the title “Together. Fair. Global. Sustainable. 2030 Agenda – Municipalities Shape the Future.” The conference was organised on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) by Engagement Global/the Service Agency Communities in One World in cooperation with the City of Bonn and relayed live from the World Conference Center in Bonn.

In addition to keynote speeches, panel discussions and various other plenary activities, the programme included more than 30 interactive workshops, which were held in parallel sessions on days two and three of the conference. The workshops focused on three key themes of municipal development cooperation: “Working locally and globally through municipal development cooperation”, “Tackling challenges together”, and “Implementing projects sustainably”. More than 800 people from throughout Germany took part in the conference and discussed themes and projects related to municipal development cooperation in the workshops.

On day two of the conference, the utility platform team held a workshop on “Municipal utilities in development cooperation – the pilot project Utility Platform for Strengthening the Partnerships of Municipal Utilities Worldwide”.

At this workshop, Heiko Heidemann (GIZ) and Silvia Boehmsdorff (Service Agency Communities in One World) presented the pilot project and outlined the project context and objectives. In her presentation, moderator Nadine Gerks (German Association of Local Public Utilities – VKU) first gave an overview of the ways in which municipal enterprises can engage in development and drew attention to the new VKU Brochure on this subject.

Over 30 people took part in the workshop organised by the utility platform. This was aimed first and foremost at representatives of municipal enterprises who are interested in establishing international partnerships. Accordingly, the project participants explained the legal framework for municipal development cooperation and highlighted the added value of engaging in such activities. By drawing on specific examples, the reports of the lead partners on the lessons learned to date gave the participants an insight into municipal development cooperation in practice.

The municipal water utilities were represented by Barbara Ferenc (Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband), Dr. Claudia Wendland (Hamburg Wasser), Willy Lenk (Stadtentwässerung Dresden) and Dr. Gesa Kutschera (Gelsenwasser). From the perspective of the municipal utilities, they reported on the experience they have gained to date in national and international cooperation.

Working in international partnerships, they pointed out, also resulted in added value for in-house staff as this encouraged a more flexible and creative approach to problems at work and because it strengthened cross-departmental cooperation in the individual enterprises. Young staff members were particularly keen to participate in international projects. As several German municipal enterprises are involved in each partnership, the utilities benefit from technical exchanges at both national and international level.

The enterprises with experience in this area also emphasised the benefits of partnerships and advised others not to shy away from entering into projects with international utilitie

The utility platform team is currently setting up a pool of experts that will include a list of municipal enterprises interested in development cooperation. In future, when partnerships and projects are being established, the relevant individuals will be addressed directly. The current pilot project focuses on water. After the pilot phase, it is conceivable that support will be provided for public service partnerships in other areas.

The utility platform team will be pleased to advise you one-on-one about opportunities for engaging in municipal development cooperation and international partnerships. Staff members from municipal enterprises are welcome to contact us to learn about future support opportunities and upcoming events.


More Information

Conference website [in German]

Programme of the 15th Federal Conference of Municipal Development Cooperation [in German]

Workshop overview [in German]

VKU brochure “Locally based, globally engaged“ [in German]



Heiko Heidemann

Silvia Boehmsdorff



Redaktion Betreiberplattform

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