History and Background

Ideation and Preparation

In 2008, leaders from business, government, civil society, and academia participating in the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Water Security identified two critical needs in the water sector: greater recognition of water’s economic value, and the need for greater and more meaningful interaction between the public and private sectors in the way water is managed. Recognizing the opportunity to look at water’s fundamental role in the economy, the Forum joined forces with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

An informal consortium made up of the IFC, The Barilla Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé, New Holland Agriculture, SABMiller, Standard Chartered Bank, and Syngenta then commissioned a toolkit that stakeholders could use to compare the impact, cost, and achievability of a range of different measures and technologies, thus providing the fact base needed to underpin solutions. This group later became known as the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG).

The Forum began to engage stakeholders across sectors and socialize a new way of thinking – firstly about water as a resource with enormous economic impact and value as well as a human right and environmental necessity, and secondly about the role of the private sector as part of the solution rather than just part of the problem.

The 2030 WRG then issued a 2009 report, Charting Our Water Future, with its key message that any strategy to achieve water resource security must be a joint effort – integrated with broader economic decision making – by governments, investors, NGOs, and water users in agriculture, industry, and cities. The report and its headline figure – that global demand for water would outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, brought champions together for the kind of cross-sector conversation and action for which the report called. The governments of Mexico, South Africa, and the state of Karnataka in India, which had engaged in the process of developing the report, were three of the first.


By the end of 2009, the Forum was convinced to take on the role of facilitating the kind of conversation and action outlined in Charting Our Water Future. The Forum, the IFC, and Nestlé agreed to incubate the 2030 WRG concept within the Forum headquarters in Geneva, with its official launch in Davos in January 2010. Founding members included the IFC, Nestlé, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and the World Wildlife Fund.

The initial goal was to demonstrate in three countries how collaboration among public, private, and civil society actors could encourage governments to accelerate the often difficult reforms needed to manage water resources sustainably as a key enabler of long-term development and growth. The 2030 WRG’s ACT approach – Analyze, Convene, Transform – emerged in mid-2010 and has been evolving ever since.

The Forum facilitated the experimentation process and offered access to senior leaders and the ability to be nimble and flexible, try different things, and see what would work. At the same time, though, the group aspired to grow, support country stakeholders from dialogue to action, and eventually influence others in the water community to adopt a similar approach. On-the-ground implementation capacity became essential. At the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos in 2012, it was agreed that the 2030 WRG would enter a new, more formal phase at the IFC headquarters in Washington, DC in July 2012.


When the 2030 WRG moved to the IFC, a more formal governance structure was created. Its highest governing body, the Governing Council, composed of principal-level people from partner organizations, sign off on the group’s strategic direction and make key decisions, but also influence the broader global agenda on water. Members of the Steering Board are senior practitioners from the same organizations who provide significant amounts of time and input to preparing for, participating in, and following up on frequent meetings; and in their additional time, making connections in relevant countries and supporting their principals in their global agenda roles.

During the 2030 WRG’s time at the IFC from 2012 to 2017, the group engaged in nine new countries and states: Bangladesh, Kenya, the Indian states of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, Mongolia, Peru, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and the Brazilian city of São Paulo. The group also re-engaged in the Indian state of Karnataka and in Mexico, where new administrations had assumed power. In the last few years of this period, the 2030 WRG also began to see dialogue turn into action at a much greater rate, as stakeholder collaboration in-country matured. From 2015 to the end of the 2018 Fiscal Year, the number of approved proposals from country Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) jumped from 15 to 66, the number of preparatory arrangements formalized jumped from 12 to 58, and the number of projects being implemented jumped from 5 to 61.

Getting to Scale

During an extraordinary meeting of the 2030 WRG Governing Council in June 2017, the strategic decision was made to host the 2030 WRG in the World Bank Water Global Practice from January 2018. This move was an appropriate next step for the organization, reflecting its journey from being a “positively disruptive” pilot project within the IFC to a different but important public-private-civil society program leveraging the wider World Bank Group’s reach and retaining its innovative multi-stakeholder model. The IFC remains a committed partner at global and national levels to the 2030 WRG, helping the private sector engage in strategic dialogues on water resources management.

The Future

As outlined in the 2018 – 2023 Strategic Plan, the 2030 WRG’s ambition is to support 25 countries by 2023 and to inspire other countries to take a similarly inclusive, collaborative, cross-sector approach.

The partnership between the World Bank Group and the 2030 WRG brings opportunities to both parties. The 2030 WRG’s deep and constructive engagement with country MSPs and the Water Global Practice’s existing relationships with countries and water-related stakeholders will be mutually enriching. In addition, the partnership will benefit from potential links with World Bank financing sources, opening possibilities for each country program. Improved links with the private sector, the Forum, and additional MSPs will support policy dialogue and stakeholder engagement.

The Water Global Practice lending program stands at about US$ 24.5 billion – 11% of total World Bank lending. Its large and diverse portfolio in lending and knowledge exchange provides the 2030 WRG with an opportunity to develop its operational expertise and technical knowledge. The required compliance with World Bank policies, procedures, and quality assurance expands the 2030 WRG’s capacity to predict and manage any environmental, social, or financial risks.

The World Bank Group benefits from the 2030 WRG’s expertise in recognizing and mobilizing the private sector as a critical constituency. This will help the Water Global Practice deepen its understanding of and experience in shaping the political economy of water sector reforms as well as strengthen its relationships with influential water users who can innovate and demonstrate new models of water security.