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IRC WASH Debate - Blended finance: Is it all in a mix?

4th Dec 2018

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Around the world, substantial financing gaps to ensure universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services still exist. How big of a role will blended finance have in bridging them?

Blended finance is defined by the OECD as "the strategic use of development finance for the mobilisation of additional finance towards sustainable development in developing countries". And there is hope that when applied to WASH, it could unlock some much-needed financial flows to the sector (read Blended finance for water and sanitation for a summary of our World Water Week finance sessions on the topic).

There are concerns that blended finance risks being viewed by some as a sector panacea (read Blended finance beyond the hype). With the proper enabling environments in place though, it can unequivocally provide financial relief to the WASH sector, which has often been criticised for lagging behind in attracting alternative sources of finance.

Within the Dutch context specifically, the WASH Strategy 2016-2030 of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs puts strong emphasis on using Dutch development cooperation funding to leverage domestic finance for WASH. It aims to do so through four strategies:

  1. Leveraging user tariffs and local taxes
  2. Leveraging private investments in utilities
  3. Strengthening the enabling environment for WASH so as to attract more private finance
  4. Developing mechanisms such as micro-finance for WASH

You can thus create blended finance with or without leveraging finance. There has however been a lot confusion around what is meant by financial leverage, which the OECD defines as 'the use of borrowed funds to increase profitability and buying power'.

Whether it is to increase access to WASH services, ensure social inclusion in that or to improve the sustainability of service provision, there is a need for clarification between the various concepts around increasing finance for the WASH sector. However, there is also a need to better understand the various forms of blended finance, the different segments of the WASH sector for which they could apply and what that means for the goals of the WASH strategy.


With that background in mind, the objective of the next IRC WASH debate is to discuss the potential contribution of blended finance to the targets set by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reach 50 million people with sanitation and 30 million with water services.

Specific objectives are to better understand:

  • The role of blended finance vis-à-vis the targets and strategies articulated in the WASH strategy
  • The various forms of blended finance and the segments of the WASH sector in which they apply, along with their advantages and disadvantages
  • The various forms of blended finance and their impact on other policy objectives, specifically around sustainability and social inclusion

Join us for what will surely be a fascinating debate!


The event will be moderated by Tabitha Gerrets of NWP with Catarina Fonseca of IRC introducing the key concepts.

Our key speakers will be:

  • Steven van Rossum of World Water Net
  • Pritha Hariram of the Dutch Development Bank (FMO)
  • Fred Smiet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Live stream and recording

If you are not able to attend the WASH Debate in The Hague you can follow the live stream on IRC's Twitter page from 17.00-18.30 CEST [convert to your local time]. A video recording of the debate will be available shortly after the event.

Join us for what will surely be a fascinating debate!


7AM, Buitenhof 47
2513 AH The Hague

How to get to 7AM >

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