What does global progress look like?

By Gemma Gasseau, Master Student in Global Political Economy, Stockholm University. Gemma was an intern with GWP between April and June 2018, focusing on knowledge management.


What does global progress look like? You now have the chance to find out, at least as it concerns water: “The world is not on track”[1]. However, there is still time to catch up, so the time to act is now. By using the enabling tools illustrated below, it is possible to improve water security, and in this way to affect positively all the other goals.

This information is outlined in the report that the UN has drafted on the global status of SDG 6 (the water goal) and its six targets: The Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation. The Global Water Partnership (GWP) worked with UN Environment to provide baseline data for the report. The report will inform the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (which will be held in July 2018). The HLPF reviews, yearly, the 2030 Agenda, and this year there is a focus on SDG6.

The first part of the report presents an overview of the status of the targets, making use of the latest data for the 11 global indicators associated.

  • Did you know that 844 million people still lack even a basic water service and 2.1 billion people lack safely managed drinking water? The first target, safe and affordable drinking water for all, is described as a huge challenge.
  • Equally, target two, on sanitation and open defecation, is defined as a major challenge: 4.5 billion people worldwide lack a safely managed sanitation service in 2015. In the Least Developed Countries only 27 per cent had basic handwashing facilities, and some 892 million still practice open defecation.
  • One of the challenges related to target three, concerning water quality and wastewater, is to collect reliable data on water quality, as many countries do not have the capacity to provide a full assessment.
  • Concerning target four on water efficiency, the report states that more than 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress: here, innovation in agriculture, the largest water consumer by far, can play a key role in improving efficiency.
  • The average degree of implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) at the national and transboundary level, target five, was 48 per cent (medium-low). However, IWRM must be a priority as it is “the most comprehensive step that countries can make towards achieving SDG6.” The report acknowledges the key role GWP has had in analyzing successes and failures and learning lessons. On GWP’s website, there is the IWRM Toolbox and practical case studies.
  • The link between water-related ecosystems protection and restoration (target six) and water security is underlined in the report which cites a GWP perspective paper: Linking ecosystem services and water security – SDGs offer a new opportunity for integration. However, data are still insufficient to measure the progress of this target.
  • Target 6a concerns international cooperation and capacity building and is crucial for all the other targets since it addresses finances; also for this target, the data are still insufficient to assess progress and better indicators need to be developed.
  • Target 6b is stakeholder participation, with emphasis on the participation of local communities. The report states that levels of participation remain comparatively low, even if better monitoring must be developed since the indicator only considers quantitative data on participation and neglects the qualitative aspect of it.

Then, the report provides interlinked recommendations for enabling and accelerating progress on the targets: strengthening global partnerships; implementing IWRM; improving transboundary cooperation and eliminating inequalities. As means of implementation, finance, capacity development, data monitoring, and good governance are equally important. Indeed, the report quotes GWP in saying that the “water crisis is mainly a crisis of governance” (Towards Water Security: A Framework for Action).

Finally, the report explores the connection between water and other goals. In fact, a coordinated and integrated approach to 2030 agenda is essential. Water is central for progress on the three fundamental levels on which the SDGs are built: social (as a basic human right), economic (as necessary for any productive activity), environmental (as a part of ecosystems). Therefore, the report illustrates and explores key connections of Goal 6 to other goals. Among the others, economic growth, environment, and climate change are listed. In this regard, the report cites two GWP knowledge products: Securing water, sustaining growth (with the OECD) and Benefits of Action and Costs of Inaction: Drought Mitigation and Preparedness – a Literature Review (with the WMO).

Does all that sound interesting to you? Do you think we can improve the way we monitor global progress?

If so, then Join the Conversation here!

A public dialogue has been launched from May to September 2018 to discuss the findings of the Synthesis Report in a multi-stakeholder setting. The overall feedback has been collected, and you now have the opportunity to discuss the main messages coming from the report and the way forward.

[1]  UN water, The Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report 2018, Highlights


About globalwaterpartnership

The Global Water Partnership's vision is for a water secure world. Our mission is to advance governance and management of water resources for sustainable and equitable development.
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