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Joint statement on access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and freshwater ecosystem conservation

Joint statment

24 Mar 2015

WaterAid, WWF and a number of our corporate partners call for a dedicated water and sanitation goal within the United Nation’s Sustainable Development framework and a holistic programme of action that recognises the interdependencies of WASH and freshwater ecosystems.

2015 is set to be a crucial year for the future of the world’s freshwater sources. As the effects of climate change become more prevalent, the resilience and reliability of the world’s freshwater is at risk. This September, the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be finalised and the outcome will determine how the world’s governments approach two of our most critical challenges: access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and freshwater ecosystem conservation.

Although progress has been made on drinking water access since 2000, when the United Nations agreed global development goals (the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ [MDGs]), there is still a long way to go. At present, 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Over the same period, progress on sanitation has been slow – 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate toilets and sanitation facilities, and, of those, 1.1 billion people still practise open defecation (WHO/UNICEF 2014). Hygiene was ignored completely in the MDGs.

To survive and thrive, many communities depend on access to the services wetlands, rivers, lakes and aquifers provide: clean drinking water, flood and drought control, water for agriculture, water purification, fisheries, and numerous other services. If freshwater systems are not well managed, their biodiversity declines and they cannot continue to provide these services. This disproportionately affects poorer communities.

In short, a lack of access to and poor management of freshwater resources affects communities, ecosystems and business.

As the UN finalises goals and targets for the global SDGs, we call for UN member states to ensure that these issues are addressed by the inclusion of a dedicated water and sanitation goal. We call on member states to ensure ambitious targets for universal access to WASH and conservation of freshwater ecosystems are explicitly represented in the final framework. Furthermore, we call on member states to commit to a holistic programme of action on water and sanitation, and to recognise the interdependencies between the proposed targets of the Open Working Group. Without this, we risk undermining any chance to make progress throughout the rest of the framework.

Read the full statement and co-signatories >