Global Goal 6: one
year on

One year ago, in September 2015, world leaders signed up to a Global Goal on water and sanitation. Rebecca Owen, WaterAid's Campaigns Officer, looks at what progress has been made since, and asks – where are we now?

23 Sep 2016

This time last year, we celebrated the signing of the world’s first ever target for universal access to clean water and safe toilets. It was a moment made all the more special because we shared it with so many of you.

“Marvellous and momentous news, I'll have a drink to that!” you said. “The beginning of the end of wholly unacceptable deaths from a lack of clean water. A huge milestone!” Some of you couldn’t believe it, asking, “Is it really true?”

Overwhelmingly, you showed your commitment to making the promise of Global Goal 6 a reality – “Now we just have to make sure they keep their promises.” “Now the hard work starts to turn intention into reality – we can do it – yes we can!!!!!”

So, one year on, where are we now?

WaterAid supporter Stephen Fisher. Amazing supporters like Stephen Fisher helped turn a Global Goal on water and sanitation into a reality.

Measuring up

It didn’t quite match the excitement of the signing of the Goals, but the agreement of indicators to measure progress against them was a vital piece of the puzzle that fell into place this year. WaterAid lobbied hard to ensure that a measure on hygiene was included under Goal 6. Data will now be collected on the 'percentage of population using safely managed sanitation services, including a handwashing facility with soap and water’.

This is fantastic as we know that many of the benefits of safe toilets and clean water can be lost if handwashing facilities are not available or not used. The indicator is vital as countries are unlikely to prioritise programmes that won’t be measured.

Sharing challenges

In July, we attended the first annual UN summit for countries to share their progress and discuss their challenges in achieving the Global Goals.

At this meeting, 22 countries had volunteered to report back on their 2030 plans. This included countries where WaterAid works, such as Madagascar, Uganda and Sierra Leone, as well as high-income countries such as France, Germany, and Finland. We were disappointed that Sierra Leone was one of the only countries to specifically mention how much progress was needed on sanitation.

So, we still have some work to do to raise the profile of Goal 6 and its importance to achieving all the other goals, and make sure other countries are prioritising it too.

Armand celebrates Global Goal 6 in Ambohitrinilahy, Madagascar.Armand celebrates Global Goal 6 in Ambohitrinilahy, Madagascar.

Bringing it home

Meanwhile, closer to home, the UK Government has recently reaffirmed its commitment to the Global Goals and to helping at least 60 million people gain access to clean water and sanitation by 2020.

We are anticipating the publication of two UK aid reviews, which will set out what areas of work the Department for International Development will be prioritising. We hope they will shed more light on how the Government plans to work towards the goals, and especially Goal 6 on water and sanitation.

We live in a world where one in three people don’t have anywhere safe to go to the loo, so we’re particularly keen to see what they will do to tackle the toilet challenge. By the end of 2015, the target on sanitation set in the forerunners to the Global Goals, the Millennium Development Goals, was one of the most overlooked. A huge thank you to everyone who signed our Toilets Save Lives petition to remind the UK Government that these mistakes must not be repeated.

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