‘Act now’, WaterAid tells world leaders

2 min read
WaterAiders walking in front of a New-York subway
Image: Drew Gurian/WaterAid

WaterAid has warned world leaders not to break their promises to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at the High Level Political Forum meetings in New York. The meetings, held at the United Nations headquarters in July, were an opportunity for nations to review the progress made on Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030.

A contingent of WaterAid representatives spanning across four continents made sure their message was heard, marching through the streets of New York carrying buckets on their head, participating in bilateral meetings with governments, and speaking at or co-sponsoring 19 public events during the forum.

WaterAid used these opportunities to draw attention to concerning United Nations data that shows that people in 80 countries worldwide will still not, at current levels of progress, have access to clean water by 2030. The sanitation statistics are even more alarming, with 107 countries off track to meeting the 2030 goal of everyone, everywhere having access to a decent toilet.

Among those nations are Cambodia and Timor-Leste, which are expected to have universal clean water by 2032 and 2037 respectively, and universal decent toilets by 2036 and 2088. For countries with particularly poor water and sanitation services, including Papua New Guinea, it is not clear when they will achieve universal access.

“We have only 12 years left to keep the promise made to those living without clean water or a decent toilet,” WaterAid Australia Director of Policy and Programs Tom Muller said. “We are at a critical juncture in the fight to get clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene to every person around the world, so that we can help end the scourge of extreme poverty and create a more sustainable future for all.”

“Every day that someone lives without being able to drink clean water, use a toilet that doesn’t pollute their community or wash their hands is a day when their human rights are breached, their futures limited and children put at risk of fatal waterborne diseases,” Muller added.

During the two-week forum, WaterAid called on ministers, country delegates and United Nations officials to place a higher priority on water, sanitation and hygiene issues, drawing attention to how critical these areas are in achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goal targets.

WaterAid has noted the overlaps between each of the goals, inferring that improvements to Goal 6 are likely to also lead to progress in Goal 5 (gender equality), Goal 4 (quality education), Goal 3 (good health and well-being), Goal 2 (zero hunger) and Goal 10 (reduced inequalities), among others.