In 2015, world leaders made a promise to end extreme poverty by 2030. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted their lack of progress and the extreme inequalities that still keep billions in poverty.

At the virtual High-Level Political Forum in July 2020, WaterAid convened events and campaigned online to make sure water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) were at the heart of a renewed push for action.

Why do we care about the High-Level Political Forum?

The annual July meeting of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is the main opportunity for organisations like us to hold governments to account on their Sustainable Development Goals promises.

Years after committing to the 2030 Agenda, governments, donors and private sector partners have made nowhere near enough progress on the global goals, including Goal 6 on water and sanitation. The major structural shifts needed to end extreme poverty have not come about.

With COVID-19 highlighting and exacerbating existing inequalities – hitting the poorest communities hardest – participants at this year’s forum debated how the international community can respond to the pandemic in a way that will accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

Stopping COVID-19 relies on ensuring everyone, everywhere has vital water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, yet so far these essentials have not been prioritised.

With urgent action to improve WASH services, governments can mitigate the pandemic and meet Goal 6 – a critical enabler to goals on poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, work, inequalities and climate. Goal 6 is crucial to boosting resilience to multiple global threats, including current and future pandemics and the impacts of the climate crisis, especially for the poorest and most marginalised people. It cannot be ignored.

Water and sanitation were declared universal human rights in 2010. At the forum, we called on governments to commit to a clear plan to fulfil their responsibility as duty bearers to meet them, through rapid and extensive expansion of public services, funded by major upscaling of international public finance. 

Our manifesto for the 2020 Forum

If the Decade of Action for SDGs progress is to achieve real change, a coordinated global response in solidarity with those bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis is required. We set out the urgent actions governments and donors must take.

WaterAid/ Prashanth Vishwanathan

Voluntary national reviews

Every year governments present voluntary national reviews, reporting on national progress on implementing the SDGs, including how they've aligned the 2030 Agenda with national plans and priorities. Countries presenting reviews submit a comprehensive written report and documents detailing key findings.

This year, 49 countries volunteered to present reviews, including 11 in which we work: Bangladesh, India, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Uganda and Zambia.

The voluntary national review process is problematic, but one thing is clear – WASH is not being focused on. And we need clear data and reporting in order to progress action towards the 2030 Agenda.