In 2015, the governments of the UN agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals to guide all countries as they aim to end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and tackle climate change globally by 2030. Goal 6 aims to ensure everyone has sustainably managed safe water and sanitation.

Clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene are human rights, to which millions of people have their access denied. Without access, people do not have an equal chance of being healthy, educated and financially secure. Achieving the goals can change this for everyone.

Goal 6 – and within it, specific targets on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) – shows that world leaders understand the importance of making these essentials normal for the world's most marginalised people. 

Despite progress, 703 million people still don’t have clean water close to home and 1.5 billion don’t have a decent toilet of their own. This costs lives and prevents families, communities and countries from reaching their full potential. 

It is also a denial of people’s human rights to water and sanitation. Governments aren’t doing enough, and we need to hold them to account and make sure they deliver on their promise. Watch our animation to find out why Goal 6 is key to ending extreme poverty.

Our approach

We are helping governments at all levels to develop plans and policies that will enable them to reach everyone with lasting services, and help countries reach their goals.

Read more about what we view as the three pillars to achieving universal access to WASH: financing, integration and sustainability.

Focus on inequalities

Without access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene, people do no have an equal chance of being healthy, educated and financially secure. We're urging the UN to prioritise reaching the furthest behind first and ensure more equitable and inclusive finance.

37-year-old Modinatu Sofola looks out into the new apartments from her home in the slum of Ajeromi-Ifelodun in Lagos, Nigeria, September 2016
Image: WaterAid/ Tom Saater

How does Goal 6 link to other goals?

Goal 6 is one of the most interconnected goals. Improved access to WASH aids education, economic growth, poverty reduction, health and more.

Ahead of the 2019 meeting of the UN High-Level Political Forum, we joined with partners to highlight the vital links between Goal 6 and five other global goals under review.

  • Goal 4: Quality education
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
  • Goal 13: Climate action
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Our policy briefs examine progress towards these goals, the challenges countries still face, and the key levers needed to reach our targets and empower communities worldwide. 

UN-DESA – the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs – has recognised our systems strengthening approach as good practice to reach everyone with lasting WASH access and achieve Goal 6.

Systems strengthening is about strengthening the environment into which WASH services and behaviours are introduced, so that everyone continues to benefit long after. It is underpinned by the human rights to water and sanitation, and based on in-depth and continuous context analysis and learning. It aims to:

  • empower citizens to demand their rights
  • build strong and accountable governments at all levels
  • strengthen public institutional processes
  • demonstrate sustainable and inclusive models of WASH delivery that governments can scale up

The UN's recognition of our work as good practice will help highlight it to others working in WASH as a strong approach to reaching Goal 6.

What's next?

We are supporting communities to demand the services they are entitled to, and are making sure nobody forgets the promises made. To meet the challenge and make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere will take sustained and coordinated efforts by the whole global community.

We will continue to improve how we work together to reach interconnected goals, and push for urgent and effective action because we know that change needs to happen now. We will keep supporting the most marginalised people so that they know and can demand their rights to water and sanitation. And we will track progress on implementation and financing, so people can hold governments to account and ensure the rights of everyone, everywhere are met with sustainable services that last long beyond 2030.

Catch up on what we did at the 2019 meeting of the UN High-Level Political Forum, when 11 countries where we have a presence reported on their progress towards the global goals.


Explore our Sustainable Development Goals publications and resources

News and blogs

Opinion pieces and discussions relating to the Sustainable Development Goals