In 2015 the governments of the UN agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 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. Lacking access stops people having an equal chance to be healthy, educated and financially secure. Achieving the SDGs 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, 785 million people still don’t have clean water close to home, and 2 billion don’t have a decent toilet of their own. It’s costing lives, and preventing families, communities and countries from reaching their full potential.

This crisis is 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

The hard work to put the SDGs into action has already begun. 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 WaterAid views as the three pillars to achieve universal access to WASH – financing, integration, and sustainability >

Focus on inequalities

Lacking access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene stops people having an equal chance to be healthy, educated and financially secure. We're urging the UN to prioritise reaching the furthest behind first and ensure more equitable and inclusive finance.

WaterAid/ Tom Saater

How does SDG 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 July's meeting of the UN High-Level Political Forum 2019, we joined with partners to highlight the vital links between SDG 6 and five other goals under review this year.  

•    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

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

Read the briefs here >

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 SDG 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; and 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 SDG 6.

What's next?

We are supporting communities to demand the services they are entitled to, and 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 improving how we work together to reach interconnected goals, and pushing for urgent and effective action because we know that change needs to happen now. We will keep supporting the most marginalised people to know and demand their rights to water and sanitation. And we will track progress on SDGs 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.

Stay tuned for our plans around the 2019 meeting of the UN High-Level Political Forum, when 11 countries where WaterAid has a presence will be reporting on their SDGs progress. 


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