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.
WaterAid and Sustainable Development Goals
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:
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 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.
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 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 SDGs 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, challenges that countries still face, and the key levers needed to reach our targets and empower communities worldwide.
The UN recognises our work
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.
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.
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 SDGs.
- WaterAid at the 2019 UN High-Level Political Forum
- Reducing inequalities through universal access to WASH – brief
- SDG 6 as a critical enabler –policy briefs
- How to reach everyone with safe water and sanitation by 2030 – brief
- WaterAid at HLPF 2018
- WaterAid Global Goals toolkit 2015
- SDGs indicators website
- Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
- End Water Poverty
Explore our Sustainable Development Goals publications and resources
News and blogs
Opinion pieces and discussions relating to the Sustainable Development Goals