Water-Related Sustainable Development Goals

Accelerating Success for Water-related Sustainable Development Goals

The Challenge

Water is inextricably linked to the development of all nations. But unsustainable development is placing pressure on water resources: by 2030, global demand for water is expected to increase by 50%. Meanwhile, agriculture (which currently consumes around 70% of global water usage) is expected to experience a 70% increase in demand by 2050.
In 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 SDGs that cover an ambitious global agenda: from ending poverty to regaining peace and stability while leaving no-one behind.

SDG 6 – the ‘water goal’ – is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. SDG 6 does not only aim for sustainable water management across the globe, it also underpins many other SDGs; meeting SDG 6 would go a long way towards achieving much of the 2030 Agenda.

As we are in the last quarter of 2018, many countries are struggling to plan, resource and implement action under SDG 6. If the water goal is to meet its targets by 2020 and 2030, innovative solutions are urgently needed.

The Solution

Evidence-based policy-making is a key step in which countries can advocate for a rational, rigorous and systematic approach that informs the policy process and supports decision making. Nevertheless, policy-making in the SDG era can be complex, requiring policy makers and development actors to assess and combine many pieces of evidence from different agencies and sectors. Moreover, many questions may arise throughout setting evidence-based policy-making processes. Deciding on exactly which piece of evidence might “fit-for-purpose” for a particular policy process can be contentious, especially if there seems to be different or in specific situations conflicting evidence. Lack of evidence and data on SDG 6 is also a challenge as, at many times, even a clear and practical assessment of missing data is not available. There is a need to provide tools, processes, and support for UN Member States to accelerate progress against SDG 6.

The project “Water in the World We Want” began in September 2016 with the goal to enable cross-sectorial evidence‐based collaboration between experts and decision makers, and to promote commitment to strengthening the enabling environment around national water management, with the final goal of successfully achieving the SDG 6.

Phase I of the project (2016-2018) was jointly implemented by UNU-INWEH, the Korea Environment Corporation (K-eco), the Ministry of Environment, Republic of Korea (MOE) and the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD) through the engagement of five countries – Costa Rica, Ghana, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, and Tunisia – in a “champion system”, in which one policy maker and one expert or scientist in each country promoting the project and providing coordination for the key product of the project – the SDG Policy Support System (SDG-PSS).

Knowing the fact that in many countries there is a lack of water related data to report on different targets and indicators of SDG 6, the project partners investigated options to support policy and decision making amid limited data conditions. They initiated development of a tool that would navigate through limited data conditions while relying on trends, information, and broader estimates. Known as SDG-PSS, the tool was expected to provide a supportive system to the participating government officials and stakeholders to exchange knowledge, promote evidence-based policy and contribute to the achievement of the SDG 6. The tool is expected to enable policy-makers, researchers and professionals to better collaborate to create one authoritative, national-level evidence base.

The SDG-PSS consists of six critical components: Capacity Assessment; Finance; Policy and Institutional Assessment; Gender Mainstreaming; Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)/Resilience Mainstreaming; and Integrity. These components were chosen as they allow a better understanding of the enabling environment in which water and sanitation policies are developed and implemented, and under which conditions for the achievement of the SDG 6 remain available.

Next Steps

Building on the initial success of the SDG-PSS and assuring the wider use of the SDG-PSS will require further engagement of more countries worldwide. However, there can be “smart” ways of engaging more countries by creating stronger bonds between the five trial countries – Ghana, Tunisia, Pakistan, Costa Rica and the Republic of Korea – and those countries, which are expected to join next phase of the project. The five trial countries could create regional SDG-PSS networks or “regional hubs” in which other countries with similar water related challenges, resources, management practices and policies can work in cooperation. Specific criteria would be used to select additional countries for the project’s next phase. The five trial countries will host regional workshops to share their experience in using the SDG-PSS to improve existing water related policies and develop new water policies towards the achievement of SDG 6.

Phase II of the project is expected to start in the first quarter of 2019.


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