The United Nations has set out an ambitious and integrated plan to bring basic services to people around the world, to turn poverty into prosperity, and to ensure a better future for generations to come.

In 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, addressing the need to limit the rise of global temperatures.

“Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind,” the UN says, adding that “the SDGs build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and aim to go further to end all forms of poverty.

The new Goals are unique in that they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.”

Number six on their list is access to clean water and sanitation.

The UN also writes, “Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world. At the current time, more than 2 billion people are living with the risk of reduced access to freshwater resources and by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water. Drought in specific afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition. Fortunately, there has been great progress made in the past decade regarding drinking sources and sanitation, whereby over 90% of the world’s population now has access to improved sources of drinking water.”

And while many projects are very large in scale, we believe change can happen in villages throughout the world with immediate, smaller scale solutions that can expand and grow – including using solar power to create sustainable sources of clean water, even in the most remote locations.

There is sun everywhere.

Some facts from the UN regarding SDG 6:

  • 3 in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities.
  • Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 80 per cent of households without access to water on premises.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 90 per cent.
  • Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge.
  • 4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.
  • More than 80 per cent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal.

And perhaps most unacceptable is this: Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and vice-chair of the UN Global Compact, wrote in recent blog:

“Progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), ‘clean water and sanitation’ for all is being made. However, this progress means little to the 3 in 10 people who still lack individual access to safe, readily available water in their homes or the millions of people who do not wash their hands with soap despite its proven health impact.

These issues will only become worse as water resources become scarcer. In 22 countries, mostly in Northern Africa and Asia, the water stress level is above 70 per cent, indicating the strong probability of future water scarcity. Can you imagine the impact this will have on the people who already struggle to access clean water and sanitation? As we see water becoming less and less available, we risk moving backwards rather than forwards. Advances in recent years show that water, hygiene and sanitation for all can be achieved, but we must move faster.

If we are to achieve SDG 6 we must think bigger, focusing not on small steps or individual programs but on transformation. To accelerate progress for the WASH agenda and subsequently for the SDG agenda, we must use the High Level Political Forum to bring together the right partners who want to act now and push boundaries.

We have the interventions. We have the pilots that prove that these interventions work. We have the investment and the technology. Now we must work together to scale these interventions to impact those who are the hardest to reach and truly ensure clean water and sanitation for all.”

We applaud all actions, small to large, to make as much progress as a globally community as we can.