Global Goals: Enough to end the sanitation crisis?

by | Oct 13, 2015 | News

Launch of the End Water Poverty and Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) Thematic Discussion Synthesis Report

End Water Poverty recently hosted a highly successful online Thematic Discussion forum along with SuSanA. SuSanA is an open international alliance with members who are dedicated to understanding viable and sustainable sanitation solutions. It links on the ground experiences with an engaged community made up of practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and academics from different levels with the aim of promoting innovation and best practices in policy, programming and implementation.

Download the Synthesis Report: Sanitation and SDGs

Entitled “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Enough to end the sanitation crisis?”, the online discussion was held over the first two weeks of September this year in the run up to the formal adoption of the Sustainable Development framework, now known as the Global Goals or Agenda 2030. Together with numerous leading sector experts, discussions were held around a number key topics on the Global Goals, and the role these will play in improving sanitation and helping to end the water and sanitation crisis. Themes and experts included examining the SDG indicators process, and civil society’s role in monitoring to ensure that Agenda 2030 truly does leave no one behind.

Key highlights from the discussions and lead experts

‘Progressive realisation’ – a move towards improvement – will be critical to the achievement and success of the Global Goals, and to ensuring we realise the change in the world we want to see over the next 15 years. If we are truly focusing on sustainable development goals, then identifying who and what benefits, or conversely is negatively impacted, we must look at establishing integrated plans and must examine environmental and social dimensions too. The Global Goals are a milestone in the journey towards achieving sanitation for all; they are not an ultimate destination or end point in themselves. We have to keep a focus on the long term achievements we want to see, and reduce the risk of making investments for quick wins, but ones that will ultimately take us in the wrong direction long term.

We must build a comprehensive understand and analysis of why people are excluded from accessing water and sanitation, along with other human rights, and what are the keys to unlocking such barriers. This is why establishing baselines is essential, in order to know the comprehensive reality on the ground. Knowing the situation means understanding what we are working with currently, in order to target specifically those in most immediate need and to address the most evident gaps. Baseline data, gathered from surveys and assessments, help us determine the existing structural inequalities and issues. Without this knowledge, challenges can arise in determining useful and effective indicators suitable to the national level country issues and designed to properly capture the reality on the ground. Policies and programmes will also fail to address and target the issues, and most importantly, the groups most in need. Every intervention should be part of a long-term holistic and strategic plan, linking and sequencing interventions and infrastructure development to maximise benefits and minimise harm.

There is a clear need for effective data collection and monitoring to track the progress (or lack thereof) towards the Global Goals. Competent and comprehensive monitoring is a prerequisite for making human rights meaningful and to prevent deprivations. There is a clear space for using community-gathered information and data, combined with more traditional forms of data collection, to create a fuller jigsaw puzzle image of the reality on the ground. Only this way will we be able to address the gaps. Communities therefore would play an important role in ensuring details of the indicators aren’t forgotten and in contributing to monitoring and tracking progress.

It is clear that we need new partnerships in monitoring and to ensure the Global Goals become progressively realised. Civil society’s role in monitoring will be essential in tracking and holding governments accountable, and therefore to ensuring improvements for all groups. Civil society has a number of roles: in advocacy, making data available to policy makers, helping with identification and promotion of indicators, and in holding governments accountable. Strong networks of actions that are engaged will be important to ensuring that we implement the right solutions in the smartest way possible.

The global goals aim for a broad definition of sustainability. What we need to be focusing on is access to sustainable sanitation – this not only considers different user needs, but also the protection of natural environments and safe use of natural resources, as well as improving the lives of people. Thinking holistically and focusing on overall sustainability, is an opportunity to attract new sectors and investors in the sanitation sector. And integrated indicators approach will enable the WASH sector to identify new ways of collaborating to achieve the global goals. To achieve this, we need to look beyond simply financing and service delivery, but address other challenges such as ensuring sustainable behaviour change, strengthening institutional capacity, and long term sustainability.

Visit the SuSanA website to review all inputs on the Thematic Discussion Forum, as well as to download the weekly synthesis reports and the final Synthesis report.