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International Development Research @ Cambridge


Without systems in place to manage water and sanitation services, clean water and safe sanitation cannot reach the people who need it most. And right now, there’s a lot of work to do to improve systems.

In July UN’s High-Level Political Forum is convening in New York to assess progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

For SDG 6, discussion will revolve around how the world is well behind goals to meet targets. Of all the countries below 95 percent coverage in 2015, only one in five is on track to achieve basic water services for all by 2030. The picture is worse in sanitation, where only one in 10 countries below 95 percent coverage in 2015 is on track to achieve universal access.

This is a real problem because water and sanitation underpin so many other areas of development: health, education, employment, gender equality, and climate resilience.

In cities, where Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) focuses, inequality is a major issue, with many countries unable to implement policies that target the most vulnerable.

Given that cities and towns will be home to two-thirds of the world’s population by 2050, this rising inequality presents a particular concern. How can we improve systems in urban areas so that water and sanitation services can reach the poorest?

WSUP agrees with the SDG 6 synthesis report that there are three areas where systems can be improved in cities to strengthen access: governance, finance, and capacity development.

Without the right oversight, structure, and incentives there is no direction for comprehensive change. Without unlocking finance, there is little ability to initiate change programs. Without capacity development, change will not be implemented effectively.

We need to focus more on these kind of challenges – the invisible barriers to universal access – rather than the simple, visible areas of infrastructure like taps and toilets.


To read the full editorial by N. Jeffery, please visit the Skoll Fundation website.

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