Monitoring SDG6 on water and sanitation

SDG 6 monitoring and reporting

Global agenda for people, planet and prosperity

In September 2015, heads of state from all around the world gathered in New York to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity,” aiming to do nothing less than “transform our world”. Building on the UN Millennium Declaration and its eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000-2015), the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) expand the earlier focus on poverty reduction to now cover all aspects of sustainable development in all countries of the world to ensure that no one is left behind. One of the SDGs is dedicated to water and sanitation (SDG 6), and seeks to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

The SDGs provide a framework for governments to develop policies and programmes to target today’s most urgent issues, and for civil society to hold governments to account. Country ownership is clearly highlighted across the 2030 Agenda, and inspired by the global ambition of the SDGs, countries need to set their own targets that take national circumstances into account. The role of the United Nations system is to support countries in realizing the Agenda.

Towards a sustainable water future

To ensure sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, it is essential to look at the water cycle in its entirety, including all uses and users. Countries need to move away from the sectoral development and management of water resources in favour of a more integrated approach that can balance different needs fairly. This is exactly what SDG 6 seeks to do – by expanding the MDG focus on drinking water and basic sanitation to include water, wastewater and ecosystem resources. Together with target SDG 11.5 on water-related disasters, all the main aspects of freshwater in the context of sustainable development are covered. Bringing these components together under one goal is an initial step towards addressing sector fragmentation and enabling coherent and sustainable management, thereby establishing SDG 6 as a major step towards a sustainable water future.

Tracking progress towards the 2030 Agenda

To ensure progress and strengthen accountability it is essential to set up solid mechanisms for results monitoring and reporting. To this end, UN Member States have developed a set of global indicators through the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs).

The 2030 Agenda specifies that global follow-up and review shall primarily be based on national official data sources, which is why countries are responsible for collecting and sharing indicator data and metadata for the purpose of global reporting. The data are compiled and validated by indicator-specific custodian agencies, which then submit the data to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), to inform follow-up and review at the annual High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Global indicator framework

The global indicator framework was adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission in March 2017. It includes about 230 indicators, of which eleven tracks progress towards SDG 6. The IAEG-SDG categorizes the indicators into three different tiers, based on the maturity of the methodology and the extent of the data collection, defined as follows:

  • Tier I indicators have established methodologies and data regularly produced by a critical mass of countries
  • Tier II indicators have established methodologies but data are not regularly produced by countries
  • Tier III indicators have methodologies that are under development

All indicators are equally important, and the purpose of the categorization is to make sure that due attention is paid to developing methodologies and implementing data collection for tier II and III indicators, with a strong focus on country capacity-building. The IAEG-SDG will continue to refine the indicator framework throughout the SDG period, including revising the tier classification on a yearly basis. The first revision of the framework is scheduled for 2020.

As of January 2019, six of the SDG 6 global indicators are classified as tier I, and the remaining five indicators as tier II. This development represents a big step forward, as we are increasingly able to assess the status of SDG 6.