August 31, 2016
With the agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global community set its intentions for how it wants the world to look in 2030. But, this reality won’t be achieved without hard work, smart collaborations, and significant funding. Unsurprisingly, this has been a major topic at Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW).
Many diverse inputs will be required to meet Goal 6, the SDG for water, but it will not be achieved without prioritization in budgets, buy-in from governments, and behavior change.
Estimates about the cost of achieving the SDGs vary. The World Bank projects that work towards targets 6.1 and 6.2 will cost approximately $114 billion per year; this amounts to roughly three times the current investment levels. While the actual cost of the SDGs is unknown at this stage, what is certain is this: investment levels must increase. Innovative sources of capital-including blended financing, direct resource mobilization, and public-private partnerships. Not only will the SDGs require increased sources of funding, but hygiene must also be included in budgets. Even though it is the most cost-effective way to prevent diarrheal disease, funds still must be dedicated to handwashing. From ensuring that soap is available in schools to maintaining handwashing stations, budgets should be clear about who is responsible for hygiene.
The inclusion of hygiene in budgets, however, requires buy-in. The role of governments in improving WASH has been mentioned at nearly every session I have attended this week. The WASH sector is remaining clear-eyed about the fact that our best chances for success, especially in terms of sustainability, depend upon governments taking ownership of WASH in their countries. Partnering with governments to deliver locally-appropriate solutions will continue to be relevant over the next 15 years, and organizations such as the Sanitation and Water for All partnership are doing important work to help facilitate policy making and accountability.
At UNICEF’s annual SWWW breakfast, Niouga Ambroise Ouédraogo, the Minister of Water for Burkina Faso described how his country tackled the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and are preparing for success in the SDG era. While working towards the MDGs, the government built toilets and installed other “hardware” services. But, they found that these facilities were not well-maintained and people reverted to their old habits, such as open defecation. As Minister Ouédraogo said, “we discovered the impact of behavior change,” and he isn’t the only one. Increasingly, organizations are focusing on behavior change as an essential component of WASH service delivery. This is essential.
As Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene at UNICEF remarked when describing, Strategy for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2016-2030, UNICEF’s new WASH Strategy, “What’s changed? We are both raising the bar and expanding the scope.” I think that this is both the challenge and the call for all stakeholders in the WASH sector over the next 15 years. Smart budgeting, increased buy-in, and behavior change will be essential to achieving the goal.
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