Why SDG 6 is a necessary enabler to achieve other SDGs

In an interview, Tony Slatyer shared his knowledge about how SDG 6 is an enabling SDG for the other 16 SDGs, in particular, reducing poverty and minimising conflict This article summarises his thoughts and looks more closely at how SDG6 directly contributes to reducing conflict and reducing poverty.

Access to clean water and adequate sanitation underpins the health, wellness, and prosperity of all people.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) sets out a goal to make water and sanitation universal by 2030, including equitable access; the end of open defecation; addressing the unique needs of vulnerable populations; reducing pollution, dumping, and untreated water; increasing efficiency and addressing water scarcity; implementing integrated management; protecting and restoring ecosystems; and expanding both international capacity building, and local participation in water and sanitation management.

Tony Slatyer, Special Advisor for the High-Level Panel on Water for the Australian Government, says that achieving SDG 6 will impact agriculture, education, health, and poverty reduction, using an integrated approach to support all other 16 Sustainable Development Goals.

“The panel was established in order to try to break through some of the perceived barriers to implementing SDG 6, which is the very ambitious goal to ensure that all people have access to safe water and sanitation by 2030,” Slatyer explains. Water is seen as “a critical prerequisite for the achievement of many, if not most of, the other goals,” he says.

Reducing conflict

Attaining SDG 6 is key to reducing conflict. Water resources are finite. These finite resources face pressure and competition that is only increasing, both locally and globally. Because supply does not always meet demand, tension can arise between industrial and economic sectors, different social groups, and across boundaries and territories. This pressure and competition can lead to conflict.

SDG 6 aims to ensure sustainable and equitable use of water resources. Sustainable and equitable use does not guarantee that everyone will have all of the water that they want, all of the time, but takes an evidence-based based approach to who needs water most, providing how much they need in a way that secures basic needs and livelihoods are achieved to the best extent possible.

Reducing poverty

Access to clean and safe water is vital for reducing global poverty.

For children to be able to learn, they need to have access to clean water and sanitation at school. Waterborne diseases caused by poor hygiene, a lack of sanitation, or mismanaged water supplies keep kids home and out of school. A lack of education because of illness can hold individuals back from achieving their highest potential in the workforce. This, in the long term, contributes to poverty at the family and community levels.

From agricultural systems to textile processing, industries rely on safe water, and WASH. Furthermore, workers and consumers need access to safe and healthy water to be able to remain at work and to be able to participate in local economic activities. Without consumers, and without workers, poverty is cyclical.

Clean water and sanitation empower everyone within a population, enabling education, work, production, and commerce.

An ambitious but worthwhile endeavour

SDG 6 also plays a direct role in environmental protection and ecosystem improvement (SDG 15). It also has direct links with supporting sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and zero hunger (SDG 2). Water, water management, and WASH are at the intersection of economic prosperity, improved livelihoods, and a healthy ecosystem.

Slatyer says that “SDG 6 is an incredibly ambitious and worthwhile endeavour for the global community; it’s utterly positive. It only makes the world a better place.”

“Anything that we can do to move closer to a world where all people can access safe drinking water and sanitation services that provide them with the dignity and health outcomes that we should be able to afford in this world, that is an unambiguously good thing.”

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