Monitoring SDG 6 and the institutional family spagetti

5 Sep 2016

The latest institutional developments around Goal 6 for water and sanitation were presented at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Blog post written by Catarina Fonseca, Head: International and Innovation Programme, IRC - written on 2 September 2016 and posted on IRC's website.

High-Level Political Forum

The big brother: UN Inter-governmental body on water

First, we have the proposal for a UN Inter-governmental body on water which is being promoted by six European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands and Switzerland) taking the recommendations of the final report of UNSGAB.  

This platform would serve to hold States accountable for the progress they make on implementing the Sustainable Development Goal - SDG 6 and other water-related targets in their countries. The proposed Inter-governmental body would provide one single platform for monitoring progress towards SDG 6 in an integrated way encompassing the different subsectors (WASH, waste water, irrigation and water resources) facilitating  less fragmentation and better coordination between  its actors and  subsectors. At Stockholm, participants raised some concerns that the initiative is being led by just 6 European countries and it was not clear how or when they could get the support from more politically heavy countries to table it and get it endorsed at the United Nations General Assembly.  Endorsement by the G77 for instance will be crucial for moving this initiative forward.

On this platform governments would be able to review progress, identify backlogs and make agreements on corrective action sharing lessons learnt and discuss how to overcome barriers to achieve the Goals. There are several suggestions on the frequency and composition of the meetings. Those who were less optimist mention that the platform would possibly convene once every two years and would most likely not consist of the more powerful WASH sector ministers but country official representatives to the UN (diplomats) limiting effective learning and sharing and turning these into action.

The plan is for the Inter-governmental body to be in place before the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Some say that United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) would be the most likely institution to provide for the secretarial function in support to the Inter-governmental body as it is already mandated to provide secretarial functions. However, UN-Water wants to host the secretariat.

The cool cousins JMP, GLAAS and the new kid on the block GEMI

The UN-Water website and many in the sector say that two existing monitoring platforms - the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) and UN-Water's Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS)  - plus the newly established GEMI, together will be able to monitor global progress for SDG 6:

  • Targets 6.1 and 6.2, which are about universal access to water and sanitation will be monitored by WHO/UNICEF using the JMP as it is happening already
  • Targets 6.3 to 6.6. which focuses on  wastewater and ecosystem resources would be monitored by a new global monitoring initiative which is under development: GEMI
  • Targets 6.a which focuses on international cooperation and capacity-building and 6.b on participation of local communities would be done by GLAAS which already monitors many of the indicators proposed

The methodologies for GEMI are being tested in Jordan, The Netherlands, Peru, Senegal and Uganda and will be further rolled out to Bangladesh and The Philippines. JMP will also field test its adjusted methodology during 2017 (countries not decided yet). The results will also feed into a first global synthesis report on SDG 6 (2018).

While it’s uncertain that the Inter-governmental body will be established, UN Water is already taking an important responsibility for coordinating the monitoring of SDG 6 by the various UN agencies mentioned above.

The distant grandfather: High-level Panel on Water

Finally, there is the joint United Nations and World Bank Group High-Level Panel on Water (not be confused with the High-level Political Forum) co-chaired by the Presidents of Mauritius and Mexico. It aims to mobilise effective action to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 and its related targets.The Water Sherpas are now in Stockholm discussing the scope of this Panel, which they aim to present at the United Nations General Assembly in the third week of September 2016. This panel includes not only heads of state of European but also of African, Asian and Latin American countries. DESA is also involved in the Secretariat.

Critical questions remain unanswered

It was difficult to compile this information during the many Stockholm formal, informal and closed-door sessions, but it is clear that a lot of the processes are still taking shape. Some questions that were left unanswered:

  • How transparent will all these proposed platforms be?
  • How will these platforms coordinate with existing sector platforms such as the Sanitation and Water for All, Global Water Partnership and other networks that have also a role in monitoring progress of SDG 6?
  • What are the options and means for civil society organisations to influence the SDG global water architecture?

And finally and maybe the most critical, are all these high level efforts and the resources required all really worth it? Should it really be a priority to invest in the global water architecture while there is an urgent need to improve national monitoring systems tracking progress towards SDG 6?

Thank you to the fact finders: Andrea van der Kerk, Erma Uytewaal and Roel Blesgraaf. This article and any inconsistencies are entirely my responsibility.