-Chris Murray, Director for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington
Three weeks ago the UN General Assembly adopted The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda during the UN Sustainable Development Summit held in New York. The SDGs are 17 specific targets chosen as mechanisms to guide development with the objectives of ending extreme poverty, reducing inequality and injustice, and countering climate change.
The SDGs are an articulation of what many of us in the aid, social venture, and philanthropic sector believe, and what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has succinctly articulated: All people deserve the chance to live a healthy and productive life. The 17 goals are a roadmap to a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
I like delineating the broad vision into specific goals because it makes the issues more tractable—though still immense. Of particular importance to me is Goal #6: Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. That means getting 600M people access to safe water in 15 years.
What makes us think we can provide 600M people access to safe water in just 15 years? The only convincing answer is that an additional 600M people got access to safe water in the past 15 years.
The SDGs are the successor to a commitment made by the UN in 2000 to achieve a series of international development goals called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs set forth 8 goals agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. Goal 7C was to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.
The UN assesses the progress toward MDG #7 as a success with 600M additional people getting access to safe water- though not in Sub-Saharan Africa, and with over 600 million people still without access to safe water. Subsequently, the SDG goal for universal access to safe water is intended to continue the progress made during the first 15 years, and complete the task.
Providing access to safe water for all can be done. We’ve defined a goal. Let’s challenge ourselves to reach it.