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🗳️ Sustainable Development Goal 6

Words on Water

Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Joakim Harlin | Chief of UNEP’s Freshwater Unit & Kilian Christ | Associate Programme Management Officer in UNEP’s Freshwater Ecosystems Unit
Category: 🗳️ Policy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:02] “UN Water is not an UN organization. It is a coordination mechanism.Because water cuts across so many different topics and we already have organizations in the UN family addressing for example food or health, children, environment, and so on, instead of putting all that in one place, UN Water was created as a coordination mechanism. And it really is a place where we jointly then work on three main things. One is to inform policies around [fresh] water […], we work on monitoring and reporting, and also on actions […]. We have two annual events, the World Water Day on March 22, which has a specific theme and also comes with the World Water Development Report […] and then we have the World Toilet Day, which is more related to water supply and sanitation issue […] on November 19.”

[6:51] “SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 6 to begin with is [about] water and sanitation, but it’s not strictly only about the services of water supply and sanitation. It embraces all aspects of freshwater. So, within SDG 6 we have a number of targets. The first two targets are about the services, about household water supply and sanitation […], but then we also go into […] water ambient quality and treatment of wastewater in the third target. […] The fourth target […] is about more productive use of water and water use efficiency. 80% of water across the world is used in food production and basically in agriculture, so there is a lot of focus there. […] The next target is about integrated water resources management - how we manage water, how we govern water resources, both within countries but also in the [transnational] context. And then we have the sixth target, which is about the status and health of freshwater ecosystems. So that brings us into environmental dimensions […].”

[8:37] “What we don’t have specifically in SDG 6, but which is part of Agenda 2030, is the disasters, the floods and droughts. We do work on that topic in UN Water, but we don’t see it in SDG 6, we see it in other goals.”

[10:46] “The different indicators under the targets within SDG 6 have different custodian agencies. For example the environment program is a custodian for three of the indicators under SDG 6. Because so many different agencies are involved, UN Water created the Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6, which harmonizes the outreach of these different agencies to countries, to approach them jointly with the request for data, with the request to update the information of the indicator. […] Some indicators under SDG 6 already existed before the SDG era […], but especially the environmental indicators are new […].”

[14:27] “What actually is good [water] quality? We have a very rough definition, [which is that] it doesn’t damage ecosystem function and poses no risk to human health. But of course, naturally there is a wide variation of water qualities. […] It’s up to the countries to set [water quality] target values. But of course we assist countries in how to get to the most meaningful target values.”

[16:00] “In 2020, the last round of data collection, we managed to […] collect [water quality] data from 89 countries. […] We almost doubled from the previous round of data collection in 2017 […]. Overall the data shows from a total of 75,000 water bodies, which were assessed in 89 countries [that] around 60% still are in waters defined according to the indicator as good water quality. That of course is encouraging, because protection is often easier the restoration. We encourage countries to do everything so that the water quality of the actual good water bodies doesn’t decrease. But on the other hand, it also means that around 40% of water bodies in these countries are somehow polluted. And that is of course also a challenge.”

[17:50] “There are still many countries, which did not manage to report in this round of data collection. And also within the countries that reported, there are big variations with the quality of the reported data. So, some countries use thousands of data points to collect the indicator, some countries didn’t have that many data points available, which of course decreases the reliability of the indicator.”

[20:48] “The new [UN Water] brief provides an update based on the recently collected data on where we are with regards to SDG 6. Are we on track to reach the targets or are we not […]? And in very short, the report shows that we need to do more, but of course taking action and implementing solutions is also a responsibility for the countries […]. [The report] especially targets policy makers and also tries to convince decision makers of the economic case. […] Investing in water has a positive effect on health, wellbeing, education, tourism, development, and so on. So, action needs to be taken [and] everyone needs to be involved, civil society, NGOs, the private sector, academia […].”

[22:56] “[UN Water is] trying to make that connection between the data, the reporting, the analysis, informing the policy and then linking policy into taking action. It can be action related to financing, it can be action related to certain gaps and the need for technologies and so on.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: “Joakim Harlin and Kilian Christ on UN Water and WEF as a Partner”)
🕰️ 25 min | 🗓️ 03/22/2021
✅ Time saved: 23 min

Additional Links:
WEF (Water Environment Federation)
UN Environment's Freshwater Strategy 2017-2021
UN World Water Development Report 2021