Global perspective Human stories

Global Acceleration Framework to speed up water and sanitation access for all

A woman and children use new handwashing facilities installed by UNICEF in Embratel, an informal urban settlement in Boa Vista, in northern Brazil.
© UNICEF/Yareidy Perdomo
A woman and children use new handwashing facilities installed by UNICEF in Embratel, an informal urban settlement in Boa Vista, in northern Brazil.

Global Acceleration Framework to speed up water and sanitation access for all


A new mechanism launched on Thursday aims to speed up action so that people everywhere will have access to water and sanitation by the end of the decade, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Global Acceleration Framework for SDG 6 addresses an issue which cuts across many areas of the UN’s work.

Developed by more than 30 UN entities and 40 international organizations, it outlines more efficient and coordinated support to countries to ensure global availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

“I am proud to see the launch of the Global Acceleration Framework in response to my call to mobilize for a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at the virtual launch.

Progress off track

Water is critical to deliver nearly all of the other 16 SDGs, the Secretary-General said.

It also is essential for resilience to climate change, and underpins UN efforts in peace, security, human rights and development.

However, he said water supply globally faces the “twin threats” of increasing demand and withdrawals, and the degradation of water sources due to climate change, pollution and other factors.

Meanwhile, progress towards achieving SDG 6 is off track.

The UN estimates more than two billion people worldwide still do not have access to safely managed drinking water, while 4.2 billion lack safely managed sanitation.

“Progress on SDG 6 will face deepening challenges as our climate continues to change”, the Secretary-General warned.

“As we are sadly reminded, water and sanitation are also key to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.”

Better resource management

As countries grapple with a “dangerous recession” brought on by the pandemic, the Secretary-General emphasized the need for better global coordination to use resources in ways that are most efficient.

The UN General Assembly President, who also addressed the gathering, pointed out that water security is crucial for maintaining peace: at the local level but also between nations.

“Almost 60 percent of freshwater flows through over 250 water basins, distributed between 148 countries”, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande told participants.

“Given the fragmented distribution, the only way we can manage the global water resources efficiently is through multilateral cooperation. The goal to provide safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030, will remain elusive without harmony and synergy in our actions and policies related to water.”

Support to countries

Under the Global Acceleration Framework, UN entities will commit to strengthening their collaboration and unify the international community’s support to countries, including through providing access to expertise and technical assistance.

They have also committed to working better together to deliver SDG 6.

The UN chief was particularly pleased about the focus on action at the country level, including through coordination with UN Resident Coordinators, in line with UN reforms implemented since his appointment three years ago.

Time to mobilize more support for Landlocked Developing Countries, small island States

Mangrove shoots being planted on Tarawa, an atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to protect against coastal erosion.

At the afternoon session of the 2020 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the UN called for more international solidarity and action to make the SDGs a reality, during the unprecedented threat posed by COVID-19.

Fekitamoeloa Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), noted that the new 10-year programme of action for the LDCs will coincided with the final decade-long push to realize the 2030 Agenda.

Yes, there are obstacles, but the preparations are ongoing”, she said. “The recent report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is clear. Progress has been rather modest in LDCs highlighting the need for accelerated action. It is also clear that building of resilience to withstand future crisis needs to be enhanced.” 

She noted there were positive developments and initiatives that countries had been taking, such as the development of a $1 COVID testing kit in Senegal. 

“This is the time for action. This is the time to mobilize global support for the peoples of the LDCs. This is the time for inclusion, to show solidarity”, she told delegates online.

“This is the time to invest in building back better and faster to response to COVID-19 and to accelerate progress towards meeting the SDGs”, the top UN official concluded.