STOCKHOLM — The ambitious targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals may have galvanized the water and sanitation sector, but they have also made it imperative for actors in what has traditionally been a small and insular sector to break out of their silos and work together in new and innovative ways. This was one of the messages emphasized by delegates at last week’s Stockholm World Water Week in Sweden.
Devex sat down with John Sauer, a WASH expert from Population Services International, at the conference to get his insights on how water actors can take up the challenge with meaningful and practical collaboration.
Experts agreed that the SDGs have broadened both the scope and the challenges faced by the sector. Where the Millennium Development Goals set fairly binary targets of increasing access to clean water and sanitation, SDG 6 calls not only for universal access but for services that are equitable, quality, affordable, reliable and used efficiently. With the effects of climate change and an expanding population, water issues are likely to grow significantly in the coming years.
But while delegates stressed the need for innovation and collaboration between NGOs, governments, engineers, businesses and other actors to meet the scale of the challenge, they worried about how far this would be adopted in practice. Sauer told Devex, “I think it’s fair to say that, despite lots of talk and good intentions to collaborate, the sanitation sector — with a few possible exceptions — is still figuring out how to make collaboration translate into results.”