Promoting the integrated monitoring of SDG 6 (GEMI)

Article written by Alan Hodgson, UNESCO-IHE. The original article was posted on the website of UNESCO-IHE:

From 7 to 9 September, UNESCO-IHE hosted the Work in Progress Workshop for the monitoring of the Water SDGs, within the framework of GEMI. The workshop was organized by the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, supported by UNESCO-IHP, UNESCO-IHE, and the Netherlands and German IHP-HWRP Committees.

Preliminary work on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – makes clear that achieving the 2030 global ambition will require an understanding of the needs and workings of the full water cycle. This means being able to operationalize and monitor not only its constituent parts (individual targets like drinking water, water use efficiency, ecosystem extent, etc) but the whole integrated and dynamic process. It is equally clear that many of the other 16 SDGs will not be achieved without the effective and efficient use of water.

The GEMI workshop was set up against the backdrop of these challenges, to develop and support the monitoring of SDG 6 in countries around the world. Providing a forum for the exchange of pilot country experience highlights the fact that expertise does not lie solely in one place or region but rather often emerges through discussion, shared learning and practise.

‘This is not an exercise in polishing statistics’ Fritz Holzwarth, Rector ad interim of UNESCO-IHE

The GEMI workshop was opened by Elaine Alwayn, Director Water and Soil, Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, who emphasized the need not only for enabling international political structures to achieve SDG 6, but also national action. Fritz Holzwarth, Rector ad interim of UNESCO-IHE, went on to highlight the timeliness of the workshop being held soon after the Stockholm World Water Week, where the subject of the implementation and monitoring of SDG 6 was a recurrent topic. He pointed out that it was also appropriate that the workshop was hosted by UNESCO-IHE, as a natural home for water expertise, housing as it does students and staff from around the world bringing their own local water challenges and collectively discovering solutions. Outlining further the context of the workshop, Blanca Jimenez-Cisneros, Secretary of UNESCO-IHP summarized by stating that there was a “very interesting challenge ahead”.

This aptly introduced several months’ long work in the five Proof of Concept countries represented, including the Netherlands, who had been testing the SDG 6 monitoring framework, identifying what was working, what wasn’t, and where there remain gaps and opportunities.

A deep dive into the water indicators

The stage was now set for the hard work to follow over the next two days in which each of the Proof of Concept countries – Jordan, The Netherlands, Peru, Senegal and Uganda  –shared their current approach to SDG 6 monitoring. By exploring the targets and associated indicators in detail, participants were able to focus on specifics such as agreement on definitions, data validation, responsibilities for data collection, data consistency, prioritisation and gaps. Discussion also turned to wider contributing factors such as the relative value of corroborative, qualitative information; gender sensitivity and cooperation between sectoral authorities. The workshop also provided a platform for the suggestion of new sources of information, in some cases where data was already routinely collected for another purpose, such as with biodiversity data.

There was also significant dialogue about the means of implementation, such as the institutional and financial conditions necessary to establish an enabling environment. Transboundary issues were also raised, for example with reference to activities such as mining in one country having impacts on others, through water pollution carried downstream.

After nearly three days of intense, often meticulous, but most of all supportive exchange, participants left for their respective countries and organizations with a renewed sense of purpose and energy for the road ahead.