In 2000, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declaration, which set out its vision for development. This declaration evolved into eight goals – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, and the targets and indicators used to measure progress towards them, focus on development outcomes that are achievable by 2015 and contribute to the eradication of extreme poverty.
As we approach 2015, the international community is assessing the progress made towards each of the MDGs, and the overall objective of poverty eradication. This includes measuring the progress made towards halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and looking at why there has been relatively little progress on sanitation.
Decision-makers around the world are reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the MDG framework. For water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), this includes considering the adequacy of the existing goals, targets and indicators, with particular focus on hygiene, access to services beyond the household, and issues of equity and sustainability. They are also assessing how failure to deliver water and sanitation has had an impact on progress towards the other MDG targets.
Against this backdrop, it is helpful to re-examine why improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene matters – both as a fundamental human right, and because of the relationship with a broad range of human, economic and environmental development outcomes.
This report explores the ways in which access to water, sanitation and hygiene affects development outcomes, including health, education, gender equality, growth and employment, and environmental sustainability. It highlights the need for any post-2015 framework for development to reflect this interrelationship and encourage collaboration across sectors, and to set ambitious targets for the achievement of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene as a human right.