According to the latest assessment of SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), the world at large is not on track to reach the Goal by 2030. Indeed, it is unlikely that relying on enabling environments developed before the SDG era will lead to successful achievement of SDG 6. In the language of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, strengthening and realigning enabling environments to drive successful implementation is a critical step for many countries. Yet data and evidence for policymakers and development actors to make this happen may still be missing, overlapping or fragmented while the urgency for actions is set to grow in the next years.

The UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) and partners – the UN Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD), the Korea Environment Corporation (K-eco), the Ministry of Environment, Republic of Korea, and national partners from Ghana, Tunisia, Pakistan and Costa Rica – worked together within the framework of a joint project, ‘Water in the World We Want,’ and developed the SDG 6 Policy Support System (SDG-PSS), which aims to help countries translate data and information from multiple international and national tools into a “fit-for-policy” evidence framework on the enabling environment for SDG 6.

SDG 6 Policy Support System

The SDG-PSS is a user-friendly free system available online in English and French. The system is organized around six critical components: Capacity Assessment; Finance Assessment; Policy and Institutional Assessment; Gender Mainstreaming; Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)/Resilience Mainstreaming; and Integrity. These components stem from more than 20 well-established tools, processes and practices already being used by many countries for water-related management. In this way, professionals, policymakers and researchers using the SDG-PSS will not have to start monitoring new things and collecting new data. Instead, these components rely on existing tools, which means that all the data required by the system have been designed to align with international tools that already exist.

In addition to the six components, the “Status” component presents data trends on different targets and indicators of SDG 6. This component is expected to present the SDG-PSS as a collaboration system, allowing different government partners to visualize all water-related datasets together, run simple scenarios and present different aspirational outcomes.

As policymakers and development actors enter data and information required for each component of the SDG-PSS, the main outcome of the system is a summary view at the SDG 6 indicator level. The summary view consists of an evidence framework on the enabling environment for SDG 6, and shows strengths and weaknesses, missing data, and gaps and opportunities across the system’s components and for all targets and indicators of SDG 6. Policymakers and development practitioners can then use this evidence framework for inter-sectorial collaborative planning to develop and implement water-related policies for strengthening the enabling environment for SDG 6 while getting people from different sectors, agencies and institutions to work together towards SDG success.

Making Policy Decisions for Achieving SDG 6

Making the right policy decisions in the SDG era can be quite complex, requiring policymakers and practitioners to assess and combine many pieces of evidence from different agencies and sectors. Deciding on exactly which piece of evidence is “fit-for-policy” to inform a specific policy process can be contentious, especially since there may be different or context-specific situations, or conflicting evidence. In this way, the SDG-PSS provides a strong foundation for countries to advocate for a rational, rigorous and systematic approach to inform their policy processes and support decisions to achieve SDG 6 by 2030.

A free web-based course was also created to provide training and to address capacity building for systematic and effective use of the SDG-PSS. The SDG-PSS e-course can be accessed through the Water Learning Centre in English and French.

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This article was written by Guillaume Baggio Ferla and Manzoor Qadir, UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).