UQ Global Change Institute launches second discussion paper on achieving the UN SDGs for water

UQ Global Change Institute launches second discussion paper on achieving the UN SDGs for water


A second discussion paper, ‘Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals for water and beyond,’ developed under the University of Queensland’s Water for Equity and Wellbeing Initiative, was launched at the International RiverSymposium in New Delhi in September.

Global Change Institute releases second discussion paper on achieving the SDGs

Authored by thirteen researchers, including International WaterCentre lecturer Dr Dani Barrington, this new discussion paper challenges the current steps being undertaken towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that affect the attainment of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) goal and identifies plausible pathways for cross-government responsibility for attaining the SDGs.

An earlier discussion paper from the University of Queensland on the SDGs (Hall et al., 2016) cautioned that a ‘list-based’ or siloed approach could overlook the complex interlinkages, trade-offs, synergies, and the positive and negative feedback loops. Without understanding these interlinked foundations, it is difficult to develop coherent and integrated policies needed to attract appropriate investment and implementation benefits.

The aims of this discussion paper are to:

  • Identify the most effective and efficient starting points for governments to begin implementation of the SDGs; and
  • Identify which government portfolios and supporting governance arrangements could usefully be implemented across each particular SDG, and across the suite of SDGs.

Climate action and global partnerships key to achieving SDGs

Using diagrams to show the influence of the SDGs on each other, the research identified that the most influential goals that affect all the others are those for climate action (SDG 13) and for global partnerships (SDG 17). Without these, the other goals are very difficult to attain.

Drilling into the goal for water and sanitation (SDG 6) identified that the approach of ‘integrated water resources management’ (IWRM) is the most influential target. Without this holistic water management, adequate consideration of all the aspects that contribute to clean water and accessible sanitation cannot be achieved or maintained long-term.

How should Australia prioritise action to enable the SDGs?

To provide direction on how Australia should prioritise action to enable the SDGs, the discussion paper provides seven key recommendations. These are summarised as:

  • One: The overarching SDGs of climate action (SDG 13) and partnerships (SDG 17) need to be the initial focus of plans to enable all SDGs. Following this, the next three key influential SDGs are those for education (SDG 4), poverty (SDG 1) and work and economy (SDG 8).
  • Two: In planning SDG approaches, the SDG interlinkages need to be identified and understood to avoid unintended negative consequences and to enhance benefits.
  • Three: Crossover, liaison and interagency collaboration is required at a local, national and international level to effectively attain the SDGs and their respective targets.
  • Four: Diagram creation of the SDGs is best approached at a target level, and at the scale of relevance to their jurisdiction (e.g. global, national, catchment or local).
  • Five: The health and wellbeing goal (SDG 3) needs to be considered in response to the other SDGs, as it is the overarching goal of the SDG set
  • Six: The approach of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) should be seen as the main target for achieving SDG 6 (water, sanitation and hygiene), and should be a key focus in planning to attain all the elements of SDG 6.
  • Seven: Attaining clean, accessible drinking water is the overarching target of SDG 6 (water, sanitation and hygiene), but this can only be delivered with support from the other contributing SDG 6 targets. Therefore, investment in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs should be conducted within upstream water management, treatment, and regulations, to ensure maximum and long-term benefits.

More information

To download the full paper and find out more about the University of Queensland’s Water for Equity and Wellbeing Initiative visit the Global Change Institute site.

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