Reliable data are essential to achieving the SDGs, as they help to identify who is left behind, and to establish priorities for efforts and investments. When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, they committed to report on progress, something which ensures accountability.
We need to measure in order to manage appropriately, but there are significant gaps in knowledge. Since the SDGs were adopted, there has been at least one round of global data compilation for each of the eleven indicators under SDG 6. The average country reports on about half of those indicators. In fact, for five of the indicators, there isn’t enough data for a global baseline. An article by the SDG Knowledge Hub, a project of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, describes the efforts involved in global SDG 6 monitoring and reporting.
Monitoring at the global level involves many stakeholders. The UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 (IMI-SDG6) was set up to coordinate global stakeholders on SDG 6 monitoring. A number of UN organisations, known as custodian agencies, are mandated to compile country data on the eleven SDG 6 global indicators.
Data gaps stem from shortages in technical capacity, human and financial resources needed to carry out SDG 6 monitoring at the country level. Last March, the IMI-SDG 6 started a second round of data compilation for seven of the SDG 6 indicators, the 2020 Data Drive. Data will not be compiled on all the eleven SDG 6 indicators in 2020; for some indicators it is sufficient to do it every three to four years. UN agencies provide tested indicator methodologies and support country efforts with technical and institutional strengthening activities.
There are many stakeholders at the country level: different ministries, basin authorities, or national statistic offices that collect data on water and sanitation. A specific technical focal point is identified for each SDG indicator, to work within and outside their organisation to compile data and report them to custodian agencies. Countries can also designate an overall focal point to coordinate efforts across indicators.
In 2021, progress reports will be published at the indicator level, to inform events in the coming years. Data are also published in the SDG 6 Data Portal. The COVID-19 pandemic will challenge countries’ ability to collect and analyse data in 2020. But the current crisis has shown the value of robust data to support decision making and ensure the most vulnerable are not left behind.