Tag Archives: Millennium Development Goals


The World We Want: Water

One of the primary drivers of funding in the WASH sector (and other aid sectors) has been the target set by the Millennium Development Goals: To halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.  While these goals have been undeniably successful in improving the lives of poor people across the world, one of the criticisms leveled at the MDG framework is that it ‘siloed’ development discussions – failing to consider interdependencies across sectors.  The next step: developing the next set of goals – the Sustainable Development Goals.

Why do we care about the next set of goals?

The MDGs have driven the aid agenda for the past 15 years – and the next set of goals will probably play an important role in determining where the aid money flows to in the next 15 years.  If they don’t include cross-sector, cross-cutting water issues now, the solutions we are working towards may fail to jump ahead onto the world stage.

How are the goals being determined?

In preparation for setting the next stage of goals, the United Nations set up the website “The World We Want 2015”, a place for people from across the world to engage in the dialogue around what goals should be set to achieve our desired future.  A newly released report, “The Post 2015 Water Thematic Consultation Report” summarizes the discussions that took place around water and points towards a new water future.  Demonstrating the primacy of water in solving the world’s problems, the authors report that the water theme received more social media attention and more comments than any of the other themes – almost triple the next most popular theme, “Inequalities”.

Check out the full report of the thematic cluster discussions here.

“The World We Want 2015” has a set of cool visualizations of each of the comments, discussions, and posts submitted to the website – showing the interdependencies and linkages between each comment. Check it out here.


Rothschild and the “Dilemmas of a Water Funder”

In a piece this week, David Rothschild, a Principal of the Portfolio Team at the Skoll Foundation, started a dialogue about the “Dilemmas of a Water Funder”, posing questions about the challenges in setting long-term, ambitious, and aggressive goals.  Of his six questions, the most relevant to our Community of Practice are the last two:

  • How can we improve access to water and sanitation while also improving water scarcity situations?
  • Why aren’t more linkages made between the agricultural and WASH sectors? How can agricultural water use planning incorporate WASH planning?

Rothschild suggests that the singular focus on water and sanitation, and the feel good feeling of building one more well or connecting one more house to a sanitation system, has limited the ambitious nature of the goals the WASH sector should be setting and kept funders from looking for “institutions that are shifting the paradigm, opening new markets, changing systems and demonstrating success at scale”.

In an op-ed piece published last week in the NY Times, Peter Buffett, son of Warren Buffet and chairman of the NoVo Foundation, echoed some of Rothschild’s concerns, criticizing the philanthropic industry as a whole for focusing on incremental goals, but failing to re-imagine the bigger picture and support systemic change.

  • What do you think?
  • How has the focus on water and sanitation affected water resources management in your region?
  • How do our projects succeed in making these missing linkages between upstream and downstream users, agricultural and consumer users, environment and industry?

Read David Rothschild’s full article and comment on it here.

Read Peter Buffet’s New York Times op-ed here.