South Africa’s Progress on Reaching SDGs on Water Investigated

South Africa’s progress towards ensuring clean and accessible water will be interrogated at a two-day workshop on 23 and 24 July 2019 hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

The workshop is aimed at assessing the country’s current level of achieving the targets set by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 which has as root improving sanitation and access to drinking water for all. The workshop is supported by the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the Department of Water and Sanitation. 

Access to water and sanitation are basic human rights and are critical sustainable development challenges. Millions of people are at risk from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation also negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world.  

To improve sanitation and access to drinking water, there needs to be increased investment in management of freshwater ecosystems and sanitation facilities on a local level in several developing countries.  

If countries are to achieve SDG6 by 2030, current national progress should be assessed effectively. This means defining gaps and weaknesses and addressing these with workable action plans to foster strong enabling environments for the achievement of SDG6. Countries also need to set their own national baselines, targets, and priorities in the general SDG process and focus on what can be realistically achieved by 2030.  

In addition to contextualising and embedding the SDGs in country-level monitoring, reporting and target-setting processes, the effective co-ordination within and between the departments leading each SDG is seen as a further critical factor for the successful implementation of the SDG initiative.  

In South Africa much has been done over the last three years regarding the SDG on water and sanitation to address the above requirements. During this process a number of lessons have been learnt and potential opportunities for further improvement have been identified.  

In order to improve awareness and strengthen co-ordination in South Africa, the workshop aims to:  

  • highlight the coordination and collaboration in the water sector towards achieving the targets of SDG 6;
  • evaluate gaps and challenges in this coordination;
  • assist in furthering the efforts toward progress by assisting collaboration within SDG 6 and amongst other SDGs; and
  • explore opportunities for strengthening the South African SDG targets and indicators related to water and sanitation.  

At the workshop, the IAP – the global network of over 140 national academies of science, engineering and medicine – will release a new report making the case for strengthening the science-policy interface in Africa to accelerate the implementation of the UN SDGs and the African Union’s (AU) STI Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024).


The report is the culmination of a three-year project, Harnessing Science, Engineering and Medicine to address Africa’s Challenges, funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York. This project explored pathways for feeding scientific expertise into UN and AU policy frameworks, with a focus on ways that African national academies can contribute more effectively at continental, regional and national levels.