Water for Peace: Accelerating progress for a water secure world

A medium close up photo of two Bangladeshi women holding metal water containers on their hips smiling at the camera. Another woman is out of focus in the background walking along an unmade pathway. Her back is to the camera and they are all on the banks of a waterway in a rural area.


Friday, 22 March is World Water Day and this year’s theme is, ‘Water for Peace.' To create a more peaceful and water secure future, we must accelerate progress on SDG6 for equitable access to clean water, safe sanitation, and hygiene for all.


Water is at the centre of the climate crisis and has the power to unite communities and countries or spark conflict. Equitable access to clean water, safe sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is fundamental to climate-resilient and socially cohesive communities, and critical to safeguarding the health of our precious water resources and wider ecosystems.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is underpinned by a commitment to leave no one behind, and as a cross-cutting goal, Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) - Water and sanitation for all - is critical to progress on all SDGs. However, all targets of SDG6 are currently lagging. 


  • Some 2.2 billion people still live without safely managed drinking water, including 115 million people who drink surface water
  • Around 1.8 billion people do not have drinking water on-premises, and in two out of three of these households, women are primarily responsible for water collection
  • Roughly half of the world’s population experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year
  • Diarrhoea caused by dirty water, poor toilets and insufficient hygiene kills a staggering 444,000 children annually, and contributes to high levels of malnutrition and stunting.


Climate change is felt most acutely through water

Too little, too much, polluted, contaminated, disputed - throughout the world, the effects of climate change are experienced most acutely through water. Over the past 50 years, water-related disasters have dominated the list of disasters and account for 70% of all deaths related to natural disasters. In the same period, the average number of extreme droughts has also increased 233%. 

The latest United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) 2022 Global Assessment Report highlights some emerging trends that will further impact on water quality, availability, accessibility and security. According to the report:

  • Droughts likely to increase by 30% between 2001 and 2030
  • Disasters are set to increase by 40% annually, and
  • Extreme temperature events are projected to almost triple.

During times of water insecurity or scarcity, women and girls are among those worst affected – more vulnerable to gender-based violence, abuse, and ill-health, more likely to be caught up in water conflict, and largely precluded from educational, economic, and social opportunities for extended periods to collect water for their families and communities. By 2050, the United Nations predicts that climate change could push an additional 158 million women and girls into poverty.



Safely managed sanitation is a climate solution

In the face of climate breakdown, extreme weather events play havoc on non-climate-resilient sanitation systems. During flooding events, sewage is released into combined stormwater systems, pit latrines collapse, and faecal contamination spreads. During droughts, sewers block, and pour-flush toilets do not work. At the same time, methane from wastewater is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Safely managed, climate-resilient sanitation safeguards the health of people and the planet, protecting precious water resources and wider ecosystems. It also offers largely untapped opportunities to curb methane emissions from wastewater and contribute to keeping global warming below 1.5°C.

Ahead of the Global Methane Forum in Geneva this week, and World Water Day, the Climate Resilient Sanitation Coalition and Water Initiative for Net Zero co-authored this article outlining how safely managed sanitation is a climate solution, and the actions that countries can take now to harness important methane mitigation opportunities. 


Read:  Why sanitation is critical for action towards the Global Methane Pledge
A mother and daughter stand by their climate-reslient sanitation system. Their latrine is connected to sealed septic tanks with the iDE All Seasons Upgrade product to effectivelt manage filtration in the clay rich soil.

 Advancing gender equality is key

Throughout the world, women are at the forefront of climate change and it's impacts on water security – brokering peace, driving sustainable agriculture for food security, and delivering water and WASH for the health and well-being of their families and communities. Women hold often untapped local and traditional knowledges about the water cycle and the impacts of climate change on water resources, which are key to strengthening resilience. Women and water can lead us out of crisis

Yet, historical and structural gender inequity continue to negatively affect women’s leadership, undermining women’s ability to make decisions, advance solutions, and respond to the nexus of climate and water security in their communities. Women remain under-represented in decision-making related to WASH and climate change at all levels, from local to international bodies. 

The barriers to gender equality and women's empowerment are numerous and cannot be successfully addressed without including the whole community. Across Asia and the Pacific, in every place where Water for Women projects are working, partners are actively collaborating with communities to reframe and challenge harmful social norms that perpetuate inequality. Together, we are accelerating progress for SDG6 through climate-resilient and inclusive WASH for all. 



Explore recent projects updates below 


A woman in a yellow sari is crouching down facing a brick wall that has a Saniclimi table painted on it. She is making updates to a section of the table with white chalk.

Bridging borders to climate-resilient, inclusive WASH in India

In India, one of the most water stressed countries in the world, localisation and the leadership of community operating structures is central to the delivery of cimate-resilient and inclusive WASH for all.



Members of the Sumbawa Integrated Water Management Forum and Disabilitas Sarea standing knee deep in the sea on Kaung Island holding mangrove seedlings and smiling at the camera.

Planting seeds for sustainable solutions in Indonesia

In Sumbawa, Indonesia, climate change is profoundly affecting aquaculture farmers and leading to a worrying decline in yields, year after year. But an integrated and inclusive approach to sustainable water management and coastal revitalisation is helping to reverse this trend.



Government officials in Kiribati sitting at a table collaborating with researchers on climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene opportunities as part of the Circle WASH research project.

Uncovering circular economy opportunities for climate-resilient and inclusive WASH in Kiribati

In Kiribati. limited rainfall, wave-driven flooding, saline intrusion, and rising sea levels are all impacting water security for this island nation. The Circle WASH research project is exploring how circular economy ideas can help create WASH systems that are both climate-resilient and inclusive.



A man demonstrating water testing to a group of seated Nepalese men and women in a rural village of Dailekh, Nepal.

Allies accelerating sustainable WASH solutions in Nepal

In rural Dailekh, Nepal, SNV is partnering with communities, the private sector and governments to strengthen decentralised water resource and WASH systems to deliver climate-resilient and inclusive services for all.



Children gathered in front of a river in Papua New Guinea smiling at the camera and holding their thumbs up. Some older children standing at the back are wearing palm leaf adornments on their heads.

WAVE of change: Du'ug Village in PNG's WASH transformation

Good hygiene and sanitation practices are keeping homes healthy in Du'ug Village, Papua New Guinea, and upholding the community's Healthy Island status.



A woman is sitting at a table with a bright and colourful tablecloth making notes on paper while interviewing a man. The woman is an Environmental Health Division Officer and the man is the Village Chief of a rural village in Solomon Islands.

Water is everyone's business in Solomon Islands

In Solomon Islands, community-led water committees play a vital role in safeguarding rural water supplies, but often require support for sustainability and proactive operations, and their involvement in broader water resource management is limited.



A young woman is crouching within the basin of a community tap stand in a rural village of Timor-Leste. A slow stream of water is flowing from the tap above her and she is smiling at the camera as she cleans the surface with a white cloth.

Advocating to enshrine equality and climate resilience in Timor-Leste laws

In Timor-Leste, around 20% of the rural population lacks basic water access and half lacks basic sanitation, jeopardising water supplies. Decree Law puts community water committees in charge, but they lack crucial support for sustainability and operations.



Members of a rural community on Gaua Island proudly displaying their WASH Action Plan captured on three large pieces of poster paper. The group of women, men, children, and a man in a wheelchair are gathered outside a community meeting room constructed of timber and woven leaves.

Amplifying commuity voices and building capacity for resilience in rural Vanuatu

In rural Vanuatu, the community of Namasary has big plans for climate-resilient and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene.



A woman researcher from Can Tho University, crouching down holding a measuring device in a bucket of water at an onion farm in Vinh Chau, Mekong Delta region, Vietnam. She is measuring the groundwater salinity.

RECHARGE: Safeguarding groundwater for all in Vietnam's Mekong Delta

The impact of climate change is already evident in the Mekong Delta, posing a direct threat to water security for millions of communities. The RECHARGE research project is investigating strategies to harness and safeguard groundwater for climate resilience. 



World Water Day is observed annually on 22 March and this year's theme, 'Water for peace', emphasises the importance of working together to balance everyone’s needs, to ensure that no one is left behind in access to clean water and safe sanitation, and to make water a catalyst for a more peaceful future. 

As the lifeblood of any community, when water is scarce, polluted, denied or usage unfairly shared, conflicts can arise or intensify. For women and girls, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups, water insecurity exacerbates inequities and has disproportionate impacts, including on their health and well-being. Water conflict also increases the risk of violence.

Throughout the world, women are at the frontlines of climate change and it's impacts on water security. With primary responsibility for meeting caregiving and household water needs, including for sanitation and hygiene (WASH), women are water experts in their communities.

Every day, women are brokering peace, driving sustainable agriculture for food security, and delivering WASH for the health and well-being of their families and communities. Women and water can lead us out of this crisis. 

But women cannot do it alone. As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, we must unite to advance gender equality and accelerate progress on SDG6 - Water and sanitation for all. Everyone has a role to play in creating a fairer and more cohesive society

Throughout Asia and the Pacific, Water for Women partners are working with communities, governments, researchers, rights holder organisations, and service providers in 16 countries to deliver climate-resilient and inclusive water and WASH services for all. Together, we are accelerating progress for SDG6 for a water secure and peaceful future for all.


Header photo: Women collect water for their families in Bangladesh (World Vision Bangladesh)

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