World Toilet Day 2023 focuses on the need to accelerate change. This observance, held annually since 2013, celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: sanitation and water for all by 2030. Learn more about the day here and discover how organizations in Geneva are engaged in global efforts for sanitation for all.
2023 Theme: Accelerating change
Currently, there are 3.5 billion people still living without safe toilets. 419 million people still practice ‘open defecation’. In these situations, diseases spread, killing 1,000 children under-five every single day. This global crisis poses a threat to nature and everyone’s health, particularly women, girls, and other vulnerable groups.
World Toilet Day 2023 is about accelerating change. Actions – however small – will help improve toilets and sanitation systems and protect nature.
The countdown to 2030 has begun. We only have seven years left to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – safe toilets and water for all by 2030. We must accelerate progress to ensure everyone has safe toilets and water by 2030. Sanitation and drinking-water are human rights, and access to these services is critical to people’s health and the integrity of the environment.
Back in March, the world united at the UN 2023 Water Conference and produced the Water Action Agenda. The Agenda is the collection of more than 800 existing and new commitments on sanitation and water from governments, companies, organizations and other institutions. On top of this, over 7,000 members of the public have made their own promises via the Be The Change campaign.
Today, the world is seriously off track. We need to work five times faster on sanitation. What we need now is much faster action – for everyone to be accountable for delivering on their promises.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
The core activity of WASH emphasizes the teaching of basic sanitation and hygiene to communities and school children with a particular focus on girls’ education and gender equality, as a necessary complement to the success of water and sanitation infrastructure projects.
This integrated approach to the delivery of basic services is the product of “lessons learned” from the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990). While advancements were made in increasing the access to safe drinking water, less progress was made on the provision of sanitation services and in hygiene education and training. These valuable lessons are now the focus of a global effort to improve the health and productivity of the urban and rural poor in the developing world.
The UNICEF office in Geneva operates as the Cluster Lead Agency for the Global WASH Cluster (GWC), the formal coordinating platform for humanitarian WASH actors in all parts of the sector. UN agencies in Geneva active in the cluster include the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many Geneva-based organizations in the humanitarian sector are actively engaging in WASH (see below). The International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection provides an overview of key references and actors in WASH.
The Role of Geneva
As a global hub for health governance, Geneva is an important place for global action toward SDG6. Geneva-based organizations active in this field are listed below in alphabetical order.
Care International‘s works on water is more than about digging wells or building latrines. They work with governments on policies, guidance, and resource allocation, to ensure lasting improvements. They also integrate our water work into our other program areas, including our work on education and climate justice.
Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention)
The Water Convention, administrated by UNECE, strengthens transboundary water cooperation and measures for the ecologically-sound management and protection of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. The Convention fosters the implementation of integrated water resources management, in particular the basin approach. The Convention’s implementation contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other international commitments on water, environment and sustainable development.
The Protocol on Water and Health, jointly serviced by UNECE and WHO-Europe , is a unique legally binding instrument aiming to protect human health by better water management and by reducing water-related diseases. The Protocol provides a practical framework to translate into practice the human rights to water and sanitation and to implement SDG 6.
Helvetas is an independent organization for development based in Switzerland with affiliated organizations in Germany and the United States. Helvetas supports poor and disadvantaged women, men and communities in about thirty developing and transition countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. On WASH, Helvetas support poor and disadvantaged people in their efforts to build wells and latrines and promotes a comprehensive approach that includes distributing water resources fairly, managing water supply services in a sustainable manner, efficiently irrigating fields and improving hygiene practices.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operates worldwide, helping people affected by conflict and armed violence and promoting the laws that protect victims of war. The ICRC works to provide safe water and decent sanitation, thus reducing death and suffering due to damage to infrastructure or disruption to water supplies. This includes work to repairs war-damaged pipe networks, keeps water supplies drinkable, delivers water and provides toilets and latrines.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian network. Its secretariat supports local Red Cross and Red Crescent action in more than 192 countries, bringing together almost 15 million volunteers. The IFRC works to ensure that people around the world have equitable, sustainable and affordable access to water and sanitation services. The organization supports its national societies to deliver effective emergency, recovery and long-term WASH programmes.
Médecins sans Frontières (MsF)
Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) is a non-profit, self-governed, member-based organisation that provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. MsF works to improve access to safe water and sanitation, including by building sanitation installations in various countries.
Sanitation and Hygiene Fund
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is a global, multi-stakeholder membership and partnership organization that works with poor people, organizations, governments and local entrepreneurs to improve sanitation and hygiene at scale. To reach the SDG 6.2 target of safely managed sanitation, there is an urgent need to globally prioritize sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health. That is why WSSCC is evolving into the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund by 2021.
Toilet Board Coalition (TBC)
The Toilet Board Coalition (TBC) has the ambition to address the global sanitation crisis by accelerating the Sanitation Economy. The TBC is enabling private sector engagement; connecting large and small companies; and ensuring close collaboration between private, public and non-profit sectors with the common goal to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), universal access to sanitation. The TBC runs the Toilet Accelerator, the world’s 1st accelerator programme dedicated to sanitation entrepreneurs in low-income markets.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation was established to focus on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, carry out thematic research, undertake country missions, collect good practices, and work with development practitioners on the implementation of the rights to water and sanitation. The current mandate holder is Pedro Arrojo-Agudo.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
The UNICEF office in Geneva operates as the Cluster Lead Agency for the Global WASH Cluster (GWC), the formal coordinating platform for humanitarian WASH actors in all parts of the sector. The Global WASH Cluster (GWC) operates on the principles of coordinated partnership, promoting holistic, people centred and inclusive humanitarian responses in the WASH sector in over 30 countries. Currently, the GWC membership has 86 members, and 2 standing observers.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR’s WASH programme aims to create a healthier environment for refugees and host communities during emergencies, stabilized and protracted situations.
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading intergovernmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. IOM’s WASH services ensures the delivery of inclusive, durable and appropriate WASH interventions through coordination with local and international partners on related issues such as health, shelter, climate change adaptation, environment.
As there is no single UN entity dedicated exclusively to water issues, UN-Water coordinates with over 30 UN organizations that carry out water and sanitation programmes, reflecting the fact that water issues run through all of the UN’s main focus areas. UN-Water leads the annual campaign and celebrations for World Toilet Day.
World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations agency dedicated to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. As the international authority on public health, WHO leads global efforts to prevent transmission of diseases, advising governments on health-based regulation and service delivery.
On sanitation, WHO monitors global burden of disease and the level of sanitation access and analyses what helps and hinders progress. WHO also supports collaboration between WASH and health programmes such as neglected tropical diseases, cholera, polio and antimicrobial resistance. Aspect of climate resilience are incorporated in all WHO sanitation guidance documents.
The list above focused on organizations active on sanitation and issues related to World Toilet Day. To learn more about activities and organizations on the broader topic of water, please visit the pages below.