Monitoring the Global Goal on water and sanitation: the challenge of data aggregation (1/4)

Over the MDG era, the “WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation” and the “UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water”,  most commonly called JMP and GLAAS, have emerged as the two main monitoring tools in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.  Therefore, WASHwatch naturally thought to invite these two teams to introduce this month’s blog series on data aggregation.  This first blog will give WASHwatch users more insights on how the lessons learned from the MDGs have helped set the foundation for better monitoring and serve both national and global objectives in the next 15 years.

WASH Monitoring and the Global Goals (1/4)

A major shift in the newly adopted Global Goal 6 on water and sanitation[i] is that the role of Member States in setting targets and monitoring progress will be much more prominent. While the Global Goal targets are defined as global and aspirational, each country is expected to set its own national targets, taking into account national circumstances. In the MDG period, global monitoring focused on aggregating a small set of consistent indicators, derived from national data, to regional and global levels for tracking progress towards Target 7C. We can anticipate that in the Global Goal period the targets set by countries, and the indicators used to track them, will be highly diverse. The role of regional and global monitoring will change to focus more on experience sharing and periodic thematic reports, while the accountability for targets will be based primarily on national monitoring.

Over the past 25 years the JMP has become the leading source of data on access to drinking-water and sanitation globally, and has assessed progress towards the MDG target for water and sanitation at country, regional, and global levels. Since 2006, GLAAS has emerged as a complementary monitoring tool focusing on inputs (financial and human resources) and the enabling environment (governance and monitoring practices).

The challenge for the Global goals will be to support countries in strengthening monitoring systems so that the data are first and foremost fit for tracking progress towards national targets, but that a subset of these data can be aggregated to regional and global levels. JMP and GLAAS have extensive experience working with national authorities in harmonizing definitions used at national and global levels. One of the critical achievements of the JMP during the MDG period was the establishment of core questions for use in surveys with agreed definitions of improved and unimproved water and sanitation facilities. In the Global Goals era, agreement on terms and definitions of indicators will be even more important. The JMP has proposed normative interpretations of key terms in the text of the targets such as universal, equitable, access, adequate and for all. Additionally, based on recommendations from an extensive consultation of sector experts, the JMP has expanded its drinking-water and sanitation ladders as well as created ladders for handwashing and WASH in institutions, such as schools and health care facilities, which provide clear definitions of service levels. GLAAS is also harmonizing definitions and language in its indicators in order to successfully aggregate means of implementation data at the global level based on national data and information.

JMP and GLAAS are well-positioned to contribute to global monitoring of Goal 6. In particular, the first two targets within the goal focus on universal access to drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and represent extensions of the JMP’s work. The last two targets within the goal, on “means of implementation”, relate to the work of GLAAS on financing and the enabling environment. The remaining four targets address broader aspects of water and sanitation (water resource quality, water-use efficiency, water resource management, and ecosystem health) which were largely absent from the MDG targets. A new coalition of monitoring systems coordinated by UN-Water (GEMI – integrated monitoring of water and sanitation related Global Goal targets) is emerging to develop or adapt global monitoring systems for these targets. For all targets, there will be a greater emphasis on reducing inequalities, with the philosophy of “no target met unless met for all”.


While global monitoring of the Global Goals will pose new challenges, the experience of GLAAS and the JMP  working with countries will help further establish clear definitions, and compiling and analyzing data generated at the country level. This will give a solid foundation on which to build an improved system for global monitoring of the WASH targets of Goal 6.

[i]Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

This blog was co-written by the GLAAS and JMP Teams