Indigenous peoples and people living in remote and rural areas face particular issues in accessing water and sanitation. Worldwide, indigenous peoples suffer disproportionally from marginalisation and human rights violations, including poor access to water and sanitation services. The lack of understanding, and acknowledgement, of indigenous peoples’ institutions and systems have led to less effective and sustainable water and sanitation services in their communities. Reliable data about indigenous peoples’ access to water and sanitation services is rare, yet research shows indigenous peoples systematically have lower levels of access than the rest of the population.

Much also remains to be done in rural areas. At the start of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, 90% of the 892 million people still practicing open defaecation were in rural areas.[1] The rate of open defecation in rural areas has since been declining at just 0.7% per year[2], which is far below what is needed to meet SDG 6 by 2030. People living in rural areas also face additional stress linked to accessing drinking water, with collection of water from surface water sources, a practice that brings serious risks to their health. In the beginning of the SDG period there were 159 million people using surface water and 92% of them lived in rural areas.[3]

The 1st World Summit on Leaving No One Behind recognises that ensuring that no one is left behind requires higher emphasis on investments aimed at the hardest-to-reach people and groups. For this reason, two of the six themes of the World Summit on Leaving No One Behind are on Indigenous Peoples and Rural Areas.  The Summit calls for ideas for projects that can help solve the issues related to water and sanitation for Indigenous Peoples:

  • Nature-based solutions for protection of ecological and cultural aspects of water;
  • Recognition of the status of indigenous people in decision-making and policy,

and Rural Areas:

  • Economical and accessible technologies for remote areas that are suffering from lack of access;
  • Governance practices that can support awareness and involvement of rural communities.

If you have an idea for a project, make sure to submit an abstract by October 30th for the opportunity to present your idea and have the chance to receive seed funding to initiate your project. More information on the Summit and how to submit an abstract is available at www.waterlex.org/summit.


[1] Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and SDG Baselines. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.