Guidelines for developing inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure

Accelerating infrastructure development is key to responding to global challenges, but we must ensure that we leave no one behind. The world is facing grave challenges that place the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in jeopardy. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out more than four years of progress in poverty eradication, armed conflicts have caused a record 100 million people to be forcibly displaced, and climate change has induced heatwaves, droughts, and floods that affect billions of people.

Infrastructure development must be accelerated to respond to these challenges and address development gaps. Infrastructure is a key enabler of sustainable development, as it influences the achievement of up to 92 percent of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. However, there remains a huge gap in infrastructure development worldwide. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated $97 trillion of global infrastructure investment was needed from 2016 to 2040 to address the SDGs, $7.3 trillion of which was needed for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure. While the world is slowly recovering from the pandemic, the progress towards filling this infrastructure gap has slowed.

Future infrastructure must be developed through inclusive solutions and encompass more social needs. Much attention has been placed on accelerating climate action and sustainability in infrastructure without due focus on the needs of women and marginalized groups, such as children, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning, and other gender-diverse people (also known as LGBTIQ+ people), persons living in poverty, indigenous peoples, refugees, and internally displaced persons, among others.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have highlighted and exacerbated existing vertical and horizontal inequalities in access to infrastructure, making it clear that we must act urgently to not only fill the global infrastructure gap but also ensure that we mainstream inclusion alongside sustainability and resilience in infrastructure development, in order to build a sustainable future that leaves no one behind.


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