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Global Goals Week: Celebrating our own factivists

Five years ago, 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted a bold, forward-looking and ambitious agenda for sustainable development: The Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

To review, celebrate and plan the progression of the SDGs, each year Global Goals Week is held to coincide with the UN General Assembly’s High-level Week. It aims to bring together everyone from decision-makers and global leaders, to citizens from around the world, businesses and academics in an attempt to accelerate progress towards the SDGs – or Global Goals.

This year is of particular importance as not only does it mark the final decade of the goals, it is also set to take place in the folds of a global pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 are devastating, widespread and threaten to reverse decades of progress, especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

The theme of this year’s Global Goals Week is “factivism”. It will reinforce the importance of timely data and the consolidated action needed to create a sustainable and fairer planet for all.

Although governments around the world know how important access to clean water is, and that data collection will help pinpoint sources of pollution or change, many do not have the resources to monitor the quality of fresh water. This makes it almost impossible to know how bad issues are or even guarantee if the freshwater communities are using is of adequate quality.

Citizen science offers an accessible way of collecting data and filling such crucial knowledge gaps. Earthwatch has been working in Zambia and Tanzania, as well as multiple other destinations globally, to encourage the use of our citizen science project FreshWater Watch to monitor freshwater supplies. This directly links with SDG 6.3.2 which focuses on the quality of water in the environment.

Engaging local communities to monitor the water does more than fill data gaps. It also creates knowledge, a sense of ownership and pride over the freshwater sources. These secondary benefits of using citizen science are also important for achieving the SDGs as they create a sense of global solidarity, individuals know that they are not alone, their personal fresh water source is part of a global network.

As Global Goals Week 2020 celebrates factivism and the factivists around the world shining a spotlight on critical data points, we want to raise awareness and celebrate our own factivists. Citizen scientists in Zambia and Tanzania, as well as other countries globally, are using FreshWater Watch to fill local knowledge gaps, improve freshwater resources for their communities and are contributing vital data in a global mission to create a more inclusive and equitable world.

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