Published on: 18/11/2020
Climate won the vote for the theme of this year's World Toilet Day.
Photo caption: Toilet, Bangladesh. Credit: Ingeborg Krukkert/ IRC & BRAC
This year, World Toilet Day is about climate change, as was World Water Day although in the end that was rather overshadowed by the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 theme puts sustainable sanitation in the spotlight alongside climate change. How might these two different global concerns, sanitation and climate change, be linked? We’ll come to that in a moment.
While for some of us stranded at home it might seem like life is only an endless series of webinars and online meetings these days, you could also live your life as a series of World Whatever Days. This week, the UN list alone has the International Day for Tolerance (Monday 16 November), World Toilet Day and World Philosophy Day (both on Thursday and with some obvious potential for linkage), Africa Industrialization Day and World Children's Day (both on Friday) and World Television Day (Saturday). A little bit more unofficially, Monday was also World Horse Appreciation Day. The same day, in the United States of America, was National Button Day as well National Fast Food Day. The list of topics fighting for awareness is endless.
UN-Water proposes the themes for the world water and toilet days, a small but very visible task in its effort to coordinate across the many UN agencies and partners working in water and sanitation, and spur us all on to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6. Recently the theme has been the same for the water and toilet days. Also the same theme is used by the Stockholm World Water Week and many other events on the calendar. Next year for example, World Water Day is focused on valuing water and in 2022, on groundwater.
So when the committee came together to decide the topic for 2020 there was an important discussion. Everyone was happy that water and climate made a deserving theme for World Water Day. But what about World Toilet Day? Is there enough of a link between toilets and climate change to make it a theme of a world celebration day? There was a lot of head scratching about who might deliver content for a day on toilets and climate. The long discussion was ended with a vote on whether a different more toilety theme might be chosen instead (breaking with the World Water Day and climate theme). But climate won in that vote and here we are.
Decide for yourself but there is a lot of compelling content out there making exactly those links. Our own staff and inspired individuals and teams around the world have spent the last year and more thinking about what connects sanitation and climate change and now you can read all about it.
Our teams working in places like Odisha, India, Bhola, Bangladesh and Honduras have seen the tremendous damage by storms and floods to sanitation infrastructure, and we are warned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to brace ourselves for more extreme events as a result of a faster, more dynamic hydrological cycle in a warmer world. The wastes we produce are energy and nutrient-rich, and clever designs and policies can enhance their benefits for the environment, or sanitation systems can be hugely energy consuming and contribute significantly to carbon emissions. There are plenty of stories on these and more at www.worldtoiletday.info/
So yes there are plenty of links between toilets and climate change, and a brave decision has pushed us all just a little bit forward.
For our part, we believe we must all work to make World Toilet Day a genuine celebration of success, rather than what it is – an annual reminder of one of the world's biggest human rights failures for billions of people. IRC will continue to remind the world that the only way to break the cycle of failure is to build systems that deliver sanitation and water services that last. Look out for our mini campaign saying just this (see the video below)!
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