The Aspen Institute, in partership with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, convened a multi-stakeholder dialogue focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in May 2011 in Washington, DC. This convening was a follow-up to a 2005 dialogue co-hosted by the same two institutes. Following this initial dialogue, we published the report A Silent Tsunami, which highlighted the global importance of issues relating to access to clean water and sanitation and outlined major steps to inform how the U.S. government and other actors might provide these basic services more rapidly and effectively.
Although much has been achieved since the original forum, enormous challenges persist. The mid-point between the initial forum and 2015—the target year for the Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people without access to safe water and sanitation—was an opportune time to convene key stakeholders to reflect on progress and to identify the most important areas to focus on in the immediate future. The forum benefited from having a number of the original forum participants, who, along with many new participants, provided a wide range of expertise from a variety of organizations working on WASH challenges. The intent of the forum was to produce recommendations and to develop a collective message to share with relevant decision makers, including Congress.