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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Advancing progress to achieve UN SDG 6 for First Nations through advocacy with the Canadian Government

Assembly of First Nations/National Indian Brotherhood (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national, political organization of First Nations governments and their citizens, including those living on and off reserve. Every Chief in Canada is entitled to be a member of the Assembly, and the National Chief is elected by the Chiefs in Canada, who in turn are elected by their citizens. The AFN has 634 member nations within its Assembly. The role and function of the AFN is to serve as a nationally delegated forum for determining and harmonizing effective, collective, and co-operative measures on any subject matter that the First Nations delegate for review, study, response, or action, and to advance the aspirations of First Nations.

    The AFN Infrastructure and Safe Drinking Water Sector’s central initiative is continuing to press the Government of Canada to work with First Nations towards achieving SDG 6, to ensure that all First Nations enjoy the UN-affirmed human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. However, compared to most Canadians, access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right that too many First Nations still lack, contributing negatively to First Nations health, education, and economic development outcomes. As of February 3, 2023, there remains 32 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 28 First Nations communities, which are advisories that have been in place for a minimum of one year, with some spanning decades.

    This initiative has been directed by the First Nations-in-Assembly, through multiple Resolutions over the last decade, which directs the AFN’s mandates, including AFN Resolution 53/2019 Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Resolution 01/2019 First Nations Treaty and Inherent Rights to Water. This initiative will be achieving through the following activities: 1) Sustained advocacy towards urging Canada to respect First Nations rights to jurisdiction, management, and self-determination over their lands and water; 2) Advancing the implementation and ensuring that First Nations have the proper resources needed to carry out First Nations-led policies and solutions related to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water and adequate sanitation; 3) urging the Canadian government to commit to sustainable, predictable and reliable funding for all water and wastewater assets and activities.

    Implementation: Strategies, direction, progress, and challenges towards achieving this initiative will be discussed and decided by First Nations during engagement sessions and by Chiefs at annual assemblies of First Nations leadership, including dedicated dialogue sessions on water issues, as well as at the AFN National Water Symposium. The AFN will continue to host regular annual forums and engagement sessions, open to all First Nations across Canada to work collaboratively and regularly on water issues. Feedback received during these engagement sessions will inform the AFN’s advocacy objectives on safe drinking water and sanitation related matters. The AFN will press Canada to adopt a human rights-based approach to sustainable development that aligns with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda. The AFN will press Canada to be responsive to First Nations priorities and the full implementation of its legal obligations regarding water.

    Expected Impact

    The AFN’s initiative on ensuring that all First Nations have access to safe, clean, reliable, and sufficient drinking water and adequate sanitation is directly aligned with SDG 6 and Canada’s broader commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the 2030 Agenda. Our work on this initiative continues to be guided by UNDRIP, particularly Articles 25 and 32.

    Lack of safe, clean, and reliable drinking water and adequate infrastructure is a significant factor in forcing First Nations to leave their homes and move off-reserve, due to the health, educational and employment-related consequences of the lack of access. This is particularly significant for First Nations women and girls, who are the sacred keepers of water and have inherent responsibilities as caretakers to protect water. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls identified the First Nations’ water and housing crisis as a source of violence against First Nations’ women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people and called upon all governments to uphold their social and economic rights and to immediately ensure that Indigenous peoples have access to safe housing, clean drinking water, and adequate food.

    If the Canadian government guaranteed access to safe drinking and adequate sanitation for all First Nations, this would allow First Nations to enjoy a good quality of life on their respective traditional territories, as this begins with clean, fresh, and accessible sources of water and access to adequate sanitation, which promotes positive mental and physical health outcomes and fosters prosperity and economic development.

    We are committed to working with our allies around the world and in partnership with the Canadian government to address the global water and sanitation crisis and ensure access to clean drinking water for all First Nations in Canada and to close the infrastructure and funding gap that is a barrier to many First Nations to be able to enjoy their right to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation.

    Through our initiative, we continue to urge Canada to recognize First Nations’ rights to water and to self-determination. Implementing First Nations rights and priorities in respect to water will also further accelerate progress on SDG 10 – Reducing Inequalities within countries (Canada), and because of the special role and responsibilities First Nations women have to water, this initiative can also accelerate progress on SDG 5 - Achieving equality and empowering all (First Nations) women and girls.

    Additional information

    Goal 5

    Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

    Goal 5


    End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere


    Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex


    Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

    Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age


    Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by age and place of occurrence


    Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

    Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18


    Proportion of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age


    Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate


    Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location


    Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life


    Proportion of seats held by women in (a) national parliaments and (b) local governments


    Proportion of women in managerial positions


    Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences


    Proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care


    Number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education


    Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws


    (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure


    Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control


    Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

    Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex


    Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels


    Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Goal 10

    Reduce inequality within and among countries

    Goal 10


    By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average


    Growth rates of household expenditure or income per capita among the bottom 40 per cent of the population and the total population


    By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status


    Proportion of people living below 50 per cent of median income, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard


    Proportion of population reporting having personally felt discriminated against or harassed within the previous 12 months on the basis of a ground of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law


    Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality


    Labour share of GDP


    Redistributive impact of fiscal policy


    Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations


    Financial Soundness Indicators


    Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions

    Proportion of members and voting rights of developing countries in international organizations


    Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies


    Recruitment cost borne by employee as a proportion of montlhy income earned in country of destination


    Number of countries with migration policies that facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people


    Number of people who died or disappeared in the process of migration towards an international destination


    Proportion of the population who are refugees, by country of origin


    Implement the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, in accordance with World Trade Organization agreements

    Proportion of tariff lines applied to imports from least developed countries and developing countries with zero-tariff


    Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programmes

    Total resource flows for development, by recipient and donor countries and type of flow (e.g. official development assistance, foreign direct investment and other flows)


    By 2030, reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent


    Remittance costs as a proportion of the amount remitted

    Name Description
    1) The AFN will hold a National Water Symposium in Winter 2024 to assess and discuss Canada’s progress on the work done to advance the achievement of SDG 6 and the UN-affirmed human right to drinking water and sanitation, as well as to hold dialogue sessi
    2) The Assembly of First Nations will issue a report on the status of legal actions, settlement agreements and other work First Nations have launched to press Canada to respect the collective and individual human rights of all First Nations to clean drink
    Staff / Technical expertise
    The entirety of the AFN’s Safe Drinking Water Sector is devoted to the delivery of this initiative, including 3 full-time staff members, support staff, and legal and subject matter consultants.
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    Action Network
    water logo
    31 March 2023 (start date)
    31 March 2024 (date of completion)
    Assembly of First Nations/National Indian Brotherhood
    1. North America
    Other beneficiaries

    Members of First Nations of the Assembly of First Nations (approximately 634 Indigenous peoples communities in Canada).

    More information
    Contact Information

    Cindy , Regional Chief