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ImpactWater & Sanitation

Global Citizen and partners secure passage of the Water for the World Act

Sohrab Hura/WaterAid

Working with partners, Global Citizen secured passage of the Water for the World Act in late 2014, improving how the United States uses its foreign aid to provide clean water and sanitation, affecting the lives of over 100,000 people.

Global Citizen led on public and media mobilization for the Water for the World Act, getting global citizens to take 53,000 actions directed at securing congressional support, the bill was profiled at events, including Global Citizen Nights events in Chicago and Philadelphia, the Thank You Festival in Washington DC, and at Global Citizen Festival. And, we secured 27 mentions on MSNBC, providing a platform for Congressional leaders to speak about their support and ensure positive momentum to get the bill passed.

Beginning on World Water Day, March 22, Global Citizen joined with a coalition of 80 partners, including WaterAid America, WASH Advocates, Millennium Water Alliance, InterAction and World Vision, Toilet Hackers and UNICEF, some of whom had been campaigning for 6 years, to give the Water for the World Act a final push into law. Our focus was building public support for the Water for the World Act, which was co-sponsored by Representatives Poe and Blumenauer, who called on global citizens for their continued action to ensure the bill would pass in the house.

On the day of the Thank You Festival in June 2014, working with UNICEF, we made sanitation a visible priority issue at the Thank You Festival using a giant inflatable toilet, and USAID Administrator Raj Shah  agreed to be photographed with it, calling on global citizens to sign our petition.  

After the Thank You Festival, in July global citizens sent 11,000 emails to key leaders in the House of Representatives encouraging them to move forward on the bill. Behind the scenes, Global Citizen and our partners WaterAid and WASH Advocates met with staffers in several Congressional officers to build bipartisan co-sponsorship of the Water for the World Act. At these meetings, the Global Citizen team handed over the emails, demonstrating both public support for the bill and explaining that the bill would save lives by implementing more effective practices at negligible cost. As a result, we gained the support of key representatives including Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader McCarthy and Majority Whip Scalise. Congressman Kennedy (D-MA)  responded directly to global citizens, saying, “Thank you, Global Citizens, for advocating for increased access to water and sanitation. I was glad to receive your petition signatures and have signed on as a co-sponsor of the Water for the World Act.”

In the lead up to 2014 Global Citizen Festival, 35,000 global citizens signed onto our petition in support of Water for the World Act. As a result, further co-sponsors signed up to support the act, and pledged their support at 2014 Global Citizen Festival. Furthermore, congresspersons Ed Royce, Nita Lowey, Richard Hanna, Aaron Schock and Earl Blumenauer with Senators Chris Coons and Richard Durbin addressed global citizens at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival. 

Following the promising groundswell of bipartisan support by 2014 Global Citizen Festival, November 19 2014 saw another critical moment with World Toilet Day. With support from Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman Poe (R-TX) and our partners at WaterAid, WASH Advocates, and Millennium Water Alliance, Global Citizen participated in a rally to support the Act. Using the rally as a platform, Congressman Poe stated, “This is an issue that rises way above politics. It rises way above our U.S. self-interest. We are dealing with people who don’t have access to water – and there are a lot of them!”

Following this, Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Corker (R-TN) moved the Water for the World Act into the Senate, with Senator Durbin saying “this is no longer simply a global health and development issue — it’s a long-term problem that increasingly threatens our national security. The Senate passed a version of this bill in 2009 and I hope we pass today’s legislation before this crisis reaches a devastating tipping point.” Global Citizen worked closely with our media partner MSNBC to secured earned media segments with key members of congress like Senator Richard Durbin, Congressman Charles Rangel, and Congressman Ted Poe.

As a result of pressure from global citizens and sector collaboration, the bill passed the House, with 107 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives as co-sponsors, 23 of which Global Citizen played an instrumental role in securing.

When it came up for a vote in the Senate, it was placed on hold by Senator Tom Coburn. In response, 800 global citizens sent him tweets, and our partners met his team in private. As a result, the hold was withdrawn.

The Water for the World Act was signed into law by President Obama on 19 December 2014.

The passage of the Water for the World Act enables the United States to increase access to water, sanitation, and hygiene through more efficient use of its aid dollars.

After the act passed into law, global citizens in the USA continued taking action on clean water and sanitation, calling for increased funding from the United States government towards global water and sanitation efforts. In the lead up to Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, global citizens signed a petition calling on Congress to increase funding for water and sanitation.  As a result, Congressman Charles Rangel and Congressman Earl Blumenauer recorded a video message, where they acknowledged the difference global citizens efforts made in securing the Paul Simon Water for the World Act, and called for additional funding, saying,

“Last December we overcame congressional gridlock and sent the Water to the World Act to President Obama for his signature. It was an historic achievement, and you were a part of it. Your efforts made a difference here in Washington, DC. Now, global citizens, we’re asking you again to ask my colleagues in Congress to increase funding for these vital programs. Dirty water directly affects every area of development, which is why water and sanitation are the best investments our country can make abroad. You’ve made this your cause, don’t let up now to help the planet’s most vulnerable. Hundreds of millions of people are counting on us.”

Over the course of 2015, global citizens took more than 40,000 actions in support of this effort, with their voices taken into the corridors of power by Global Citizen staff who met with more than 40 Congressional offices to advocate for this increase. These efforts were successful, with the budget increasing funding to $400m for FY16, an increase that is set to affect the lives of 400,000 people.