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City sanitation planning through a political economy lens

Kumi Abeysuriya
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia; kumi.abeysuriya@uts.edu.au

Juliet Willetts
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia; juliet.willetts@uts.edu.au

Naomi Carrard
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia; naomi.carrard@uts.edu.au

Antoinette Kome
Water Sanitation WASH, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, The Hague, The Netherlands; akome@snv.org

ABSTRACT: While citywide sanitation planning is perceived to be an enabler of coordinated improvements in sanitation services for developing countries, intended outcomes have often been elusive. In order to illustrate how political economy, chosen planning approaches, and ideas about change and development have acted as determinants of outcomes, this paper draws on three case study countries that took qualitatively different approaches to sanitation planning – Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. The analysis found that the assumptions informing the planning methods were often not valid, which then undermined the potential for successful implementation. Based on the analysis, the paper argues that urban sanitation planning and implementation in developing countries needs to be transformed to reduce the emphasis on comprehensiveness and instead emphasise flexibility, a learning orientation and strategically chosen incentives. This approach demands tighter cycles of planning and action, direct testing of assumptions, and an in-depth understanding of the local- and national-level political economy and the links between them. It requires innovation to be enabled, with funding mechanisms that focus on outcome rather than input. In this way it would be possible to shift away from the typical emphasis on prescriptive procedural planning steps and towards delivery of the much-needed improved sanitation outcomes.

KEYWORDS: Urban sanitation, sanitation planning, political economy, developing countries, Southeast Asia