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Community-driven development for water and sanitation in urban areas: its contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goal targets

Community organizations working with local NGOs have been responsible for many of the most cost-effective initiatives to improve and extend provision for water and sanitation to low-income urban households. Some have achieved considerable scale, especially where water and sanitation utilities and local governments work with them. Many of the initiatives that improved and extended provision for water and sanitation were not “water and sanitation” projects but initiatives through which urban poor households developed better quality and more secure housing – for instance through squatter upgrading and tenure regularization or serviced site schemes.

These were often supported by loan finance that helped households or community organizations to fund improved provision for water and sanitation or to fund the development of new homes with improved provision. Some of these initiatives led to more effective and much less costly ways to develop the trunk infrastructure into which most community-driven water and sanitation initiatives need to integrate in urban areas.

These initiatives have considerable relevance for meeting the water and sanitation target within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). First, they show how it is possible to reach even the poorest households in urban areas with much improved provision. This has particular importance since, within an urbanizing world, a large and increasing proportion of those with low incomes who lack provision live in urban areas. Secondly, they generally have much lower unit costs per person reached than conventional government or private utility managed initiatives, and greater possibilities of cost recovery. Thus, external support for these on a larger scale does not require levels of external funding that are unrealistic. But they do imply major changes in how local governments and international agencies work with urban poor groups. At the core of most initiatives described in this booklet is the possibility for urban poor groups and their organizations to influence what is done and to be involved in doing it. And to be involved in monitoring progress, which implies a very different kind of monitoring from that envisaged for the MDGs. If the MDGs are to be met, more equal relationships are needed between urban poor groups and local governments and water and sanitation providers. This means a shift from conventional patronage-based relationships to relationships that are more transparent, accountable to urban poor groups and within the law. This is the change that has to permeate all levels – from the lowest political unit (the ward, commune, neighbourhood, parish) through city, provincial and national governments. International agencies will have to increase their support to community-driven initiatives but in ways that are accountable to urban poor groups and that catalyse and support these groups’ own resources and capacities. And, as importantly, support these groups’ efforts to develop effective partnerships with local governments.

Publication information

  • IIED code: 9534IIED
  • Published: Apr 2005 - IIED and WSSCC
  • Theme: Urban
  • ISBN: 978-1-84369-558-5
  • Language: English

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