Katja Sigel [Leipzig, Germany]
It is widely acknowledged that the global water and sanitation crisis is above all due to a governance problem and that there is a need for strategic sanitation planning and effective stakeholder involvement. Stakeholder involvement in public decision making processes and also in applied, problem-oriented research projects facilitates knowledge transfer and mutual learning processes and therefore fosters well-informed decision making. In a more general sense it helps to make sound decisions which are both socially acceptable and politically enforceable. The term stakeholder is understood here to mean those individuals or organisations that are either directly or indirectly affected -- or able to affect -- the sanitation situation within a particular community or area. The challenge of ensuring effective stakeholder involvement is tackled by several approaches to strategic sanitation planning, so-called participatory, demand-responsive approaches. The overall aim of this paper is to assess the experiences regarding stakeholder involvement gained from a case study on strategic sanitation planning in the city of Darkhan, Mongolia. Concretely the paper addresses the following research question: To what extent was it possible to conduct stakeholder involvement effectively in the Darkhan case study? What are the lessons that can be learnt? Even if this paper addresses this question from the perspective of an applied, problem-oriented research project it is expected that some of the results can also be transferred to public decision making processes in general.
Conceptually the Darkhan case study builds on the participatory sanitation planning approach known in the literature as CLUES (LÃŒthi et al. 2011). CLUES is a step-by-step procedure for planning and implementing environmental sanitation infrastructure and services in urban and peri-urban communities in low-income countries. The very name CLUES -- Community-Led Urban Environmental Sanitation -- highlights the importance of broad community involvement in the planning process. In terms of stakeholder involvement CLUES sets the following basic principles: - All key stakeholders from different sectors (public, private, parastatal) and levels (local, municipal/provincial, national) should be included in the planning process from an early stage. - Going through a CLUES process should be considered a mutual learning experience for all stakeholders. - The process should be 'owned' by the stakeholders who are directly affected: even though experts may provide advice and take a lead role in certain activities, the local community should take responsibility for the overall planning process. These basic principles were targeted within the Darkhan case study from the very beginning. They therefore form the basis of the subsequent assessment regarding the effectiveness of stakeholder involvement and the respective lessons learnt therein. In this study the following core planning steps are described and assessed in detail in terms of effective stakeholder involvement: (i) the identification and prioritisation of community problems, (ii) the identification of service options and (iii) the building and testing of pilot facilities. The first to steps correspond with stakeholder workshops that were conducted for the residents of the study area and Mongolian experts from different sectors and levels.
Results and discussion:
In the Darkhan case study the number of participants who attended the first and the second stakeholder workshops respectively indicates that the level of interest of the stakeholders was much greater at the local level than at the national level and that interest increased during the course of the process. This accords with the observation described in the literature that the closer stakeholders are to the problems the more interested they are in becoming actively involved in participatory processes. Particularly the building and testing of pilot facilities inspired a high degree of motivation at the local level. Many residents of the study area wanted to become owners of a pilot toilet. Some of them were even willing to share the costs of the toilet and the operation of the system. In the course of the Darkhan case study process, it became apparent that a number of different learning processes were taking place, both among Mongolian stakeholders as well as between them and the German researchers. Furthermore, it catalysed change in how the problems were perceived and valued. According to CLUES the process should be 'owned' by the stakeholders who are directly affected. In the Darkhan case study, this aim could only be achieved partially. One reason for this may be that Mongolia is essentially centralised and there is still a considerable lack of experience with stakeholder involvement and public participation. This makes it difficult, of course, to initiate stakeholder involvement at its highest level, i.e. in the sense of ownership -- especially as an academic from outside the country.
The Darkhan case study has shown that effective stakeholder involvement in strategic sanitation planning is a very challenging and complex task. Not all basic principles set by the CLUES guidelines could be adequately fulfilled. This leads to the questions if and to what extent stakeholder involvement really was essential for the Darkhan case study and what conclusions can be drawn for the design and implementation of similar research projects. First of all it has to be stated that stakeholder involvement as pursued by CLUES is very demanding, time-consuming and requires that the people involved, the researchers as well as the stakeholders, possess the necessary skills and willingness. Hence, whether a certain research project should include stakeholder involvement or not should be considered at length. It is possible that in the Darkhan case study similar scientific outputs could have been achieved on the basis of a more simplified strategy for stakeholder involvement, such as including only selected stakeholders from the local level. However, it should be kept in mind that the far-reaching goal of applied, problem-oriented research is not only to deliver successful pilot facilities and tangible scientific outputs but to smooth the way for the sustainable implementation of measures on a larger scale. The more this comes into focus, the more important it is to ensure effective stakeholder involvement at the highest possible level. 1. LÃŒthi C., Morel A., Tilley E. & Ulrich L. (2011) Community-Led Urban Environmental Sanitation. Complete Guidelines for Decision-Makers with 30 Tools. Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). DÃŒbendorf, Switzerland.