Although a key barrier to progress in sanitation has been a lack of political will, the commitment to the ambitious sanitation and hygiene target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, is being viewed as an optimistic step towards minimizing the barriers. However, a few key incentives have emerged as key focus areas to ensure that countries through administration can optimize their political will to achieve such inclusive sanitation goals. Such as, alignment of the world view of elected leaders, officials, and implementers with sanitation through an appealing narrative that is ideated around modernity and economic competitiveness to create political buy-in.
In addition, these incentives must be supplemented by prioritisation across government to ensure that sanitation becomes a multi-faced approach across all ministries, creating a fostering environment for the implementation of such policies. The elected representatives of municipal ward, local leaders, and community-based organizations must be mobilized to compete in achieving sanitation. Other means of incentivizing the champions could be scroll of honour, public meeting to recognize the achievements, and rating of the wards. While such rewards are in place, local government must emphasize that the responsibility of stakeholders should not be limited to their own achievements and must support in improving other communities for 100% sanitation. In addition, authorities must also ensure that there is the presence of a learning culture at the local level, as well as a reliable verification mechanism that ensure data can be trusted.
State-level strategies maximise impact and prove to be cost effective for ULBs. For instance, government of Telangana mandates for a systematic training programme for councillors, either induction or refresher trainings. The political leadership at city level can establish city reward schemes to motivate local stakeholders to participate and drive the sanitation process. Adhering to the national guidelines, the rewards could be given to,
- Municipal wards
- Colonies or Residents’ associations/ Gated communities
- Educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and others
- Market and Bazaar Committees
- City-based institutions such as railway stations, and bus depots, etc.
The champions can be rewarded with incentives to further maintain sanitary systems, support infrastructure improvements, organize environment fairs, health camps, etc.
A leadership that is focused on sanitation as top priority and is championing it, sets an example for other governments and communities to implement sanitation. This can happen when anyone from political hierarchy, especially from local leadership, is ready to drive the process of implementing sanitation in their constituencies.
At ground level, councillors are the bridge between citizens and the government. Focusing on ‘effective’ councillors to drive the quality of life in cities has become a major focus area in most South Asian countries, led by India. As a key are to initiate the optimization of such ‘effective’ councillors, it is important that these people are well-informed with specialised knowledge and leadership skills to govern, show commitment, and be ‘effective’ in their role.
For instance, commitment from a head of the government can drive the country and could be the ‘gold standard’ for political commitment in democratic countries like India. The commitment from senior civil servants within the Ministry of National Development Planning have translated into increased budget allocations for sanitation in Indonesia. The commitment from senior stakeholders at national and regional levels along with senior staff within the civil service enabled the inclusion of sanitation in the national health extension program in Ethiopia.
It is also noteworthy that the situation is changing in certain states, with the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) providing induction and refresher training across the state of Kerala for all councillors. In addition, the institute has a gender school to mainstream gender in local governance which goes beyond the gender binaries, ensuring inclusivity. Similarly, states, and cities must have a clear vision, roadmap, and targets to be able to follow by the politicians who eventually become prominent political champions and go on to implement strategies at the local level as well. Such champions can become catalysts in driving public participation to improve sanitation.
Training of councillors provides them with the confidence to meaningfully contribute to the decision-making process and take initiatives in municipal meetings to obtain resolutions that entail developments tied with bolstering sanitation infrastructure in their wards. Consequently, training of councillors, further supported by the political will of government authorities, is recognised as a key ingredient for sustainable urbanisation and resilient cities.
The establishment of community-based organizations has been crucial from the perspectives of empowerment and sustainability. These community-based local institutions such as Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Area/Slum Level and City Level federations interact and engage with different communities to understand their sanitation related challenges. Further, these institutions coordinate with the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in delivering the required sanitation services.
Awareness campaigns/ Surveys
(Table-1: The following are the key outcomes and their description based on the improved sanitation levels in Khunti. Source: The Critical Role of Community Based Organizations in Urban Sanitation and Waste Management)
In Indian cities, there are three categories of elected representatives – Member of Parliament (MPs), Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and councillor who represents the citizens in the city government. The socio-economic and political problems are solved by the councillor as they are the closest to the citizens. They form a bridge between citizens and the government. They are primarily accountable for implementing local action focusing on global challenges such as climate change, economic growth and jobs, gender equality, water, sanitation etc. They ensure to provide access to facilities for vulnerable citizens. They are also active in formulating the city budget that has impact on our day-to-day lives.
Common roles and responsibilities of councillors enlisted across the municipal legislations in India are mentioned below:
- Participate in council and committee meetings, and meetings of other civic bodies
- Address civic issues such as roads, water, sanitation management and other functions devolved to the city government by the municipal legislation
- Drive ward committee meetings and address citizens’ concerns
- Identifying beneficiaries for various state and central schemes
- Effective utilisation of ward development fund by identifying ward development priorities
- Interpret mayor on matters related to the city government administration such as any pending or abandoned issues or provide suggestions during the execution of municipal work
Councillors are keen to leverage technology and social media in their daily work. However, due to lack of training, it becomes difficult to make full use of technology and different social media platforms. To support the councillors’ measures can be taken to
- Conduct training programmes on financial sustainability at local levels
- Organize formal & periodic training on budget creation, approval, and allocation processes.
- Develop capacity building on city governance legislation and governance structures.
Women leaders have critical influence on the implementation of system changes. Their leadership is increasing in India’s city politics with nearly half of the councillors being women. To encourage women in entering the city politics, reservation plays a key role. For instance, cities like Mumbai, Patna and Panaji have women councillors beyond the reservation mandates of the respective states.
Other key aspect of city politics is the inclusion of transgender. Women and transgender councillors undergo unique challenges as compared to men. It is necessary to give them voice and support along with roles and responsibilities for inclusive and sustainable urban future.
The 15th Finance Commission proposed that 30% of all grants be set aside for sanitation, including the control and treatment of human waste and faecal sludge management. ULBs now have greater responsibilities because of national policies and programs related to citizens and service delivery. Due to their proximity to local communities, ULBs were previously in charge of providing and managing sanitation services under the NUSP. However, under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban, ULBs are now responsible for a wide range of sanitation-related duties, including building toilets, approving applications and plans, facilitating financial incentives for citizens, creating DPRs for SWM, conducting periodic desludging, implementing ODF strategies, and carrying out IEC activities. ULBs also play a significant part in Swachh Survekshan evidence documentation, monthly MIS uploading, and reporting on sanitation parameters and service level progress.
Digital Infrastructure for Governance, Impact & Transformation (DIGIT), an open-source platform from eGov, offers trustworthy citizen services that necessitate simple cooperation amongst numerous stakeholders. It focuses on generating real-time data to give visibility into the sanitation value chain. To co-create novel solutions in the FSM, this technological infrastructure has been made freely accessible to individuals, communities, companies, and governmental entities.
With the preceding context, following are the crucial issues that must be resolved to achieve transparent and accountable at different levels of municipal governance.
Human Resource Development
(Table-2: Critical areas to consider in promoting effective municipal governance with transparency and accountability. Source: Transparency and Accountability in Municipal Governance: Role of Institution Development, Performance Management and Citizen Charters)
Types of accountabilities:
Efforts in all dimensions, including social, political, administrative, and financial, are necessary to improve accountability in the provision of sanitation services.
- Social Accountability- refers to efforts made by the government and other stakeholders (media, commercial sector, funders) to support measures taken by individuals, the media, and civil society organizations to hold governments and decision makers accountable. In the interest of all people, social accountability mechanisms offer additional sets of checks on the government. Investigative journalism, public hearings, surveys, citizen report cards, participatory public policymaking, tracking government spend, citizens' advisory boards, and information and communications technology (ICT) platforms are just a few examples of the different mechanisms that might be used. These tools can encourage citizens and civil society to participate in benchmarking and service provision monitoring, which can increase their understanding of their rights and entitlements.
- Political- Political accountability refers to the existence of efficient ways for holding government officials and decision-makers accountable for their duty to guarantee universal access to sanitation services. The ability of civil society to participate in planning, budgeting, monitoring, and evaluation in the sanitation sector, the media's effectiveness in holding the government accountable, complaint and redress procedures in place for sanitation projects and operations, and knowledge of citizens' rights to WASH services are all examples of mechanisms that can assist in holding governments responsible for sanitation services.
- Administrative- If public organizations fail to guarantee that everyone has access to sanitation services, administrative accountability translates into citizens' capacity to hold those institutions responsible.
- Financial- refers to the systems in place in the sanitation sector to enable transparent budget spending by the government and service providers. These include monitoring budget spending, internal and social auditing, and public access to utility data etc.