How political accountability processes influence how local authorities address sanitation challenges in informal settlements

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering


Despite numerous international and national commitments to 'leave no one behind', including the 2015 recognition of sanitation as a distinct human right, the majority of residents of informal settlements across the globe are excluded from access to safely managed sanitation. Sanitation, a service which is itself taboo, compounds the systems of exclusion felt by residents of informal settlements.

The disconnect between internationally agreed obligations and commitments and national legislation on universal access to water and sanitation, and how these are interpreted, financed and implemented by local authorities and municipalities is recognised as a stumbling block to improving access to sanitation in informal settlements.

Existing accountability processes generally do not apply to people living in informal settlements or using informal services. This research will explore how and when accountability processes can be effective despite this stigma and exclusion.

The research approach will explore the different realities experienced by people living in informal settlements compared to the 'ideal' of formal sanitation services delivered to people living in formal settlements. Using predominantly qualitative methods, the research will examine the inherent conflicts and injustices that exist within the narrative of the market-driven ideal, to provide local governments, engineers and the communities themselves with the relevant tools to change perceptions of what is possible, opening the door to ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy their human right to sanitation.

Local governments often ignore both informal settlements or sanitation in their plans, prioritising limited financing for formal settlements and other needs. Political and social barriers are often hidden behind significant technical and financial barriers. This research will draw attention to accountability processes that can lead to improved access to sanitation in informal settlements, and will make recommendations for local governments, planners and civil society actors in terms of more inclusive policies, strategies and plans.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022066/1 31/05/2019 30/11/2027
2596559 Studentship EP/S022066/1 30/09/2021 29/09/2025 Virginia Margaret Roaf