Implications of Recent Randomized Control Trials for the Economic Analysis of Community-Led Total Sanitation (and other related sanitation) Interventions

Oxford Water Network seminar with Prof Dale Whittington, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

7 March 2019, 4pm
Herbertson Room, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

This talk will discuss the economics of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), a low-cost, non-network sanitation intervention that was developed at the beginning of the 21st Century. There was great hope that CLTS would prove effective, and the Gates Foundation funded a series of Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) that WASH professionals anticipated would support an “evidence-based policy” for the global implementation of CLTS. This presentation will review the findings of these RCTs and re-evaluate the economic benefits and costs of CLTS interventions in light of these findings. The results of these RCTs, coupled with the fact that many other parameters in the benefit-cost calculations are not known with much certainty, suggest that CLTS interventions are risky investments. WASH professionals have not appreciated the risky nature of investments in the package of non-network water and sanitation interventions routinely recommended for poor rural communities in low and middle-income countries. This presentation will also address how some of this risk is a logical consequence of advocating for the achievement of global policy targets such as “sustainable development goals,” which ignore local physical and social realities that inevitably affect the optimal timing and sequencing of sector investments.

About the speaker

Dale Whittington is a Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences & Engineering and City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA) and the Global Research Institute at the University of Manchester (UK). He is also a Visiting Professor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of over 100 publications, including (with Prof. Duncan MacRae) a graduate textbook on public policy analysis, Expert Advice for Policy Choice (Georgetown University Press, 1997). He is the Chair of the Board of the Environment for Development research network (EfD) based in the Department of Economics at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Prof. Whittington served as a member of the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) from 2009-2015. Since 2014, Prof. Whittington and Dr. Duncan Thomas have offered the two-part Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), “Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries” on the COURSERA platform. Over 20,000 students have participated from 184 countries.  

This seminar is part of the Oxford Water Network’s “Urban Water and the SDGs” series and will be followed by refreshments.