Balancing responsibility for sanitation

Maria Clasina Stuttaford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In response to the failure of existing means of service provision, environmental health policy is increasingly adopting a framework of governance for providing sanitation. Governance refers to the patterns of interaction between civil society and government. It is viewed here in terms of four dimensions: political, institutional, technical and cultural. The interactions are often described as partnerships and imply a balancing of joint responsibility. A number of issues can be identified in the literature as requiring consideration when adopting a joint responsibility for environmental health issues. These include, the need to distinguish between community and individual rights; the extent to which there is a shared interest in a community rights issues; the institutional framework for upholding the rights of citizens and the need to guard against new inequalities. The research question was: what are the factors that may inhibit or promote the involvement of community-based organisations (CBOs) in the sanitation provision process? From October 1996 to March 1997, an exploration of these factors was conducted in Cape Town, South Africa. A multiple-case study, with an embedded design, of two CBOs was conducted. This paper focuses on the extent to which there was a shared responsibility between local government and CBOs towards sanitation provision in the context of a bill rights which provides people with a right to a healthy living environment. It was found that institutional and technical capacity, political will and cultural diversity will impact on the balance between rights and responsibility. The four dimensional framework of governance is thus a useful tool for exploring the dynamic and diverse nature of environmental health. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1539-1551
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


  • responsibility
  • rights
  • sanitation
  • environmental health
  • governance
  • South Africa


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