Community Led Total Sanitation, or CLTS, is an approach which facilitates a process of empowering local communities to stop open defecation and to build and use latrines without the support of any external hardware subsidy. Since the approach was first pioneered in Bangladesh in 1999 CLTS has continued to spread within that country and many interesting innovations, as well as some important sustainability issues, have emerged.
The approach has been introduced in a number of other countries in Asia and in Africa with much success. Interest amongst different institutions is growing, particularly as it is realised that CLTS has a great potential for contributing towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, both directly on water and sanitation (goal 7) and indirectly through the knock-on impacts of improved sanitation on combating major diseases, particularly diarrhoea (goal 6), improving maternal health (goal 5) and reducing child mortality (goal 4).
However, rapid institutional take-up of CLTS has raised some dilemmas and challenges, not least of which is the need for changes in attitudes and mindsets of donors who wish to support and promote CLTS.
Reflection on new experiences and lessons is proving important to ensure that the quality and spirit of the approach is maintained and therefore this short update documents recent developments, highlighting emerging innovations, lessons and challenges which enrich the original 2003 Working Paper, which is reprinted after the update.