The founding thought for the German Toilet Organization (GTO) was sparked in 2004, during reconstruction work after the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia: It became apparent that most organisations lacked the necessary expertise to successfully implement sustainable sanitation – and many neglected the issue altogether. GTO was created on 31 October 2005, as a body, which puts sanitation in the spotlight and helps others to improve their work in this field.
All people have access to a sustainable and safe sanitation and water supply in accordance with human rights and independently practice basic principles of hygiene.
Scope of Work
As a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, GTO is active in the fields of development cooperation, humanitarian assistance, as well as health and environmental protection.
Mode of Operandi
GTO is a thematic organisation. Although it was initially started to tackle the international sanitation crisis, GTO is committed to empowering and helping all persons affected by inadequate sanitation, water supply and hygiene, regardless of whether they live abroad or in Germany. This means that GTO is able to transfer domestic sanitation experience to international settings and vice versa – unlike any other organisation.
The challenges of the global sanitation crisis are complex and overwhelming; solving them requires well-coordinated efforts from all stakeholders. GTO is active in a wide range of networks and cooperates with a large number of public and government institutions, companies and other organisations. In doing so, GTO usually acts as a mediator and multiplier. By strengthening the issue and helping other actors make an improved contribution to sustainable sanitation, water supply and hygiene, GTO achieves the greatest possible positive impact with a very efficient use of resources.
Areas of Activity
GTO uses its numerous contacts, methodological competencies and extensive expertise in campaigns, child and youth education, adult education, policy work and technical support to improve sanitation, water supply and hygiene – thereby protecting human dignity, health and the environment.
GTO disseminates its comprehensive expertise on sanitation and hygiene. It gathers, prepares and disseminates expertise in a targeted and needs-based manner, for example in training courses for employees of other organisations.
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GTO breaks the toilet taboo and strengthens political will. Through campaigns, events and networking, the GTO supports decision-makers and politicians in creating the necessary structural conditions for "sanitation for all" to become a reality.
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GTO is committed to safe, clean and hygienic school toilets. Competition formats, teaching materials and development education concepts mobilise students and adults in their communities to improve sanitation in schools.
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School toilet competition abroad
Benefiting from the experience gained with the Germany-wide competition "Toiletten machen Schule", the GTO helped to carry out a similar competition concept abroad together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The focus is on Uganda and Pakistan, which are also pilot countries of the GIZ's "Sanitation for Millions" programme. Among other things, the GTO was involved in a feasibility study. As from autumn 2018, school toilet competitions were held in both countries.
The GTO uses various platforms at the international level to promote the interlocking of WASH with other development issues. Since January 2017, the GTO is an official member of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), a partnership of over 100 governments, representatives of civil society and other development partners. GTO Executive Director Thilo Panzerbieter has been Northern Civil Society (CSO) Representative on the SWA Steering Committee since 2012.
First government cooperation
In a project sponsored by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the GTO is cooperating with the government of another country for the first time in its project history. As part of the German-Jordan Water Portfolio, GIZ, together with the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Jordanian Ministry of Education, is supporting public schools in communities that receive refugees to improve their water and hygiene management. The GTO helps to improve the knowledge management of the WASH+ project and the exchange of experience between Jordanian and German schools.
GTO commits to transparency
Transparency is a major concern of the GTO, which is why the association joined the “Initiative Transparente Zivilgesellschaft” (Transparent Civil Society Initiative, ITZ) in September 2016. The aim of the ITZ is to create the broadest possible action alliance within civil society that agrees on the essential parameters for effective transparency. The signatories of the initiative commit themselves to make ten precisely named, relevant information about their organisation available to the general public.
Since the GTO was founded in 2005, the number of supporters of the GTO has grown steadily. In September 2016, the association welcomed its 100th GTO member.
First THW course
With the course "WASH Essentials: Latrine Construction in Emergencies", the GTO for the first time offered a tailor-made training event for a federal organisation. The course gives an overview of the technical and non-technical challenges, potentials and intervention possibilities in the field of sanitation in humanitarian emergency and transitional aid. It is part of the programme of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).
Attention to SDG 6
At the United Nations Summit in New York in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda with its 17 goals and 169 subgoals for sustainable development was adopted. Drinking water and sanitation were included in SDG 6 "Clean Water and Sanitation". The GTO has fought for this success through various networks (Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, Sanitation and Water for All, End Water Poverty). Since then, the GTO has addressed SDG6 and its significance in various campaigns, publications and projects.
WASH as focus area
After its foundation, the German WASH Network attracted attention with numerous actions and events, among others in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office at the World Water Week in Stockholm. Shortly afterwards, the Federal Foreign Office decided to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority area of its humanitarian aid. On the initiative of the GTO as secretariat, the network developed a WASH strategy in 2014 together with the Federal Foreign Office and other important stakeholders such as the Federal Agency for Technical Relief. This strengthened Germany's position and the work of all organisations working in the WASH sector.
World Toilet Day declared UN Day
Since its foundation, the German Toilet Organization has encouraged the UN to officially designate November 19 as World Toilet Day. This happened in 2013. Since then, the GTO has deliberately not celebrated this theme day with large campaigns in order to achieve more public impact on all other days of the year.
1. „Toiletten machen Schule“ Competition
On World Toilet Day on 19 November 2010, the GTO announced for the first time the Germany-wide competition "Toiletten machen Schule". Educational institutions from all over Germany were invited to submit concepts for maintaining and improving their own school toilets. A total of more than 80 primary and secondary schools from 13 federal states submitted entries. The competition also served to promote a dialogue on the subject in public.
Foundation of the German WASH Network
The establishment of the German WASH Network was a milestone in the cooperation of German aid organisations working in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector (WASH sector) of development cooperation. 18 organisations, including the GTO, decided to intensify and professionalise cooperation in the WASH sector and make an effective contribution to the implementation of the human right to water and basic sanitation. Today, the network has 23 members with projects in 100 different countries. The GTO acts as a secretariat.
Time and again, toilet enthusiasts who want to support the GTO and its vision volunteer. There is a network of GTO-volunteers since 2011. Back then, several people came together in the GTO office to talk about the possible organisation and implementation of events and practical work. To date, many volunteers have been helping the GTO team, among other things at festivals and in activities with school children. Many thanks to all volunteers!
First WASH training courses
In Germany, the GTO has been conducting regular training courses for experts in the field of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) since October 2010. At that time, the organisation developed the training programme together with GTZ-ecosan. Therefore the first seminar of this kind took place at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (now GIZ) in Eschborn. Since then, around 600 representatives of other organisations, but also staff of state institutions and people involved in development policy attended the training courses.
Sanitation as a human right
In July 2010, the UN General Assembly, the highest body of the United Nations, explicitly recognised the right to water and sanitation in a resolution. In the following years, attention to the issue of sanitation increased significantly in development cooperation at national and international level. The GTO benefited from this development in its project work. In December 2015, the United Nations finally adopted another resolution in which, in addition to the right to water, the right to sanitation was mentioned as an independent human right for the first time - a milestone on the road to greater justice.
Launch of Toiletised World
With "Toiletised World", the GTO has developed a school program, focusing on development, where students of all ages can explore international development cooperation on the basis of sanitation. The students are dealing with the sanitary crisis in many regions in the world, as well as with the impact of this crisis on various aspects of life, such as education, health and environment. They do this by looking at their own toilets at school during a toilet walk, a four-senses inspection of the sanitary rooms inspired by the founder of Project CLEAN, Dr. Tom Keating.
Biogas project in Zambia
The concept for which the former team of students led by GTO Executive Director Thilo Panzerbieter received the Mondialogo Engineering Award in 2004 was successfully implemented in Zambia in 2009. In the Pestalozzi Children's Village in Lusaka, a reactor was built that produced the renewable energy source biogas for the school kitchen, through the fermentation of wastewater together with organic waste. The knowledge that the GTO acquired in cooperation with local partners could be applied by the organisation in subsequent projects and passed on to third parties.
International Year of Sanitation
The GTO campaign "Sanitation is Dignity" was the official campaign of the "International Year of Sanitation" of the United Nations in 2008. Part of the campaign was the exhibition "Where would you hide?“ The striking orange figures, which at the time drew attention to the fact that two thirds of the world population had no access to sanitation, were shown in over 80 cities around the world.
Campaign presentation in New York
GTO Executive Director Thilo Panzerbieter presented the successful GTO campaign "Sanitation is Dignity" to the United Nations in New York at the end of 2007. A few months earlier, the General Assembly had proclaimed 2008 the "International Year of Sanitation". Part of the international council that at that time advised the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to do so was the former Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Uschi Eid.
First campaign success
With its campaign "Sanitation is Dignity", the German Toilet Organization broke the public toilet taboo in Germany immediately after its foundation with publicity. At the beginning of March 2006, GTO Managing Director Thilo Panzerbieter opened the campaign-exhibition at Potsdamer Platz together with the founder of the World Toilet Organization Jack Sim and Uschi Eid, former Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. More than 80 media - from Financial Times Deutschland to Urologie Heute - reported about the campaign supported by CWS-boco and showed that the niche topic "Loo" needs more attention.
Foundation of the organisation
14 people from very different professional backgrounds came together on 31 October 2005 to establish the German Toilet Organization e. V. The association’s first members were engineers, social scientists, communication designers or humanists. They all shared the same vision, namely to break the toilet taboo by progressive educational work and to strengthen a strongly neglected topic. Their motivation was to improve health care and protect the environment.
On the way to a foundation
The idea to establish the German Toilet Organization (GTO) arose in 2005 as the result of various developments. Three soon-to-be founding members of the GTO won the Mondialogo Engineering Award. Together with the University of Zambia, they developed a concept for sustainable sanitation at schools in the poor districts of Lusaka, Zambia. At the same time, the idea was born to launch the campaign "Sanitation is Dignity" in Germany in make the public aware of the important topic of sanitation. The foundation of the GTO made it possible to use funds from sponsors for the campaign.