Sunday, March 1, 2009

What do flush toilets stand for? Modernity....?!

Recently, I stumbled upon an interesting notion. As I am studying international development studies and politics, I came across the book 'The New Asian Hemisphere' by Kishore Mahbubani. It did not only sound interesting, but is a great account describing how Asia is on its 'March to Modernity'. Now, Mahbubani says something noteworthy, and very relevant for this blog I reckon:

...If I were asked to name the date when my life entered the modern world, I would date it to the arrival of the flush toilet. On that day I felt that there had been a magical transformation of my life.
...Daily access to flush toilets may well be the best indicator of how many of the 6.5 billion people in our world live in the premodern world and how many have transcended it. One unofficial estimate claims that only about 15 to 20 percent of the total world population has flush toilets. The UNDP Human Development statistics reveal that nearly 42 percent (or 2.6 billion) of humanity is without toilets - most of whom live in Asia and Africa. Less than one-half of all Asians have access to toilets.
A young Singaporean, Jack Sim, has set up the World Toilet Organisation, which currently has forty-seven international members. This 'WTO' communicates the need for better toilet standards in both developed and developing economies, and provides a service platform for all toilet associations, related organisations, and commited individuals to facilitate an exchange of ideas and health and cultural issues. It is easy to laugh at our pour scorn on the work of a World Toilet Organisation, but for his courageous efforts Jack Sim was recognised as a global social entrepreneur by the Davos World Economic Forum in 2006.

(Page 15)


  1. This is a very interesting approach! I´ve never before thought about the relationship between flush toilets and human development. But yes, there´s definitely an interrelation! Thanks Dennis for submitting this article :)

  2. hai there...
    im mimi from astro awani...
    there is a live show in astro awani that will discussing the issue on 'public toilet'...
    so i think i can call u to discuss about the issue regarding public toilet and maybe get i can some information from u to be fit in that live show...
    if u don't mind, can i have your contact number or email so that we can discuss things further...

    hope to hear from u soon...
    this is my email :

  3. Hi Mimi,
    thanks for your message.
    Please contact me at and then we can see if and how we can help. :)
    Cheers Dennis.