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function as mediators between inhabitants and institutions, whilst at the same time forming part of the neighbourhood.

SECOND RECOMMENDATION: The two main areas in which neighbourhood organizations are active – improving living conditions and building a neighbourhood identity – must be at the core of policies. Neither of these two areas should take priority over the other. Only local actors will be equipped to determine this priority.

a. Improving quality of life. Action here has two aims. First, improving infrastructures and urban services in general (e.g. drinking water supply, drainage, electricity, public lighting, transport, urban waste treatment) and upgrading buildings ranging from the urban framework (e.g. squares and other public areas, bridges, pavements, roads, staircases) to housing (house repair, extension and building). This field of action includes the urban environment, which is often rundown and insalubrious. Since the poor are usually relegated to marginal areas of the city, there are often major environmental problems (e.g. flooding, rubbish dumps, overcrowding, contamination, pollution).

Second, action to promote community life and to provide backup for family life and disadvantaged persons. Neighbourhood organizations often engage in social work, providing a vast range of welfare services. This is classic community work, e.g. creches, canteens, schools, dispensaries, association HQs, health care, leisure activities for children and young people, theatre groups, football teams. Groups engaged in economic activities are often found at this level, e.g. women’s groups, micro production projects, consumer co-operatives.

b. The struggle for recognition. Action is designed to promote integration, the defence or construction of a neighbourhood identity, public recognition and ending outcast status. Activities include giving names to streets and numbering dwellings to provide legal evidence of residence, cleaning up streets and removing rubbish dumps. These aspirations explain why seemingly disproportionate projects may be proposed, e.g. the construction of a football stadium in the middle of a shantytown. In point of fact, such initiatives strengthen people’s sense of belonging, and may help them to feel proud of their neighbourhood. Similar feelings motivate the desire for legal title to property. Though squatting is linked to “practical” difficulties, it is often felt to be shameful and is a source of insecurity.

II.3. Support for organizations and follow-up for their initiatives. It is clearly by design that neighbourhood organizations centre their action on improving quality of life and fighting for recognition. There are three reasons why they act in this way: 1) These aspirations are closely linked to the survival and reproduction of persons and households; these are not strictly private matters. Survival is organised at community level. 2) The organizations’ local character. Neighbourhood organizations need to be able to garner the fruits of their action for the people they “represent”.


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