3) These two areas concern the neighbourhood rather than individuals. Action focuses on the identity of individual persons and their local inclusion and on the neighbourhood’s social cohesion. Achievement of these goals (e.g. a postal address or one’s domicile noted on one’s identity card) “normalises” the neighbourhood by absorbing it into the city and integrating it into regular procedures. The struggle is about making the transition from inclusion in a community to social integration via recognition from public institutions and participation in social life.
The main guidelines for a policy to fight poverty in an urban environment must cover this ground, despite the complexity and extent of the urban phenomenon, and the many facets of the fight against poverty. From the viewpoint of a strategy to fight poverty, the demands of populations may sometimes seem superfluous8. As we shall see below (cf. infra) it is necessary to look further than the concept of “poverty”. First, because this concept does not cover all the social problems found in poor neighbourhoods. Second, because injecting an “anti-poverty” slant into development policies is incompatible with the complexity of the action that must be taken. Empowering the poor must be the aim of policies to fight poverty.
THIRD RECOMMENDATION: In order to strengthen neighbourhood organizations, policies to fight poverty in an urban environment should do two things: transfer resources and introduce a relational framework.
a. Empower neighbourhood organizations by transferring resources to them (e.g. training, technology transfer, general supply of resources, building of premises).
b. Set up participatory bodies linking neighbourhoods and public institutions controlling resources and the power to regulate social life. In particular, set up a relational framework with the State.
Policies clearly need to be grounded in an in-depth knowledge of local support networks and cultural traditions if they are to be effective (in terms of goals and methodologies). Development NGOs and local governments can play a leading role in this field, given their field contacts.
FOURTH RECOMMENDATION: Policies will aim to promote democratic culture. Support for inhabitants’ initiatives and backing for local organizations should remain the core of policies to fight poverty. Actions should, however, bear in mind two points so as to avoid a community-biased approach: an effort to promote democratic practice and support for local culture.
8 Why invest so much in a football field when the neighbourhood does not even have a dispensary? The question was raised during the evaluation of Cities Project action in Haiti’s Jalousie neighbourhood. The appropriateness and utility of the investment were clearly revealed by the increase in social cohesion and of enrolment in neighbourhood organizations sparked by this activity.