a. Neighbourhood organizations should be encouraged to promote democratic practice and guidelines for action by following two lines of approach:
Encouraging local organizations to participate in the public arena. A distinctive feature of neighbourhood organizations is that they are non-partisan. They nevertheless have a role to play as a voice of civil society. Participation in public life should help neighbourhood organizations to overcome limitations linked to their local purview and dovetail them into processes of citizenship. There must be a move away from getting “something for my neighbourhood” to projects forming part of the universal context appropriate to the promotion of citizenship. The aim is to enrich the public arena.
Encouraging relations between local organizations and inhabitants of the neighbourhood. It will be necessary to promote legitimate forms of representation when investing neighbourhood organizations with authority and to promote collective mechanisms for constructing these forms of representation and supervising the exercise of authority. The aim is to promote democracy in the neighbourhood without disregarding or denying the identity of inhabitants.
Support for neighbourhood organizations should be provided via both culture and
development (Hermet, 2000). While the enhancement of inhabitants’ traditions and projects calls for constant attention to “culture” and its particularities, promoting democratic culture must encourage the introduction of “universal” values to avoid merely reproducing local traditions and networks. Policies to fight urban poverty must avoid two facile alternatives: the scorn for neighbourhood organizations and simplistic, community-biased approaches.
Policies to fight poverty should eschew scornful attitudes and contribute to strengthening neighbourhood organizations, recognizing the distinctive cultural and social characteristics of the populations concerned. The community level should be protected from the negative effects of policies claiming to encourage social promotion and from the effects of indiscriminate integration into the market which, as experience has shown, has often led to the destruction of local ways of life, leaving populations vulnerable rather than integrated.
Furthermore, the promotion of democratic practices and values should make it possible to avoid simplistic approaches that often cause policies to fail and, albeit unintentionally, strengthen the undesirable aspects of a community-biased approach.