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POLICIES TO FIGHT URBAN POVERTY - page 17 / 30

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b Helping to reduce insecurity. The eradication of insecurity is not only a means of relieving distress caused by uncertainty, it also involves the inclusion of individuals within tightly knit social bonds. These bonds provide the support (Castel, 2001) required for training responsible individuals. The aim of this aspect of policies to fight poverty is to prevent the individual from being left with no other support than that which a poor community can provide.

III.2. Democracy and the public arena: a place for conflict. One major problem facing development projects is the all too often observed phenomenon that the poor are suspicious of politics and politicians. Whilst at the end of the 20th century democracy is a generally accepted perspective, it is clear that needy people feel “distant from the public arena and the affairs of society”. This distancing, which is often created by political cronyism and the State’s loss of legitimacy or simply by the absence of democracy, has been amplified by structural adjustment and its corollaries. “Since the State’s resources [are] now limited, access to the State, which was hitherto the speciality of politicians, is a less important issue than it was before. It makes more sense to focus one’s demands on other areas or to formulate them in different ways” (Coulon, 2000: 85). In this context, policies that seek to buttress the organizations of civil society may aggravate this weakness which induces people to turn to NGOs and international bodies on the grounds that they are more credible and efficient. This approach further undermines people’s confidence in a State which is already discredited. During implementation of the Cities Project in Senegal we saw that the amount of money invested in it represented more than ten years’ budget of one of the three county boroughs. How could the different parties fail to feel that an NGO and an international organization had come to do something that was an unfulfilled duty of the State? In short, how can a development project in an urban environment be prevented from adding to the State’s loss of legitimacy?

Past experience has shown the dangers inherent in projects geared to supporting civil society (to the detriment of the State, though that is not their avowed intention). Non- governmental development actors have all too often confused government with State. They have set out to promote “governance against the State”, reasoning in terms of micro-governance (Hermet, 2000: pp. 159-175). Seeking to counteract the adverse effects of a vertical exercise of political power, they have ultimately further weakened the State’s authority, leading to an even greater fragmentation of society.

There is no point in trying to fight poverty without being ready to cope with the conflicts that solutions will inevitably spark off (Øyen, 1999). In an urban environment, people systematically make the State the target of their complaints, even when they are in conflict with another social agent (e.g. the owner of land where an unauthorized settlement has taken root).

The State is the only democratic conflict-solving body. As a result, it is the institutional promoter and watchdog of the public arena, not because it holds a monopoly on the public interest but because only a strong State (in terms of legitimate authority) can co-

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