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POLICIES TO FIGHT URBAN POVERTY - page 3 / 30

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I. Introduction.

All the international bodies agree in designating the growth of poverty as a major problem and its eradication as a challenge. UNESCO describes poverty as a “long- standing scourge on mankind” and states that “today there can be no more important and central challenge for the world community than the fight against poverty” (UNESCO 160EX/13, 2000). This recognition of the growth of poverty and of the need for a response, which emerged in the public arena in the 1990s, is a positive development when set alongside the tenor of debates in the 1980s. There is an urgent need to intervene with effective policies, and the living conditions of whole populations render any other justification for action superfluous. This is the plea put forward by United Nations agencies such as UNDP (UNDP, 2000) and UNESCO (UNESCO, 2000) and by funding bodies including the World Bank (World Bank, 2000) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB, 2000).

I.1. Policies in an urban environment. One of the main factors influencing poverty-related social transformations is rapid urbanization of the type observed in various regions of Asia and Africa and in certain Latin American countries. Though the most serious situations are generally found in rural areas, poor people migrate from the countryside and are increasingly concentrated in cities. The urban environment thus constitutes a specific field of action.

We shall explore this field of action for policies to fight urban poverty, focusing on its specific features. This will enable us to define the types of actors likely to be involved and who might be mobilized, and also possible courses of action. We shall focus our proposals on a general framework of action designed to identify the main contextual factors, the types of actors mobilized, the main guidelines for policies and their relational framework.

The guidelines put forward in this document constitute a methodological framework. They should not in any circumstances be regarded as “the” strategy to fight poverty. Nor should they be considered as representing a choice between the macro and micro levels. Policies in an urban environment cannot replace general policies at national and international levels. The latter are concerned with, for example, problems of external debt, north-south relations and the role of States in relation to globalization. National- level policies will refer to economic development, inequalities, job insecurity and public education. UNESCO has recalled the important role of international bodies in moving from “poverty eradication actions with and for the poor” towards “a broader level, bearing on the dynamics of society as a whole” (160 EX/13, paragraph 6.c).

The absence of energetic and significant action to help poor and marginalized people living in large cities has two types of adverse outcomes. First, the urban poor are obliged to devise for themselves ways of life and strategies that focus almost exclusively on adapting to their situation and not on transforming it. On the one hand, such people take refuge in their community; on the other, they explore the city, the place where all

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