b. Participation. Participation of stakeholders has been recognised as an essential component of policies to fight poverty (UNESCO, 160 EX/13, paragraph 6.b). Not only is this a sine qua non of democratic policies, it also promotes the efficiency of public policies2. The community is a key level for organizing interactivity, creating a favourable environment where people can more readily be mobilised. Participation has an instrumental effect, maximising the impact of policies and the productiveness of the means employed.
c. Democracy. Neighbourhood associations have succeeded in developing processes and structures involving a high level of participation, thereby promoting democratic culture. Features of life in many neighbourhoods often include the election of their leadership by secret ballot, the choice of delegate groups for each housing block, the holding of periodic assemblies and the setting up of horizontally organised committees. The neighbourhood can be a key environment for developing the practice of direct democracy. At this level, participation is ontological and not instrumental, and is vital for the growth of democratic culture. However, the promotion of democratic practice within neighbourhood organizations should go hand in hand with the latter’s incorporation into measures to further decentralisation and local democracy. The promotion of democracy in neighbourhood organizations should receive State recognition3.
d. Social management. As a corollary of the three preceding points, the community is an excellent level for the management of decentralised social policies. Naturally and historically, the local community constitutes the primary level for the organization of welfare and assistance (before this is professionalised and taken in hand by specific institutions). Numerous instances could be cited: the setting up of creches and community schools, promotion of preventive health care practices, assistance via the organization of canteens and consumer co-operatives, social activities like the introduction of women’s collectives. To inject greater dynamism into self-managed experiments, there will need to be linkage with the State level.
II.1. Transcending simplistic perceptions and strengthening local support networks. Though organizations can be a valuable asset in the fight against poverty, they are often locked into defence mechanisms and the need to respond to the distress of local populations. These processes hinder their incorporation into development projects. Neighbourhood organizations are often caught between two fires. First, they are subject to the constraints of a community system of which they are the public manifestation and
2 In his “Seis tesis no convencionales sobre participación” Kliksberg (2000) presents a synthesis of the main advantages of a participatory approach to anti-poverty policy- making. The Inter-American Development Bank has produced a consultative tool for the introduction of participation into project drafting (IDB, 1997).
3 In Latin America the remarkable experiments carried out in the cities of Porto Allègre and Montevideo clearly demonstrate the advantages of a participatory model.