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View the documentUrban development policy issues and the role of united nations volunteers
View the documentWorking with the urban poor: lessons from the experience of metropolitan Lagos, Nigeria
View the documentBrief account of my experience as a DDS field worker and a UNV in Sri Lanka and Jamaica
View the documentSpecial consultation on volunteer participation in working with the urban poor

Special consultation on volunteer participation in working with the urban poor

Excerpts from paper presented by. Victor E. Tokman, ILO, September 1990.

How do we approach the problem of the urban poor?

"Strategy No. 1 - As producers and entrepreneurs who can develop if duly supported. Here the emphasis is on incomes and employment and on access to resources and markets. Ideologically there is a shift from the expectation that everybody will be a worker in the modern sector, to one in which the majority will become independent producers.

The instruments are mostly provision of resources, mainly credit and training, but, particularly today, complemented by deregulation. Credit experience is very rich and we already know a lot. It is successful in terms of repayments, less clear in terms of employment. Credit packaged with other instruments is the best performer but the learning process is facilitated by starting with credit only. The government is not particularly efficient at providing credit, NGOs or links with banking system are a better wayx to support activities which they already know, participation and group solidarity for collateral. The limitations: very difficult to pass from pilot to systemic approaches; only the "core" group can be supported; the producer benefits, not necessarily the workers.

Strategy No. 2 - The emphasis is on empowerment and organisation which have two variants: (1) The incorporation into the already existing social movements, i.e. labour or entrepreneurs. The first strategy leads in a way to the latter. Labour can be promoted by organising on a trade union basis like SEWA in India where revindication is linked to development of self-employment activities. A complementary movement is becoming increasingly accepted by established unions which try to incorporate the informal interests in their organisations claims.

(2) A second variant is to work with the community without prejudging the type of organisation but rather letting the poor themselves decide their own forms of organisation The effort here is geared to assisting them to make their own social enquiries about their conditions of living and to formulate their own strategies. The use of "animation work" to stimulate the formulation of voluntary organisations for improving their living conditions is an important component of this methodology and can indeed constitute initial steps for further producer support."

"The policy to help the poor cannot be conceived in isolation since social and economic integration at the national level is a requirement for development. Dual societies will not be sustainable. The more difficult path of mobility through employment will need to be reinforced (a) by creating the possibilities of equal access for all through a human resources strategy which allows the poor to get education, health and nutrition, and or to be able to compete for the opportunities which will be open; (b) by ensuring that the advantages of modernisation, mainly new and better goods and services, also reach the poor."

Photo: UNV/Gilles Reboux

Front cover photo: UNV/Eva Leon Hing

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