Fighting poverty and ensuring access to basic services

Urban poverty and spatial segregation

As they develop and become wealthier, cities - the drivers of economic growth - are seeing inequalities and poverty gain headway within their borders. It is estimated that already one-third of the world’s citizens live in shantytowns (70% in Africa) deprived of the most essential urban services: drinking water, sanitation, waste collection and transport.

Also visible, in all of the world’s cities, is increasing spatial and social fragmentation. Even as they expand and globalise, cities are fragmenting into specialised territories, obeying a differentiation process that is both functional and social, with the best-equipped urban territories tending to step away from the underprivileged neighbourhoods, and even from their local environment. In the South, urban sprawl tends to come with greater instability for underprivileged populations, in particular in terms of access to land. In the shantytowns, the populations are also the most exposed to both the natural and health risks generated by the deterioration of the environment, pollution in the waterways, water tables and air.

Supporting delivery for basic services

The fight against poverty, access to all basic services and sustainable economic and social development are, in an environment where the socio-economic, health-related and environmental issues are treated jointly, priorities for French Cooperation toward attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

One major challenge which the Southern cities must take up lies in delivery of basic services to the entire population, and in particular to informal settlement neighbourhoods.

With this in mind the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs encourages the mobilisation of local resources, as well as the involvement of the private sector and civil society in the public institutions, through innovative partnerships. Public action at the State and local levels must provide leverage, in particular through the virtuous circle of tax policy, to guide investments and partnerships with private players toward the fight against poverty. However, beyond the financial resources and technical considerations, the main challenge in implementing basic services lies in establishing dialogue between national institutions, local powers, service providers and the populations around a shared, long-term project. That implementation process bears upon the responsibility of the public authorities, as guarantors of general interest.