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Fighting social exclusion in rural areas

[ Summary ]


Chapter 4:
Consolidating the fight against social exclusion
by including it in an area-based approach?


How can an action targeted at a specific social group be transformed into a territorial approach to fight social exclusion? In what conditions is this possible and what are the challenges of such a procedure? Here we are entering a mostly unexplored field where everything remains to be done. However, some work has already been accomplished and can be used to open new vistas for debate, to draw the first lessons and to formulate some assumptions as to what a territorial approach to the fight against exclusion might be.

Three questions are raised in this chapter:

  • Why is it important to include the fight against social exclusion in an area-based approach, what are the challenges of such a procedure?

  • For the implementation of this approach, what has been accomplished with earlier experiences and what problems still remain unsolved?

  • How can the LEADER method contribute to this approach? What are its limits and what more is needed?


4.1 The challenges of the area-based
approach: from the fight against
exclusion to social cohesion


Taking account of the general context (chapter I), then analysing the needs and possible strategies in rural areas, highlights (chapter II) the importance of a fight against social exclusion that goes beyond the framework of one off actions by specialised services and that is part of an overall rural development approach. Designed to meet the specific needs of certain segments of the population, the social policies implemented these past thirty years are proving insufficient now that the fight against social exclusion has become a challenge for the revitalisation and development of rural areas.

The innovative actions that have been emerging for the past decade are so to speak trailblazing, since they are not like the traditional approaches of charity and handouts and are often part of a vaster concept of territorial rural development. They provide some lessons about the conditions of an area-based approach to the fight against social exclusion:

  • the fight against social exclusion must not be considered an end in itself but seen as part of a whole which takes the form of a local development strategy;

  • there has to be community awareness so that the fight against social exclusion is no longer the work of a few individuals or institutions aware of the problem or the work of specialised services but a normal practice shared by all the actors of the area (local authorities, businesses, farmers, community associations, individuals).

In a context of social polarisation, local development actions should each time include among the objectives a certain rebalancing of available opportunities and the consolidation of social links.

Some even claim that the area-based approach should no longer focus on the idea of fighting social exclusion but on the idea of “social inclusion/cohesion” [25]. On the one hand, this breaks with the practice of putting individuals in categories and focuses on the community’s capacities to use all the human resources and skills in the area. On the other hand, this implies shared mobilisation around strategies where everyone participates and where the specific features and differences are put to use. From this perspective, ethnic differences, sex, age, training, or character, for example, are no longer sources of exclusion but of enrichment.

Whereas the fight against social exclusion appears as an additional, corrective practice to make up for poor governance, social inclusion is seen as a daily practice that is shared and present in each initiative, playing a preventive role against social exclusion.

By working from the perspective of social inclusion, the local territorial approach takes on another dimension:

  • it more effectively uses the financial resources made available for the inclusion work, thanks in particular to the forms of prevention that it can promote and whose financial, human and social cost is much less than the cost of the curative actions;

  • it guarantees the long-term continuation and relevance of the inclusion mechanisms and ensures social cohesion, thus being part of a broader concept of socially sustainable development.


[25] Henderson, op. cit., pp.8-9.

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