Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
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
- 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
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,
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” . 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
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.
 Henderson, op. cit., pp.8-9.