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A Comment to FRHS dialogue

From: Gabriel Chanan, UK
Category: Category 2
Date: 28 Apr 2000
Time: 14:20:27
Remote Name: 62.11.123.48

Comments

I have read with great interest all the contributions to the FRHS dialogue and, just at the end, want to add a comment.

Firstly, it has been very stimulating to observe the debate, even without participating actively. Thank you.

Secondly, it seems to me that if we are to achieve a collective impact on policy, we should, for the future, establish some common parameters, a common framework of basic information about our sources which would allow a degree of comparability and hence accumulation of evidence rather than just dialogue of points of view. For example Professor Grinchel's contribution about Russia listed 17 issues affecting cities and towns. He shows that different cities and towns attach varying importance to the 17 factors but clearly they are all important to one degree or another. If we adopted say the 10 most fundamental such factors and, wherever possible, gave information about them, and analysis of how they interact, we could perhaps build up an international framework of evidence.

However, it seems to me that any future common framework should include, as four of the ten (or however many) fundamentals:

(1) a brief description of distribution of powers in that place as between national, regional and local government;

(2) a brief description of what public services are provided, and by which authorities;

(3) a list of the main sources of finance for the cities - to what extent raised by the cities themselves, to what extent redistributed from another level

(4) present condition of the local community sector - ie the citizens' and residents' own organisations.

Without these, although we can agree on the importance of many issues, we do not get a picture of how they apply in practice in different places. In some countries for example the public services are fairly extensive and governments are trying to contain and even reduce them. The abstract reasoning for this may appear to be universalistic but would have a very different impact in a country where those same services are only just in the process of being established.

Similarly policies on employment are differentially affected not only by whether there are reasonable benefits for unemployed people but also whether they come out of national or local budgets.

Of the four suggestions above, the fourth, level of community activity, may be the least familiar, as it is usually left out altogether or treated as an amorphous factor that cannot or need not be assessed objectively. In this short space I will not try to present the full reasons why I think it can and must be treated as an objective factor, but there is, over the past ten years, a growing body of literature on this in The EU and elsewhere, and in the UK at present it is becoming a visible feature of regeneration policy.

With good wishes,

Gabriel Chanan

Director of Research and Dissemination, Community Development Foundation, 60 Highbury Grove, London N5 2AG, UK Gabriel Chanan <gabriel@cdf.org.uk>

Last changed: March 13, 2002