Local agenda 21 and poverty
Institute of Development Policy and Management
Antwerp :Institute of Development Policy and Management, 2003
Discussion paper / Institute of Development Policy and Management; 2003: 1
University of Antwerp
 Poverty, the increasing urbanisation of poverty and the environmental degradation are major problems facing the actual world. This is reflected in international conferences and agendas, such as Local Agenda 21. This agenda is responding to the current problems by promoting sustainable development through local action and by using participatory methods. Our major concern is to reflect on the impact of the Local Agenda 21 on the reduction of poverty in a Third World context. In a first approach, we will reflect on poverty and concentrate in particular on the growing dimension of urban poverty. Because of this evolution, the international institutions are more and more concerned about urban poverty. For instance, the United Nations decided to give priority to a sustainable urbanisation, which is reflected in the UN Agendas: Local Agenda 21 and the Habitat Agenda. In a second approach, we consider the Local Agenda 21 as an interesting framework to come to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Even so, we have some restrictions concerning the possibility to apply all its principles in a developing world context. As observations demonstrate, Local Agenda 21 activities are less presented in the developing world than elsewhere, due to the fact that Local Agenda 21 is often perceived as an environmental agenda and rather one for the developed countries. This is reinforced by a lack of financial means, information and expertise. By looking at the wide range of obstacles facing the development of a Local Agenda 21 in Third World countries, one can say that in many cases the international agendas are excellent theoretical instruments, but by trying to use them in Third World contexts there is often a huge gap between what is ideally prescribed and what is possible in practice. In this paper, we will give the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where in a situation of economic regression and an almost absence of the State, a Local Agenda 21 is a very difficult and hard to reach objective. However, interventions are possible, even the ones somehow inspired by the principles of Local Agenda 21, such as the Social Urban Fund in Kinshasa. It has to be said that if there are some LA 21 activities in the developing countries, the main preoccupation will be economic development as a means to realise poverty alleviation, whereas LA 21 prescribes sustainable development with environmental concerns at the front page. However, by reflecting on these apparently opposite priorities, we came to the conclusion that poverty concerns and environmental protection are complementary with the former not excluding the latter and both contributing to sustainable development.