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"Politique de la ville" : Taking action for the social cohesion of cities

The French urban policy designed to tackle the problems which occur in deprived neighbourhoods, the Politique de la ville, aims at reducing territorial inequalities within urban areas by mobilising national and local stakeholders. Designed to house more than five million people, the social housing neighbourhoods built between 1950 and 1975 as part of the post-war boost are often poorly integrated into the cities of today. To help these neighbourhoods find their place in developing urban areas, a specific policy called the French urban policy has been progressively implemented.. The purpose of this policy is to establish a balance within cities which is beneficial to all residents.

In 2007, the old city contracts were replaced by the simpler and more readable urban contracts for social cohesion (CUCS). These contracts between the State and the communes are concerned with structures of inter-municipal co-operation and are signed for renewable three-year periods. The contracts establish a framework for the implementation of social and urban development projects in deprived neighbourhoods. This new generation of contracts focuses on more specific action plans which are more thoroughly evaluated. Inter-Ministerial Committee for Cities The priorities of the French urban policy for the improvement of deprived neighbourhoods, Politique de la ville, are education, improved access, employment and security for all the residents of deprived areas. As all the ministries concerned are members of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Cities (CIV), they are committed to these objectives. The CIV is a decision-making body which meets twice a year under the authority of the Prime Minister. It determines three-year ministerial programmes, allocates resources and monitors the results. The CIV is not a forum but a working environment where ministers examine thematic dossiers on all targeted neighbourhoods. It is therefore different from the CNV (National Council of Cities) whose role is advisory. The SG (General Secretariat) of the CIV assumes general secretariat duties for the CIV.

Legal Framework of Urban Policy
To respond to the combined difficulties affecting these territories, the Politique de la Ville covers a broad variety of interventions which complement other public policies (education, housing, social action, etc.). The support of all stakeholders is required in order for action to be taken simultaneously atall levels : social and cultural development, economic revitalisation, employment development, urban renewal and improvement in the quality of life, security, citizenship and crime prevention, healthcare, ...

The principal guidelines of this inter-ministerial policy have been defined by the CIV since 1988. Chaired by the Prime Minister, this government body combines all ministries involved in urban affairs. The French urban policy is implemented by local authorities. It is also more generally based on the commitment of public organisations, social landlords, family allowance funds, associations and economic institutions, and the participation of neighbourhood residents.

The State offers contracts to local authorities. These contracts are established between prefects and mayors or structures of the EPCI (Public Institution for Inter-Municipal Co-operation) chairmen and focus on priority areas jointly identified by the parties. In 2007, the CUCS (Urban Contract for Social Cohesion) replaced the last generation of city contracts. The CUCSs define a development project for each neighbourhood, and plan specific actions in five priority domains : housing and quality of life ; employment and economic development ; education ; citizenship and crime prevention ; healthcare.

The neighbourhoods concerned are identified based on economic and social indicators in order to improve action efficiency and to assess results while avoiding the dispersal of resources.

To implement the urban policy, a specific organisation has progressively been developed since the late 1980s. Ultimately, this resulted in 1990 in the creation of a Ministry of Urban Affairs, which was given its own budget in 1994, and the creation of an advisory body, the Conseil national des villes (CNV, National Council for Cities) chaired by the Prime Minister or the Minister in charge of the Politique de la ville (urban affairs). The SG CIV (General Secretariat for Urban and Social Development) is under the direct authority of the Minister in charge of the Politique de la ville. The SG CIV prepares and implements the decisions of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Cities (CIV).

Created in 1988 under the name of DIV, the SG CIV is responsible for designing, co-ordinating and assessing French urban policy for the improvement of deprived neighbourhoods. It defines and monitors the budget and the resources applied. It also develops ideas and detects innovative initiatives. Its responsibilities under the Minister in charge of the Politique de la ville include the administrative management and co-ordination of two agencies : ANRU (National Urban Renewal Agency) and ACSE (National Agency for Social Cohesion and Equal Opportunities).

- ANRU (National Urban Renewal Agency) is in charge of the National Urban Renewal Programme (PNRU), the objective of which is to renovate 530 neighbourhoods by 2013, with a total investment budget of nearly €40 billion. ANRU was created to simplify the measures taken by local authorities and social landlords interested in promoting complete renovation projects within their neighbourhoods. This “one-stop shop” for project funding includes the following national urban renewal stakeholders : State ; UESL (Social Economy Union for Housing) which manages the 1% logement programme (1% housing aid) ; Action Logement (Action Logement) ; Caisse des Dépôts ; ANAH (National Housing Agency).

- ACSE (National Agency for Social Cohesion and Equal Opportunities) manages social development programmes (education, healthcare, crime prevention, social connections, economic development, access to employment, etc.) which are beneficial to the residents of critical neighbourhoods. Created at the end of 2006, the ACSE is also more generally involved in the fight against discrimination and illiteracy and the implementation of voluntary civil services.

The French urban policy for the improvement of deprived neighbourhoods would not exist without a network of local stakeholders working together to implement policy in these areas. Cities, urban conurbations, départements and regions mobilise their own services and rely on a network of professionals in the social, economic and urban domains : urban policy project managers, co-ordinators, project leaders, social workers, mediators, ...

Other partners such as family allowance funds and social landlords are involved systematically. Seventeen ressources centres are responsible for training these professionals and capitalising on their experience. The connection with residents is achieved via numerous associations working in neighbourhoods on a daily basis.

The following decentralised state services are also directly mobilised for the benefit of urban development : the national education system, the police, the justice system, departments (départements) of infrastructures, housing, employment, social services, culture, youth and sport and healthcare.

Prefects and sub-prefects are assigned specific tasks related to French urban policy. Divided over six departments (départements), the prefects appointed to promote equal opportunities are at the heart of the co-ordination process. Prefect delegates have also been appointed to 350 priority neighbourhoods to reinforce the action of State services designed to benefit residents.

Successful Innovations
Dotation de solidarité urbaine (Urban Solidarity Grant) A grant is allocated to the poorest communes to give them the resources to take action. The amount of this solidarity grant was doubled between 2005 and 2009 (i.e. more than €600 million was allocated in additional funds).

- “2nd chance” programme The “2nd chance” programme gives all young people leaving the education system without qualifications or diplomas access to employment opportunities. This programme is primarily based on the actions of “2nd chance schools” and EPIDE (Public Institution for Vocational Integration in the Defence Sector).

- Ville-vie-vacances (VVV, “City-Living-Holidays” programme) This programme is primarily aimed at 11 to 18 year-olds in critical neighbourhoods who are unable to go on holiday. Every year, the VVV enables 800,000 disadvantaged adolescents to play sports and take part in recreational activities. The programme is sponsored by nearly 2,200 associations.

- PNRU (National Urban Renewal Programme) Launched in 2003, the objective of this programme is to completely renovate 530 neighbourhoods by 2013. Approximately 5 million residents are affected by these demolition-reconstruction-renovation operations of housing and public facilities.

- Zones franches urbaines (ZFU, Economic Opportunity Areas) One hundred ZFUs have been created in order to attract companies and to develop the economic activity and employment in sensitive neighbourhoods,. Companies located in these areas benefit from a full range of tax and social security contribution exemptions. In exchange, one-third of their new recruits must be ZUS residents.

- Ateliers santé ville (Health and City Workshops) These workshops establish a network of health professionals (municipal health services, health centres, mother-and-child protection, etc.) who, in turn, develop health projects adapted to the requirements of those living in precarious situations and those with specific problems (addiction, psychological problems, obesity, limited access to healthcare etc.).

- Réussite éducative (Educational Success Programme) Launched in 2005, this programme aims at creating 750 multi-disciplinary teams (teachers, educators, psychologists, child psychiatrists, social workers, etc.) to work on an individual basis and outside school hours with children and teenagers experiencing serious difficulties.

French Politique de la ville is directed towards all levels of governance. Local, regional and national stakeholders are involved within a national framework and through the development of local agreements (CUCS), in a joint programme for urban, social and economic development of deprived neighbourhoods. Designed to upgrade these areas, this integrated approach generates various projects based on solid partnership.

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