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DEVELOPMENT/ Piatti (AVSI): Let’s not leave the “last mile” of cooperation to the bureaucrats

ALBERTO PIATTI, head of the non-profit charitable organization AVSI, comments on the bureaucratic infrastructure in giving aid to developing countries and what should be done to improve it.

Favelas in Rio de Janiero  (Infophoto) Favelas in Rio de Janiero (Infophoto)

The international community, through a path marked by a series of international conferences in the nineties - Rio de Janeiro on Environment and Development, 1992, the twentieth anniversary of which was celebrated this year with the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development; Cairo on Population and Development, 1994; Beijing on Women, 1995; Copenhagen on Social Development, 1995; Istanbul on Human Settlements (Habitat II), 1996 - has pledged to create a “better world”. That commitment is translated, synthetically and symbolically, in the eight Millennium Goals to be achieved by 2015: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; make primary education universal; promote gender equality and the autonomy of women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases; guarantee environmental sustainability; develop a global partnership for development. This is the social infrastructure that the international community has given itself.

However, it is clear that these goals will not be met by the due date, both for economic reasons - the food and economic-financial crises- and because of a structural problem in the way of conceiving of giving aid. Moreover, experience tells us that social infrastructure in itself is not enough. We need a link between the individual and the infrastructure (an access point, a gateway, a hub). Since this link depends inexorably on personal initiative, this seems to be the weak point for the most vulnerable people and those living in solitude outside the system.

This task, creating a relationship with the most fragile people, has always been taken up by the community. However, the solidification of the social infrastructure requires that the relationship become systematic, so the community organizes itself with service facilities, intermediate bodies and civil society organizations (CSOs). These allow the person, even the most fragile, to “latch on” to human company and thus to the social infrastructure. In other words, the last mile of social infrastructure is developed and maintained by civil society organizations.