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Democratisation, structural adjustment, state reform (including decentralisation), and liberalisation of the economy (including privatisation) have brought about dramatic changes in the nations, societies, and cities of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). As central governments devolve greater responsibilities to them, local governments are obliged to perform new roles and strengthen their managerial capacity to cope with increasing urban problems and popular demands. In response to the state’s inability to address local problems, there has been a flourishing of civil society organisations (CSOs) engaging in self-help initiatives, building social networks and mutual support groups in order to meet their basic needs. To deepen democracy and promote popular participation in resolving urban issues calls for clear guiding principles and methodologies. These should be based on the wealth of experience that Latin American cities have acquired over the years.

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