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Basic needs/Basic services

The concept of meeting ‘basic needs’ was developed in the 1970s and internationally adopted to supplement economic growth as the primary target of development co-operation. Previously, the assumption had been that the fruits of economic growth would automatically ‘trickle down’ to the poor, but re-assessments in the late 1960s showed that the poor were typically gaining little from – relatively successful – economic growth policies, and were in many cases becoming further marginalised. The meeting of basic needs for food, water, shelter, health care and education thus became the driving force of the second and third UN Development Decades (1970s and 1980s). The concept of ‘basic services’ was developed as the strategy for meeting ‘basic needs’, initially in health care and water supplies; later in sanitation, household food security and education. Critical components of the ‘basic services strategy’ included low-cost, appropriate technology approaches; and the recruitment and training of the community-based worker (under many different designations) at the frontline of service extension. This person, male and female, acts as a link between services and communities, sometimes as a para-professional employee or volunteer, and often as a proselytiser for the benefits of services and their proper use. He or she may also collect levies for service maintenance and use. The concept of ‘basic services’ therefore not only conveys the idea of a minimal level of service to meet ‘basic needs’, but their facilitation via support to community mechanisms. (See also Participation.)

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