'Not without us': French suburbs launch new group to return power to the people

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Local associations and residents groups representing people living in deprived parts of France say they have had enough of the inaction of successive governments. A number of them gathered recently to form what they describe as a 'union of the suburbs', a union with ambitious plans to overturn the way politics is done in France's urban areas. 'Pas sans nous' – 'Not without us' – has drawn up detailed plans to ensure local people get a genuine say in how their hard-pressed, often poor districts can be improved. Their next step: to force the authorities to listen to them. Thomas Saint-Cricq reports on a group that draws inspiration from the community 'empowerment' movement in the United States.

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They came, met and decided in an atmosphere which was a heady mixture of anger and euphoria. The outcome was the formal creation of a new 'union' called 'Pas sans nous' ('Not without us') which has the ambitious aim of transforming the way France's urban areas are run and giving local people a real and concrete say in how their lives can be improved.