Rural development & regional policies

RuDI stands for “Rural Development Impacts” and is a consortium of 10 research institutes that has taken an in-depth look at the second pillar of the CAP, examining the rural development programs in all member states and conducting 20 case studies. In addition to calling for more effective use of policy evaluation and bottom-up processes (LEADER), they take issue with the excessive concentration of rural development on agriculture and insufficient integration with other regional policies.
They observe – and endorse – an emerging “new rural paradigm” which

is based on the notion of the multifunctionality of rural areas, where various sectors beyond agriculture are acknowledged to play a key role with regard to rural areas’ competitiveness, and where investments across sectors are considered to be a more appropriate tool than farm subsidies alone. This shift can also be viewed as a change from an exogenous model of Rural Development, emphasising policy interventions “from outside”, to a more endogenous approach based on the notion of Rural Development as a process involving multiple levels, dimensions and actors, that is also self-driven.

Despite plenty of tough criticism of the status quo, the RuDI study concludes that rural development should nevertheless remain an element of the CAP. Their argument is

that Rural Development policy has a unique value-added element compared to other policy fields (e.g. Regional Development, Social Cohesion), namely: the presence of a physical dimension (environment, landscape, biodiversity) and its explicit requirement for the integration of this physical domain with the economic and social dimensions. The integration of these three dimensions is inherent in, and crucial for, rural development. As a result, there is an inseparable link between quality of rural life, the competiveness of rural areas, and environmental quality.

I wonder, though, why a space-based, sustainable, integrated, bottom-up approach should be run best by agricultural authorities with an agricultural policy label on it. If the approach of rural development is really valuable and different from the approach taken by other regional policies, rural development should still be merged with the other regional policies and its beneficial characteristics be expanded. Indeed, there should be potential for mutual learning. The reformers of regional policy community speak very much the same language as those who want to improve rural development (see e.g. the Barca report). It’s time to think big about the restructuring of competences – and to rename the CAP.
read the key quotes refering to the excessive concentration of rural development on agriculture and insufficient integration with other regional policies
download the official 8-page summary of the RuDI project

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