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The changing concept of territorial rural development

Working Group 9: The changing concept of territorial rural development

Michael Kull [1], Jeppe Høst [2], Thomas Dax [3], Andrew Copus [4], Philomena de Lima [5]

1: Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKE, 2: University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 3: Federal Institute for Less-Favoured and Mountainous Areas, Austria, 4: The James Hutton Institute, UK, 5: Centre for Rural and Remote Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands, UK

The rural - as a site for development and governance - has undergone several transformations throughout the last 50 years in response to changes in production, urbanization and shifts in welfare state strategies. Indeed in response to the recent economic crisis, the rural seems to be changing again. The underlying aims, ideas, measures and paradigms applied to rural development and governance are changing and compete with each other, influencing municipal reforms, plan laws, infrastructure and not the least rural livelihoods.

In addition the economic crisis has also affected rural areas across Europe unevenly and the responses to the crisis have been just as diverse. In many countries neoliberal policy tools have been applied to “solve” (socio)-economic problems, mostly neglecting the development needs of the diverse rural populations and addressing their socio-economic and -ecological problems. However, we also see alternative approaches emerging, rooted in the ideas of community development and radical democracy. These various approaches seem to be able to tailor development methods sensitive to geographical, issue-based and identity-based diversity. Both neoliberal and alternative approaches have led to new transformations of rural areas and a rethinking of their relationships to urban areas; manifesting in amalgamation of municipalities, decrease in agricultural employment, increasing recreational use, branding and marketing of regions and the so-called new rural paradigm.

Over the last two decades rural research has increasingly addressed the host of drivers that affect the development in rural regions. While at the start of a ‘genuine' rural development policy at the beginning of the 1990s it was more or less synonymous with agricultural development measures, this perception changed substantially in the past two decades. Rural research and rural policy discourse has highlighted again and again that "rural" is not synonymous with agricultural development. This perspective is nowadays widespread within the research community (see e.g. the conceptual framework of the ERA-Net RURAGRI) and rural policy assessment (see ESPON project EDORA). Recent studies have therefore focused on the need for a "Rural Cohesion Policy" as the appropriate response to current rural trends.

This working group would also like to explore the changing nature of territorial rural development policy. In particular we are interested in the implications of increasing inter-regional linkages, the changing role of space, proximity and interaction. Sometimes this is manifest in terms of urban-rural cooperation, sometimes as “relocalisation” strategies, and sometimes in terms of network brokerage to support globalised linkages. We would like to explore to what extent the policy environment has accommodated this changing environment, not only rhetorically but also in its strategic and operational programmes.

Drawing  on these various trends, this work group would like to invite papers that specifically reflect and discuss some of the following issues.

  • Reflections on historical, current and future changes in rural governance. We wish to draw attention to the underlying and shifting theoretical foundations that shape both the policy work as well as research in relation to the so called "rural problem".
  • What is the relation between the policy changes synthesized by OECD in the concept of the “New Rural Paradigm” (2006), developments in the EU such as the in Local Action Groups, community-led local development, the various non-governmental development approaches and the broader institutionalized rural development?
  • Since rural development under the CAP regime's rural development pillar continues to be focused on agriculture and not on other economic activities, how well does this chosen development path reflect the current economic transitions and how is it constructed by decision-makers and "sold" to the public? In relation to this, how can we study power imbalances and the manifestation of power of well-organized groups / elites and their impact on the design of policy?
  • In terms of the changing concept of “territorial development” and the role of proximity and space, issues for consideration would include the importance of both micro- and macro-scale socio-economic differentiation and change; the challenges arising from urban-rural relationships and cooperation; and the increasing importance of non-geographical proximity in many rural economic activities. For example we imagine that these questions could be discussed specifically with regard to the consequences for the way in which local development, as implemented through CLLD or urban-rural cooperation is conceptualised and managed.