PREPARE - Partnership for Rural Europe


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The importance of Urban/Rural Partnerships

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – an international body with membership from 34 countries across the world including the European Union – set up to identify problems, discuss and analyse them and promote policies to solve them has carried out a series of case studies on rural-urban partnerships. It is submitting its findings to three OECD working parties for discussion and approval: the Working Party for Territorial Indicators; the Working Parties for Territorial Policy in Rural Areas and in Urban Areas. The European Union is also seeking a more integrated approach to economic development. It has also set up, a group consisting of urban and rural networks (called RURBAN) to feed into this debate and this group is supported by both the Director General for Regional and Urban Policy and the Director General for Agriculture and Rural Development. Valerie Carter represents ECOVAST/PREPARE on this group.

The OECD case studies are the basis for a series of conferences staged 2012-13 to discuss the findings. The first conference was held in November 2012 in Metz, France which introduced the concept of linking urban and rural areas with examples from existing urban and rural partnerships and how they were trying to influence each other. Concern was raised that rural areas should develop as ‘equal’ partners with urban areas rather than being only the hinterland of urban areas where urban issues would dominate. It was also clear that there was not a simple division of only ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ – other subdivisions have particular needs, such as peri-urban and small municipalities.
The second event was held in April 2013 in Warsaw, Poland and it introduced some preliminary findings from the OECD research and had more of an urban focus. The debate established that urban/rural partnerships were not new. There were already good working partnerships many of them linking urban and rural areas (such as the PURPLE network). It was considered that the case studies would highlight how good ‘partnerships’ worked to link urban and rural areas as equal rural partners.

The third and final event will be held in October 2013 in Bologna, Italy where the full research and case studies will be published and this event is expected to have a stronger focus on rural areas.

The European Union is about to enter a seven year new period of policy and programmes starting in 2014 and the PREPARE and ECOVAST rural networks need to be aware of this work and the possible implications on support from the EU in the future. Rural areas will be expected to link with the urban areas. ECOVAST’s work on the importance of small towns serving a hinterland of villages and countryside should be of value to the debate as these small towns are a critical link between urban and rural areas.

Valerie J Carter: PREPARE Organising Group