Advancing towards comprehensive rural development policies

The new national policy on rural development could contribute to developing a shared long-term vision of rural development...

As observed in the previous section, the lack of a shared definition about rural areas, and of a shared rural development policy or strategy, undermine policy coherence and can contribute to generating duplicity or overlapping of public programmes and resources in rural areas. To confront this challenge, a revision of the current definition in Chile defining urban and rural areas would help advance in this domain (see Chapter 1). At the same time, the Chilean government has initiated a process for building a national rural development policy framework. This is clearly a step forward and could contribute to promoting inter-institutional coherence.

...but certain elements need to be considered

Setting a national policy can contribute to policy coherence in rural development. However, there are certain elements, related to the formulation, management, implementation and evaluation of this policy, that have to be considered if this policy is to be something other than a declaration of intentions. The analysis of experiences in the area of development in other OECD countries has identified several dimensions related to policy effectiveness in promoting policy coherence and synergies across government institutions (OECD, 2008a): [1]

  • • Policy framework: The resultant policy has to have a clearly articulated policy message that: i) identifies key policy goals; ii) promotes a common understanding of rural policy; iii) sets the parameters for actions and evaluation; and iv) is supported by political commitment.
  • • Roles, decisions and information: Roles and responsibilities among actors have to be clearly allocated. Decision-making assignments should be clear and transparent.
  • • Co-ordination: Mechanisms should be established to enable information flows and horizontal (inter-sectoral) and vertical (among levels of government) co-operation and co-ordination.
  • • Finances: There is a need to consider financial flows that match policy priorities and provide sufficient levels of funding to achieve objectives and promote credible commitments.
  • • Evaluation: Mechanisms to provide monitoring and evaluation should be considered in order to assess and, if necessary, adjust the policy.

Among these factors, the experience of OECD countries like Finland (Box 3.2) shows that key areas for the success of a rural policy in promoting policy coherence are: i) the involvement of civil society and academia as providers of local and technical knowledge; ii) the ownership of the programme by the different government and non-government actors involved resulting from a long process of negotiation; iii) the clarity in the allocation roles and responsibilities; iv) monitoring and evaluation processes on how the proposals/decisions have been put forward; v) the leadership of the process by a broadly supported and efficient institution. These elements should be taken into account in the current process in Chile.

The main focus of rural policy should be on rural areas that are not well connected to a large urban centre. These places face significant challenges in terms of low population density, distance from internal and external markets, and the lack of a critical mass that provides a nearby demand for the region’s products. Current policy does mainly focus on this type of territory, but it does so through the lens of the income level of people in certain occupations and not on a territorial basis. Because the focus is only on low-income individuals and firms, and does not include the geographic territory in which they are located, some important policy opportunities are missed. In particular, the current sector-based approach tends to see the potential for improved standards of living as either coming from improved competitiveness in the current sector or from out-migration and under-emphasises the possibility for finding alternative employment in the region.

In addition, rural territory that is near to large urban centres also has to be considered. Here, rural-urban linkages are important. The high interactions between rural and urban areas should be considered when dealing with rural policy. Rural areas provide a flow of environmental and recreational services and amenities to nearby urban residents that also require the food, energy or water mostly located in rural areas. At the same time, the commuting relations between urban and rural areas as seen in Chapter 1 in the functional urban area (FUA) are also quite notable for the case of Chile, displaying many urban workers who commute to work from a rural residence on a daily basis. In order to take into account these interactions, the conclusions of the OECD International Conference on Rural Development (2005) held in Oaxaca (Mexico), pointed in the direction of framing rural policy within a comprehensive regional policy which would provide an umbrella for co-ordinated urban and rural development policies, within a territorial-based approach.

Box 3.2. The National Rural Policy Programme and the Rural Policy Committee in Finland

The National Rural Policy Programme is the main instrument to provide coherence to the different sectoral policies oriented towards rural areas in Finland. It is drawn up by the Rural Policy Committee, an institution that brings together nine ministries, other public organisations and federations, as well as research centres and private stakeholders. The National Rural Policy Programme includes strategic guidelines and specific practical measures for different sectors and for different entities of the government. Under the leadership of the Rural Policy Committee, which also promotes the implementation of the measures, the programme has been shaped by many different stakeholder organisations.

The National Rural Policy Programme is divided into two parts: the Plan of Action of the Rural Policy Committee and the Special Programme or the Report of the Government. The Plan of Action of the Rural Policy Committee contains proposals to be undertaken by a wide number of actors. The separate Special Rural Policy Programme is drawn up on the basis of the Plan of Action, and only contains decisions and proposals within the competence of the government. For example, the Fourth Rural Policy Programme (2005-08) entitled “Viable Countryside - Our Joint Responsibility” included 133 proposals. Based on it, a Special Rural Policy Programme was prepared for its political support for 2005-06 consisting of 52 government decisions. This system has contributed to the allocation of responsibilities, information sharing and linking the planning and implementation stages.

The programme is revised about every four years, and contains both a strategic perspective and concrete proposals with explicit references to those responsible for implementing them. The Rural Policy Committee carries forward the proposals of the programme through negotiations, projects, theme group work and by influencing various processes.

These documents have been central in providing rural policy with a policy framework. Ministries need to report twice a year the actions undertaken in line with the proposals/decisions contained in the Rural Policy Programme/Special Programme. Additionally, the continuation of these programmes over a time frame of more than two decades (there have been five National Rural Policy Programmes, 1991-96, 1996-2000, 2001-04, 2005-08 and 2009-13) has contributed to providing a long-term vision to rural policy. Finally, the distinction of two programmes, one within the government domain (the Special Rural Policy Programme) and one broader where a number of other organisations are involved, contributes to the allocation of responsibilities, decision making, information sharing and linking the planning and implementation stages.

Key strengths of the process are: i) the involvement of civil society and academia in the preparation as providers of local and technical knowledge, reducing a critical knowledge gap that many central governments have in targeting the priorities of rural policy; ii) the ownership of the programme by the different government and nongovernment actors involved, resulting from a long process of multi-arena negotiation and aligning the actions of all key stakeholders; iii) clarity in the allocation roles and responsibilities within the government; and iv) the annual or biannual monitoring and evaluation process on how the proposals/decisions have been put forward.

  • [1] The involvement of a broad set of actors: The planning of a coherent rural policyor strategy requires good information about the different rural and territorialdynamics. Without a clear understanding of the challenges and potentialities ofrural areas, rural policy faces the risk of targeting efforts and resources in aninefficient or incomplete way. The involvement of a broad set of public, privateand civil society actors, both national and sub-national, will help in developing aninformed and comprehensive rural development policy. • Ownership of the programme by the different government and non-governmentactors involved. This ownership of the programme normally results from a longprocess of negotiation and from active participation of the different public andnon-public actors in the design of the policy. This turns the preparation processinto a broad multi-arena negotiation oriented to align the actions of all keystakeholders.
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