The Rural Pact Conference took place in Brussels on 15 to 16 June 2022. 475 people took part in-person, joined by over 300 participants online. Participants included politicians, including EU MEPs, along with local authorities and social and economic stakeholders from EU, national, regional, and local levels of governance, of which 46% actually live in rural areas. The presentations and session recordings are all available here. The purpose of the conference was to engage stakeholders in the design of the Rural Pact, a commitment to achieve of the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas (LTVRA) in ways that suitable ambitious and based on a bottom-up approach. In addition to the meetings and working groups that the EC has organized, and which have served to provide the basis for the LTVRA, the Commission has asked stakeholders to sign a “commitment canvas” indicating their commitment to the LTVRA, describing what they are doing to make it happen, and indicating the milestones they must achieve to making it happen.
This conference is of great relevance for the PoliRural project. A basic goal of the project is to demonstrate the possibility of successfully implementing participative policy processes for rural areas, namely Regional Foresight, leading to action and not just reports. The action plans of the twelve participating regions have been aligned with the language and ambition of the LTVRA. Many of those action plans have already started to take shape. And many of them consists of actions and milestones which could be submitted as part of that region’s commitment to the LTVRA. In others as an important element of the overall Rural Pact. This is an ongoing process and I invite each of the regions taking part in the project to do this immediately by filling out the relevant form on the website of the Rural Pact, and indicating the overall nature of their commitment to:
- Amplify rural voices,
- Networking and collaboration,
- Acting for Rural Areas.
In my view our biggest contribution of the Foresight package that the partner regions have developed is to “amplify rural voices” based on the vision, action plan and road map. The proof of delivery lies in being able to show that the action plans have been adopted by local administration and that their implementation is being followed by the monitoring committees you have set up. This is primarily a contribution to realising the first pillar of the LTVRA, that total regions become “strong.”
Many of the representatives of government administration spoke of the challenge of policy coordination experienced at the level of local government. So, the challenge is not just one of citizens of rural areas talking to local government (the horizontal governance issue). It is also about local government talking to and being heard by central government (the vertical governance issue.) Many of the speakers referred to the low level of consultation between central, regional, and sub-regional governments, on issues such as CAP reform and the Green Deal. We have spoken about this since the start of the PoliRural project and the issue was raised many times, in many session and my many speakers during the Rural Pact conference in June.
The topics we have chosen to address are important and timely and are beginning to get the attention they deserve. Furthermore, the PoliRural project brings effective solutions to the table. So, all twelve regions of the project should sign the commitment canvas, describe what their Action Plan is doing to “amplify voices.”