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Creating jobs in rural areas


In a word...
Yves Champetier, Director
LEADER European Observatory


"25.000" - This is the figure in the "ex-post" assessment of LEADER I (1992-1995) finalised a few months ago. It is an estimate of the number of jobs created in the 217 beneficiary areas of the first phase of the Community Initiative for rural development.

It will be another three or four years before the results of LEADER II are known, but with a budget and the number of areas four times greater than those under LEADER I, it can be estimated that some 100.000 jobs will have been created.

Of course, these figures do not tell us about the many different situations illustrated in the four actions and various reports and stories featured in this 20th issue of LEADER Magazine. These examples are reminders that in rural areas jobs are created one at a time. Sometimes employment is the result of a new combination of activities, or an expansion of activities. Sometimes it is generated by an exemplary partnership between government and business or the voluntary sector. Quite often, jobs will come from a collective approach to propose a new service in one place, to market local products differently or to come up with a new kind of tourism in another place. It is on the ground, helping the local communities, businesses, voluntary organisations and local authorities with their initiatives on a day-to-day basis, that little by little progress is being made in the difficult and ongoing fight for jobs.

As Elena Saraceno shows in her article, these results are a direct consequence of the LEADER "approach". At the local level, the results are especially significant, because the actions launched have taken full advantage of the seven essential characteristics of this LEADER approach:

  • LEADER concerns areas large enough to allow for a coherent local development policy;

  • extensive involvement of the community is constantly sought and facilitated by the permanent effort to inform, animate and provide training;

  • a large partnership means that all the "living strengths" of the area (local authorities, businesses, voluntary organisations, etc.) are able to work together with the local action group;

  • the actions implemented are "innovative", that is to say these actions try to provide new answers to the problems of the areas concerned while coming from a sustainable development perspective;

  • these actions are part of a coherent whole where complementarities and links can be created between the area's various sectors of activity;

  • participation in the LEADER network at the regional, national and European levels enables the local groups to make their actions known, to benefit from the experiences of others and to cooperate whenever advantageous with neighbouring or more distant areas;

  • the procedures for LEADER's administrative and financial implementation should make it easier to lend flexible and effective assistance to projects.

LEADER II is in its final stage: by the end of 1999, all appropriations are to have been committed. The current period is therefore a period of intensive mobilisation for the local action groups which are working to finalise the implementation of projects. At the same time, everyone is wondering about the future and place local actors will have in tomorrow's rural policies.

The Member States are now busy preparing the European programmes for the period 2000-2006, and most of them are currently examining how a certain number of lessons from LEADER might be incorporated in the future policies on rural development. Not only are they looking at the idea of a large dissemination of this approach to all the Union's rural areas, but they are also thinking about opening it up to other types of intervention, other sectors, other policies. It is a fundamental challenge for the years ahead, and it is hoped that, tomorrow, this local approach will become one of the essential components of these future policies.

However, much still remains to be done to help the countryside with the changes it will have to undergo, and the future rural development Initiative must continue to play a fundamental role by encouraging the emergence of new approaches, experimenting new models of development and pioneering new activities beneficial to all of the European Union's rural areas.

source: LEADER Magazine n20 - Spring, 1999

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