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Developing Europe's Rural Regions in the Era of Globalization: An Interpretative Model for Better Anticipating and Responding to Challenges for Regional Development in an Evolving International Context

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Getting the good out of globalisation

A globalised world can be excellent for the economy or it can hamper rural growth. New insight into impacts of globalisation on rural areas and valuable guidelines can help exploit the best of this inevitable phenomenon.

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The era of globalisation has brought greater openness and newer partnerships in trade, industry, science and technology on an international scale never seen before. However, globalisation has also posed challenges to rural economies and the livelihoods of many in outlying regions. The EU-funded project Derreg developed a model for addressing these challenges to regional development in a global context. Globalisation is often seen in a simplistic yet polarised way, either as a way to erode economic inequalities or as a threat to distinct rural cultures. The project analysed globalisation processes, local effects and regional development responses in 10 case study regions. Through this study it outlined the challenges facing rural regions and produced best practices in regional development to exploit the benefits of globalisation, creating an online resource centre for this purpose. The project team proposed a model to uncover how globalisation elements such as market liberalisation, growing networks, increased mobility and enhanced information flows affect rural regions. It also looked at how these factors shape rural economies in different locations and socio-political contexts. The results were then translated into actual measurable impacts, such as on foreign direct investment (FDI), expansion into export markets, factory closures, increased tourism, property purchases and cross-border workers. Derreg examined how regions respond to these impacts, as well as the challenges and opportunities they bring. It identified eight types of responses and noted how regions are constrained in addressing the impacts due to their different regional contexts and resources. The project focused on four key findings that are pivotal for improving regional development. Firstly, it noted that endogenous rural businesses can benefit more from forming international networks themselves than they can from FDI, something which could be achieved through network brokers. Secondly, it demonstrated that international migrants can contribute significantly to rural regional development, particularly if it is based on initiatives to promote entrepreneurship among migrants. Thirdly, it found that global environmental awareness creates opportunities for the sustainable development of rural environmental capital, although such an eco-economy must first consider regional contexts. Lastly, Derreg found that effective regional development is supported by joint regional learning and innovation that involves knowledge institutes, public administration and grassroots development actions. Over 100 examples of good practices regarding these strategies have been identified across the 10 case study regions and have been unveiled on the project website. All these results can effectively be used by policymakers and local governments to exploit globalisation and make it work for them. This promises to promote sustainable rural development significantly and get rural areas that are being left behind back on track.

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