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The socio-economic impact of rural development policies : realities and potentials


In most regions within the EU the contribution made by the agricultural sector to the regional economy as a whole is declining. In the long run this may well have a dramatic effect on the maintenance of landscapes and the natural values embedded in them, the social fabric of the countryside regional employment levels and quite possible on society at large. Within this, context the notion of rural development (RD! Is emerging as an interesting alternative. Through RD the countryside might be revitalized although the extent to which this is possible is subject to debate. It is also unclear what conditions and policies are necessary to realize this effectively. The competiteveness viability and efficiency of the rural enterprises, understood as carriers of RD processes are not yet clearly understood. The lack of knowledge concerning both the possible socio-economic results of RD and it's mechanisms might very well become a considerable problem. The appeal and legitimacy of RD are dependent on convincing responses to this lacuna. More specifically this applies to the balance of effects associated with further liberalization in the WTO context and the entrance of new members to the EU on the one hand and the countervailing effects of RD on the other. Insight in the interrelations between specific RD policy measures and their socio-economic impact is also needed to provide European, national and regional politicians with the tools to select and to justify the most appropriate programmes and policy measures. The proposed research aims to elaborate empirically grounded responses to these questions. The potential socio-economic impact of RD will be assessed and the policies most adequate to produce and sustain such an impact will also be analyzed. The proposed research will be carried 0ut in 6 European countries. Casestudies of the most successful experiences of RD (albeit partly RD avant la lettre) and it's impact in terms of employment, income, investment, innovativeness will form the starting point of the research. Subsequently possibilities to generalize these experiences over wider areas will be studied using a range of economic and sociological techniques. A comparative approach, that takes the highly diversified interaction between policies and practice into consideration is basic. Amongst other things the outcome includes the empirically grounded and quantified assessment of the potential impact of RD and a specification of the policies most capable of securing such an impact.

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Hollandseweg 1
6706 Wageningen

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Participants (5)