National conference on the impact of LEADER on rural development

Over 400 delegates will gather today (Monday 15 November) for an online conference to celebrate the impact of the LEADER program on rural development in Ireland over the past 30 years.

The event, organized by the National Rural Network (RRN), will include contributions from a range of rural development experts and several beneficiaries of past LEADER programs.

Speaking ahead of the event, keynote speaker Prof Mark Shucksmith said: “Ireland led the way, inspiring people across Europe in the early development of LEADER.

“We have all learned a lot over the past 30 years – about the importance of local knowledge, capacity building, networks, social innovation, social inclusion, governance, autonomy and power structures inhibiting.

“We know there are huge challenges for rural areas [and urban] companies.

“The LEADER approach can help local communities to respond actively to these challenges, especially since they have sufficient autonomy, the support of an enabling state and active networks.

“I look forward to continuing to learn and draw inspiration from the Irish experience of LEADER beyond the first 30 years. ”

LEADER’s “bottom up” approach

Seamus Boland, NRN Program Director, described the main concept of the LEADER initiative.

“Taking into account the diversity of European rural areas, development strategies are more effective and efficient if they are decided and implemented at local level by local authorities, accompanied by clear and transparent procedures, the support of the public administrations concerned and technical assistance necessary for the transfer of good practice.

“This ‘bottom-up’ approach has worked particularly well in Ireland over the past 30 years, empowering rural communities to take ownership of their economic, social and environmental development.

Since its launch in 1991, the LEADER program has helped rural communities across the EU to actively engage and lead local development in their region, through community-led local development.

The program is administered locally in Ireland by 29 local action groups. These contain local representatives of the community, public and private sectors.

Despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the activity of the LEADER program continued to increase, the RRN said.

By the end of October, 4,821 LEADER projects had been approved for a total value of 200 million euros.

Since the entry into force of the transitional LEADER program on April 1, bridging the gap between the 2014-2020 program and the new LEADER program in 2023, 316 projects have been approved for funding, for a total amount of 12.7 million d ‘euros.

In addition, some 126 projects are in the process of being approved, representing an additional value of € 5.9 million.

About Keneth T. Graves

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