“Think globally, act locally” says the well-known phrase. It is easy to say but more difficult to implement. Otherwise we wouldn't be in the middle of the economic downturn in Europe right now. But the phrase can lead us back on the right track by mobilising the local level actors to produce services and products according to their comparative advantage and matching the demand patterns in global terms.
The LEADER bottom-up local development method with its 20 years' history has proved its capacity to boost this development. That is why it is crucially important that the method breaks through the EU's traditional sector administration borders to wider European competition, innovation and regional policies.
LEADER is a child of rural development but the father comes from the development policy and participatory techniques side. The major strengths behind the method's widely agreed success are flexibility and adaptability to the whole range of geographic, socio-economic and political circumstances.
It fits very well to sparsely populated areas in need of bringing the resources together and finding new solutions - we have already heard the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mr. Dacian Cioloş repeating three times in a short speech that LEADER will remain at the centre of the future Common Agricultural Policy. But LEADER also suits to other policy fields than rural development.
Since 2007 we have already seen a successful extension to European fisheries policy/ DG Mare. At present the new European local development approach post 2013 is being designed in round table talks of DG Agri, DG Mare, DG Regio and DG Employment. The existing LEADER groups provide an experienced delivery mechanism. They must get prepared for a more influential role and thoughtfully choose those tools from the local development basket that best fit their areas' needs.
LEADER dissemination to new policy fields as well as totally new countries and territories is a number one objective of the Finnish ELARD Presidency. The dissemination also gives reflections that help the method renew and evolve in the changing society. Improving the linkages with other European and international local development organisations assists in spreading the message.
The EU already has more than 2 000 LEADER areas but ELARD and its members have also contributed to the method's introduction in the EU candidate countries as well as in Russia, Africa and Latin America. The ELARD membership has been quickly expanding too, now covering 18 countries. Together we are definitely stronger! Be warmly welcome to join and actively take part in our global thinking and local acting!
Petri Rinne has been the president of ELARD (The European LEADER Association for Rural Development) since 2011. ELARD is an international non-profit making association (aisbl) set up to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to maintain their population through sustainable, integrated local development.
Text first published by ELARD in 2012 and published through Strata with the permit of Petri Rinne.