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ENERGISING IRELAND’S RURAL ECONOMY
THE COMMISSION FOR THE ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT OF RURAL AREAS
List of Recommendations
Energising Ireland’s Rural Economy
Rural Ireland will become a dynamic, adaptable and outward looking
multi-sectoral economy supporting vibrant, resilient and diverse
communities experiencing a high quality of life with an energised
relationship between rural and urban Ireland which will contribute to its sustainability for the benefit of society as a whole.
The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas “If we are to pull Ireland out of recession faster, and also reduce the brain drain leaving the country to seek out work, then we now need to home in on the regions……….. We need to provide 'on the ground' supports for people in rural communities. This is so they can create ideas and spot opportunities to develop enterprises. The positive spin-offs could be new job creation at the local level, taking people off the dole, and generating local wealth that feeds back into rural economies” Professor Suzi Jarvis, October 20131 Introduction and Context Rural Ireland is diverse in both its landscape and its people; defying universally accepted definition and a neat overall description, its diversity is also the backbone of its potential. Rural communities have experienced the negative impacts of the current economic crisis due largely to their heavy reliance on declining employment sectors, particularly the construction industry, with the result that unemployment in rural areas increased by 192% between 2006 and 2011, compared to 114% in urban centres. The effects of this have been felt in particular in small and medium sized towns and the evidence of small town decline throughout the country is clear. It was in this overall context that the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Ireland (CEDRA) was established in October 2012 by Minister Phil Hogan and Minister Simon Coveney.
The primary task given to CEDRA was to identify strategic initiatives that will ensure rural areas contribute to sustained and sustainable national economic growth and development in the future.
Notwithstanding current economic difficulties and significant associated challenges confronting rural areas, the research undertaken by the Commission establishes that many of the key issues confronting rural communities are part of a long term economic and social transformation.
Addressing that transformation is challenging as the nature of many rural communities has been fundamentally changed through the decline of traditional rural industries and growing connections between rural and urban areas as reflected by the increasing numbers commuting from rural areas to employment in towns and urban centres. These developments mean that rural economic development is not amenable to simple or single sector strategies. New integrated approaches to rural economic development are required.
Rural Ireland has significant potential; from communities of engaged citizens to individual entrepreneurs the commitment to supporting the development of Ireland’s rural areas Professor Suzi Jarvis heads up the Innovation Academy at University College Dublin (UCD). She was speaking at the launch of a new rural entrepreneurship programme that will roll out in Galway, Clonmel, Mullingar and Letterkenny between 2013 and 2014, http://www.innovators.ie/p/ruralentrepeneurship demonstrates a belief in their future viability, and is inspirational in its energy. It is this energy and commitment that will provide the support necessary to allow Ireland’s rural economy to emerge from the current crisis and move forward with self-confidence as well as a renewed belief in its potential to contribute to national economic recovery.
The work undertaken by and in support of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas confirms that there is an abundance of natural, physical, human and capital resources and a wide variety of high quality assets in many rural communities that could be leveraged to support the national economic growth and development of these communities.
Examples of successful and sustainable private and social enterprise exist across the spectrum of economic sectors, ranging from dynamic clusters in agriculture, food and tourism, to emergent international capacity in advanced manufacturing and the creative industries. Natural landscapes, historic buildings and monuments, traditions, culture, and outdoor amenities such as Greenways, which are central to tourism and leisure activities, are all examples of areas and sectors that have demonstrable potential and could be targeted to grow enterprise and create employment.
Many rural areas require support from both private and public sources in order to fully activate these resources and ensure their contribution to development. The kind of characteristics that hinder economic development include low population density, relative inaccessibility to employment opportunities, a labour force with lower levels of education than the national average as a result of out-migration, and a continued dependence on employment in sectors that have experienced long term decline or are dependent on local demand and buying power.
While not all rural areas have these combinations of characteristics a significant number do.
These challenges inhibit the activation of resources, creation of employment and enhanced economic contributions to national recovery. The interrelated nature of the challenges can only be addressed through an integrated strategic and operational approach that aligns the goals of national level economic plans with regional, county and local (bottom-up) strategies. Rural economic development requires a matrix of economic and social supports if they are to contribute to their own, and thus to the national, recovery.
The approach to national economic recovery adopted by government, particularly those commitments relating to job creation and enterprise development, is dependent on all economic sectors and all parts of Ireland contributing to growth and development. If rural areas are to contribute to, and participate in, national economic recovery, the potential of these areas must be efficiently, effectively and innovatively activated. This presents a significant challenge for government, the public, private and voluntary sectors, rural enterprises, rural communities and the various national agencies tasked with fostering, either directly or indirectly, rural development. When responding to these challenges policy makers should not be unduly influenced by the limited horizons arising from the prevailing but short term economic difficulties and challenges being faced at national and rural levels. CEDRA is adamant that it is time to firmly shut the door on the policy and implementation shortcomings of the past and put in place new, robust and sustaining structures that will facilitate a brighter future for rural Ireland.
Vision for the Rural Economy
Rural Ireland will become a dynamic, adaptable and outward looking multi-sectoral economy supporting vibrant, resilient and diverse communities experiencing a high quality of life with an energised relationship between rural and urban Ireland which will contribute to its sustainability for the benefit of society as a whole.
Having engaged with and listened to the people, communities and stakeholders of Rural Ireland this report presents their vision of the rural Ireland of the future. This vision is of a rural Ireland that is vibrant, sustainable and resilient. It is a place where people can and want to live, work and raise their families. It is a dynamic source of economic growth that provides opportunities for its inhabitants. It is a place of equal opportunity where all members of the community have the chance to reach their full potential.
Rural areas are increasingly diverse and there are distinct spatial patterns and differing capacities throughout rural Ireland. These patterns reflect the variation in the endowment and scale of human, physical, natural and capital resources available within each area. They reflect past developments and contemporary economic and social profiles. As a consequence rural areas will differ in their capacity to respond to both external and internal stimuli and consideration of this diversity is critical when planning to support the realisation of the vision presented in this report.
How we shape the future is fundamentally based on our vision of what that future ought to be and how we put together the elements to achieve it. This is a matter of values, of a choice between various futures and the relative importance we attach to various national goals. It is clear that rural life is highly valued among Irish citizens and rural areas are particularly cherished for their distinctive quality of life, culture and heritage assets, clean environment, strong community ties and tradition of volunteerism. The growth in rural population during the boom years showed that rural areas are attractive as residential locations. At the same time, the downturn has left many in rural Ireland unable to achieve their ambitions and potential, and out-migration is depleting rural areas of much-needed human resources.
The essence of the vision presented in this report is quiet close to the vision outlined in the White Paper on Rural Development in 1999. While the visions are similar the methodologies and systems that are required to support the pursuit of this vision have changed and this report will present what CEDRA feels are the most appropriate recommendations for the current and likely future economic and social conditions. In line with the need to be mindful of the availability of resources, both financial and human, the Commission believes that the actions recommended can, to a large extent, be implemented within the context of better utilisation, coordination and deployment of current financial and human public resources.
The Commission believes that the vision for Rural Ireland 2025 as expressed by the people who live and work in rural Ireland and presented by CEDRA in this report is tangible pragmatic and practicable while also being strategically focussed, ambitious and challenging. In this context the Commission believes that it is critical that the Government implement their recommendations and work together with the people of rural Ireland in order to realise this vision.
An Integrated Approach to Rural Economic Development:
Governance and Coordination Recommendations 1- 4 The need for a more integrated approach to the management of Rural Development in Ireland requires the development of systems that will support a more coordinated approach to the design, development and implementation of all policies that have an impact on the economic development of rural areas.
Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas:
Recommendations Recommendation 1 The Commission recommends that the Government reinvigorate their approach to support for Rural Economic Development by preparing a clear and committed Rural Economic Development Policy Statement. This statement should outline in detail how the Government proposes to support integrated rural economic development to 2025 including addressing the recommendations of this Commission. This statement should also be informed by, and contribute to the strategic economic development framework emerging from the forthcoming Medium Term Economic Strategy, the Partnership Agreement between Ireland and the EU covering all of the European Investment Funds, the National Spatial Strategy and Rural Development and sectoral operational programmes.
Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas:
Recommendations Recommendation 2 The Commission recommends setting up a policy delivery and coordination mechanism with
the following elements:
(a) The creation of a Ministerial function for the coordination of rural economic development that is anchored in the legislative framework.
(b) Given the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government’s existing responsibilities relating to local government, community and planning and development at national, regional and local level, the Commission recommends that the lead responsibility for delivery and coordination of rural economic development should be assigned to the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government.
(c) The Minister should be supported by a High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) which should be chaired by the Minister and be composed of senior representation from key departments and agencies involved in rural economic development. Other relevant stakeholders should be required to attend. The committee shall have the power to
- Call on relevant stakeholders to attend HLIC to outline their particular roles and responsibilities, strategies and programmes as they pertain to rural economic development
- Review the annual progress of such agencies on rural development;
(d) The HLIC should be required to draw up a work programme which specifies actions to implement Government Rural Economic Development policy. The Minister shall make appropriate arrangements for monitoring, control and evaluation of the implementation of Rural Economic Development Policy that should include the submission of an Annual Progress Report to the Minister and the Taoiseach/Cabinet.
(e) Relevant Departments, public bodies, regional and local governance structures and local development entities should be required to make appropriate provisions for implementing rural economic development policy in plans and programmes under their remit.
Recommendation 3 A number of areas emerged from the consultation process that will require further analysis in order to determine their real potential. These areas are detailed in the comprehensive research report produced to support the CEDRA process and the Commission recommends that the HLIC examine these areas in the course of their on-going work to support rural economic development.
Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas:
Recommendations Recommendation 4 Government and relevant stakeholders should be required to maximise the potential of available funding mechanisms to support the economic development of rural areas specifically;