Topic: LEADER – an instrument for spatial justice? – a comparative study across Europe
Keywords: LEADER; spatial justice; social justice; social inclusion; community development
The LEADER acronym specifically references actions that develop the rural economy (Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale). It is aimed at spatial justice and territorial cohesion as trying to reduce rural disadvantages in general in relation to urban areas. Yet, particularly by those who implement it on the ground, LEADER has been viewed primarily as a programme for bottom-up, place-specific rural development. As a consequence, some (but not all) LEADER programmes have been able to target, to a greater or lesser extent, places and types of people considered to be at disadvantage within the rural area . They have done this by targeting actions on, for example, towns and villages with high levels of deprivation, rural women, young people, older people, people with disabilities and migrants – Dax and Oedl-Wieser, 2016; RELOCAL, forthcoming).
Arising from case studies carried out for RELOCAL, a Europe-wide study of the justice of community-level development, this paper asks the question: ‘How and with what results has the LEADER Programme addressed spatial (in)justice across Europe?’. We discuss this question with specific regard to the 2007-2013 and 2014-20 programming periods, across three territorial tiers and drawing from diverse materials assembled to address the multi-dimensional RELOCAL conceptual framework (https://relocal.eu).
We first consider political intentions and policy at the EU level of LEADER; then how EU LEADER policy has been interpreted and implemented through three different national administrations (England, Hungary and Romania); we then focus in on the experience of three respective local action groups (LAGs). We consider the national context of policies for social inclusion and economic development, within the context of increasing territorial and social inequality, both within and between regions. Thus, the paper looks at both social and spatial (territorial) justice questions, and considers (Shucksmith, 2000; RELOCAL, forthcoming) to what extent there are trade-offs in LEADER actions between reducing disparities between rural and urban regions and addressing disparities within the Local Action Group area.