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Rural Vision
News article31 May 2023Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy3 min read

New insights and lessons learned from the Rural Pact Conference in Sweden

The Rural Pact Conference “Acting for Rural Areas - Sharing Rural Pact Experiences and Learning for the Future took place in Uppsala 3-4 May. Some 150 participants from institutions and NGOs of 27 different Member States gathered on site at Ultuna, campus for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

The focus for the conference was the exchange of ideas and experiences between Member States, and between EU institutions and NGOs, concerning rural development and more specifically about the implementation of the Rural Pact. At the conference dinner, the participants were honoured by the presence of and speech by Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, who gave her view of the Rural Pact and rural areas as a corner stone of democracy and sustainability in Europe.

The conference had a special focus on young people’s involvement and participation in the Rural Pact, with speakers from youth-led initiatives and organisations. Examples of questions in the workshops was how to overcome the challenges linked to generational renewal in farming, and how to get more young people in rural areas to engage in sustainability and benefit from the green transition. A group of rural development students from the university helped with the arrangements, took part in the programme, and met decision makers and stakeholders from all over the Union.

Examples of highlights from the programme are the presentations about how the Rural Pact is shaping in some Member States, showing that the Rural Pact is getting traction, and a following panel discussion on how to engage participants to join the Pact and act for rural areas. Other sessions with interaction and new insights included presentations and workshops about tools and methods for the Rural Pact, and multi-level governance for holistic rural development.

In the open networking and exhibition area, there were presentations of EU projects and initiatives such as DESIRA, FLIARA and GRASS Ceiling to mention some, as well as discussion spots for the four rural vision blocks of action: Stronger, Connected, Resilient and Prosperous. The participants could meet the newly launched Rural Pact Support Office and talk to representatives from both DG AGRI and DG REGIO during the two days in Uppsala.

What about the insights and lessons learned from the conference? Accentuated in the presentation of lessons learned was for example the importance of young people’s knowledge and involvement, that we should interact more with LEADER and local action groups, to use the help and tools provided by the EU, and that the Rural Vision depends on a holistic approach and structure where e.g. farming, environment, services, infrastructure and culture are pieces in a big puzzle. The Director General of the Swedish Board of Agriculture, Christina Nordin, summarised the discussions of the conference by stating that “rural development is a question of democracy”. And the most important lesson is to take advantage of what we already do, all over Europe, and make it even better!

You can read more about the conference, including the document with Lessons learned here: Presentations and documents | Landsbygdsveckan.

The conference was arranged together with ELARD, Local Development Sweden (LUS) and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, and in close dialogue with the Government Offices of Sweden and the European Commission.

The conference was a part of the Swedish Rural Week, a new initiative by the Swedish Rural Network, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The aim was to pay extra attention to rural areas and ongoing initiatives all over Sweden for a whole week – the Rural Week. This initiative was developed within the framework of the EU Rural Vision and can be seen as an example of an action in line with the objectives of the Rural Pact.