Regional development

Regional Development Policy


What is regional development?

Regional development is a broad term but can be seen as a general effort to reduce regional disparities by supporting (employment and wealth-generating) economic activities in regions. In the past, regional development policy tended to try to achieve these objectives by means of large-scale infrastructure development and by attracting inward investment.

Past policies have failed to reduce regional disparities significantly and have not been able to help individual lagging regions to catch up, despite the allocation of significant public funding. The result is under-used economic potential and weakened social cohesion.



The Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC) was created in 1999 with the goal of identifying the nature of territorial challenges and assisting governments in the assessment and improvement of their territorial policies.  Through its mandate today, the Committee aims to serve as the premier international forum for senior-level policy makers to identify, discuss, develop, and disseminate a vision of regional development policy that is place-based, multi-level, multi-sectoral, evidence-based and innovative.

The Committee also seeks to enhance well-being and living standards in all region types, from cities to rural areas, and improve their contribution to national performance and more inclusive and resilient societies. To this aim, the Committee promotes the design and implementation of policies that are adapted to the relevant territorial scales or geographies, and that focus on the main factors that:

  • sustain competitive advantages;
  • generate stronger, fairer and liveable regional economies; and
  • promote effective and innovative governance at all levels of government. 

"Increasingly, member countries recognise that national economic prosperity depends upon realising the full economic potential of all regions." (Paul LeBlanc, Chair of the RDPC at the  Ministerial meeting 2013).


  Graphic: Regional disparities - disposable income 2014 


A new approach

OECD work on regional development recognises that a new approach to regional development is emerging; one that promises more effective use of public resources and significantly better policy outcomes. This involves a shift away from redistribution and subsidies for lagging regions in favour of measures to increase the competitiveness of all regions.

Some key features of this new approach to regional development include:


  • a development strategy that covers a wide range of direct and indirect factors that affect the performance of local firms;
  • a focus on regional specific assets, and less on top-down investments and transfers;
  • an emphasis on opportunity rather than on disadvantage or need for support;
  • a collective/negotiated governance approach involving national, regional and local government plus other stakeholders, with the central government taking a less dominant role.


OECD work on regional development covers a number of inter-related fields:


  • statistics and indicators
  • regional innovation
  • multi-level governance and public finance
  • water governance
  • urban and metropolitan policy
  • rural development


The relationship between these different dimensions of regional development are explored in specific national contexts by means of territorial reviews. Quantitative analysis is undertaken using the OECD Regional Database and the OECD Metropolitan database which contain regional statistics and indicators for OECD member countries.