Regional development




About the OECD Principles on Rural Policy

The Principles for Rural Policy crystallise over 20 years of the OECD’s work on rural development and were developed through a comprehensive review process with OECD member countries and key stakeholders. They were adopted by the Regional Development Policy Committee 1 March 2019. They are targeted to: i) National ministries dealing with rural areas, rural policies, and sustainable development, notably ministries responsible for regional development, in OECD Members and Partners; subnational levels of government and stakeholders involved in or affected by rural policy (e.g. from civil society, the private sector, academia or financial institutions).


The OECD Principles on Rural Policy seek to:

  • Help Member countries deliver better policies for better lives;
  • Support the commitments of governments to achieving global agendas through future-proof regional development policies, in particular:
  • The Sustainable Development Goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015;
  • The Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015;
  • The UN-Habitat Guiding Principles and Framework for Action on Urban-Rural Linkages to Advance Integrated Territorial Development;
  • Provide guidance on how an integrated and functional approach to the urban-rural continuum can contribute to the economic, environmental and social sustainability of rural areas and to the well-being of their citizens.




 Targeting policy actions for all types of rural areas


Principle 1.     Maximise the potential of all rural areas, by:

  • Leveraging the unique assets of each rural area to adapt and respond to emerging mega-trends (digitalisation, globalisation and trade, climate change, population ageing, and urbanisation); and
  • Adapting policy responses to different types of rural regions including rural areas inside functional urban areas (cities and their commuting zones), rural areas close to cities and rural remote areas.  

Deliver policies at the right geographic scale


Principle 2.     Organise policies and governance at the relevant geographic scale by:

  • Implementing rural policies at different scales that match with functional relationships (e.g. local labour markets, food chains, environmental services and amenities) based on current and future needs;
  • Ensuring that there are effective government mechanisms at the relevant scale to realise rural policy objectives; and
  • Encouraging the efficient and effective provision of public services and infrastructure  (e.g., shared services, integrated service delivery, e-services) in order to maintain quality and accessibility, address market failures, and respond to emerging needs, especially in underserved rural communities. 
 Support rural-urban inter-dependencies  Principle 3.     Support interdependencies and co-operation between urban and rural areas
  • Leveraging the spatial continuity and functional relationships between rural and urban areas in order to inform public investment and programme design; and
  • Carrying out joint strategies and fostering win-win rural-urban partnerships, as appropriate, to promote an integrated development approach.

Adopting integrated and effective strategies to build smart, sustainable and inclusive rural areas fit for the future

 Set a forward looking vision icon

Principle 4.     Set a forward looking vision for rural policies

  • Improving well-being for rural dwellers across economic, social and environmental objectives;
  • Ensuring that responsibilities and resources across levels of government are clearly defined and effectively aligned with national targets and strategies, place-specific needs, and the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Ensuring that rural policy objectives benefit from foresight studies, are measureable at different scales (administrative and functional) and connect to policy levers; 
  • Providing access to data tools such as geographic information databases, smart data and small area data and strengthening capacity building in order to help national and sub national governments involved in rural policy-making prepare for demographic change, climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy, digitalisation and the next production revolution; and
  • Promoting integrated spatial planning that considers such factors as environmental quality, waste management, natural resources development, community attractiveness, climate change mitigation and adaptation and population ageing and out-migration.

Principle 5.     Leverage the potential of rural areas to benefit from globalisation, trade and digitalisation

  • Creating an enabling environment for rural areas to identify and invest in their areas of competitive advantage such as tradeable activities and adding value to rural assets;
  • Investing in digital connectivity to enable the use of next generation technologies in rural areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and blockchain technologies among others; and
  • Facilitating the decentralisation of production (e.g. renewable energy and 3D manufacturing) through supportive policies and regulations; 

Principle 6.     Supporting entrepreneurship to foster job creation in rural areas

  • Enhancing technological innovation and diffusion in order to overcome the barriers of physical distance and lower density such as higher transportation costs and thin labour markets present in rural areas;
  • Promoting innovation and value-added activities in established (e.g., agricultural and industrial production, logistics) and emerging (e.g., bio-economy, renewable energy, biotechnology, tourism) sectors;
  • Supporting the integration of local SMEs into global value chains and the scope for diversification of rural economies through investments in entrepreneurial skills, infrastructure, and cluster initiatives;
  • Supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs in rural areas to access capital (e.g., through finance support schemes, lending to microbusinesses); and
  • Connecting rural people and firms with lifelong educational training opportunities and skills upgrading in universities, research centres, manufacturing extension centres, agricultural advisory services and vocational institutions.

Principle 7.     Align strategies to deliver public services with rural policies

  • Assessing the impact of key sectoral policies (e.g., transportation, health, education) on rural areas and diagnosing where adaptations for rural areas are required (e.g., rural proofing);
  • Recognising where policies and regulations create additional barriers to the  provision of public services in smaller places and responding with innovative solutions;
  • Incentivising innovative practices such as flexible models of service delivery and leveraging advances in digital technologies to deliver e-services (e.g., e-health and remote education); and
  • Developing smart rural villages and towns by promoting digitalisation complemented by training for public sector personnel and residents to navigate and use e-services.




Principle 8.     Strengthen the social, economic, ecological and cultural resilience of rural communities 

  • Ensuring the sustainable management of natural capital, land-use and enabling the creation of value from ecosystem services (e.g., flood protection services, increasing biodiversity on agricultural lands);
  • Supporting a comprehensive approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation for rural areas (e.g., food production, soil management, water use), and developing robust systems for disaster response and recovery;
  • Decarbonising the energy sector by taking advantage of renewable energy opportunities and supporting the shift to a circular economy (e.g. bio-waste, sustainable mining practices);
  • Valuing, promoting, and preserving tradition, heritage and cultural assets; and
  • Ensuring that rural areas have institutional capacity, good governance and funding to fulfil their roles and deliver high quality of life for residents, from youth to seniors. 

Engaging stakeholders in policies for rural areas





Principle 9.     Implement a whole-of-government approach to policies for rural areas

  • Engaging with all sectors and levels of government to integrate national policies that improve the well-being of rural areas;
  • Identifying and addressing the barriers to policy coherence across ministries, public agencies and levels of government; and
  • Setting incentives, regulations and coordination mechanisms to mitigate conflicts, manage trade-offs (e.g., land use, mining, agriculture, energy and water); and
  • Maximising policy complementarities across sectoral strategies through integrated and coordinated rural policies (e.g., coordinating transportation investments with health and education services).



 Principle 10.   Promote inclusive engagement in the design and implementation of rural policy
  • Engaging a diversity of stakeholder voices, including those that are underrepresented and/or marginalised, in the policy process and empowering local and regional stakeholders to be partners in policy elaboration;
  • Engaging with the private and not-for-profit sectors and leveraging their expertise and resources to deliver better outcomes for rural areas; and
  • Harnessing innovative mechanisms and digital technologies to develop new ways of disseminating public information, generating and using data, and consulting and engaging citizens in decision-making (e.g., participating budgeting, rural observatories).




Principle 11.     Foster monitoring, independent evaluation and accountability of policy outcomes in rural areas 

  • Evaluating rural policy initiatives and outcomes and communicating progress in meeting them in an ongoing manner in order to improve policy design and implementation;
  • Developing outcomes indicators in order to assess and benchmark rural well-being through economic, social, environmental and other performance indicators;
  • Providing accessible data that is easy-to use in order to help rural communities and stakeholders identify priorities and monitor progress;
  • Exploring innovative methods of data-collection that address the challenges of confidentiality that are inevitably part of small-area analysis; and
  • Assessing the process and outcomes of different steps of public engagement in order to learn, adjust and improve accordingly. 


Related links

OECD Rural Development










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