Regional, rural and urban development

Rurban (Rural-Urban) Partnerships


Project summary

Urban and rural areas have different assets that are often complementary and interact within the spatial context of functional regions. These connections between urban and rural areas can improve the exploitation of existing resources as well as increasing the potential of regions in terms of economic activities, well being and equity in the provision of services. The OECD, in collaboration with the European Commission, is using a new analytical framework to assess urban-rural linkages and to help identify the governance forms that will enhance urban-rural interactions. The project focuses on "functional regions"– defined in terms of economic and social activities rather than administrative boundaries – so as to better reflect the true spectrum of rural-urban links. The framework takes into account a broad range of urban-rural interactions, both in terms of socio-economic linkages and governance arrangements. It is based on a matrix that has a spatial dimension (metropolitan regions, network of small and medium-sized cities; and sparsely populated areas with market towns) and a functional dimension (service provision, environmental quality, amenities, and governance).


The aims of the OECD’s "Rurban" project are: to identify and assess formal and informal urban-rural partnerships and assess the role these partnerships can and should play in regional development and in bridging co-ordination gaps in policies for urban and rural dwellers; to understand if formal or informal partnerships are conducive to sustainable regional growth; to analyse the form and function of these partnerships structures; and to assess how and whether these arrangements should be further supported through public policies and/or through regional and rural policy instruments.


The project research is based both on desk and field research. The EC and OECD identified a number of case studies.  Each case study region has a (formal or informal) regional partnership covering both rural and urban areas in the delivery of a key service. The case-studies selected reflect the three different spatial categories identified in the OECD framework.


A key part of the analytical work deals with the spatial definition of functional regions in which urban-rural interactions take place. The study will also highlight the indicators needed to better assess rural-urban linkages. 

 The  focus of the analysis is:

  • Public service delivery
  • Environmental services and amenities 
  • Accessibility and infrastructure


Rural-Urban Partnerships

Rural-Urban Partnerships: An Intregrated Approach to Economic Development (2013)

This report provides a framework to understand the changing relationships between urban and rural areas. Specifically, it documents the characteristics of these partnerships and the factors that can hinder as well as enable rural-urban co-operation.


Three conferences are organised around this project:


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