Over the past 10 years Rimisp-Latin American Center for Rural Development has increasingly become concerned about the need for a program of research that addresses rural development policy and programming in a very different manner.
Most national governments and international agencies increasingly recognize the need to move beyond the policy formulations derived from the Washington Consensus and the structural adjustment era. Social movements and organizations, as well as many associations representing small and medium entrepreneurs have long argued the need for a new set of public policies to promote the revitalization of rural areas and to address the old and new problems of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. Rural women, indigenous peoples and environmentalists, have forcefully aggregated new dimensions to the agenda of social change in rural Latin America. Provincial and municipal governments add new political strength to the calls for proactive and smart policies to face real issues such as those of joblessness, massive migration, illicit crops and drug trafficking, growing scarcity of water and loss of forests, lack and poor quality of public infrastructure and services including ICTs, and of exclusion of most micro, small and medium enterprises from the opportunities offered by the processes of globalization, urbanization and technical change.
Now is certainly a time when new development perspectives and strategies are emerging and being contested and shaped. Rimisp and its extensive network of partners are particularly well positioned to make a difference in this process. Yet, while many agree in principle with the need to develop more comprehensive rural strategies and policies, there is also an inertia that favors the continuity of conventional ways of thinking and acting. This has been the direct experience of Rimisp in its work with such international agencies as the World Bank (World Development Report 2008) or the Inter-American Development Bank (new Rural Development Strategy and Policy). It is also the case in our work with national governments, such as for example in Argentina during the development of a new National Rural Development Strategy. In short, the step from the general agreement on overall strategic principles and criteria, to their actual implementation through projects or policies of a new type, is hampered by our relative lack of good evidence and rigorous analysis, as well as by the dispersion of initiatives of the stakeholders who could champion the new approaches.
To support and advance these processes there is an enormous need for initiatives that can integrate and synthesize at a regional level in a way that links policy, practice and intellectual debate and that cuts across different areas such as economic and social policy; management of natural resources and the environment; policies for science, innovation and technology; and appropriate utilization of information and communication technologies.. These bold initiatives need multi-actor agents to promote them and lead them through.
To face such a challenge, there is a growing interest in Latin America and the Caribbean in territorial approaches to rural development, from international development agencies, national and sub-national governments, and from social movements and organizations and NGOs. Thanks to the strength of the regional interest in territorial approaches to rural development, there is also a growing demand for policy, programmatic and methodological advice coming from all these different types of public and private agents.
1. Interact in a broad regional and globally-linked network
2. Collectively advance a theoretically-consistent and empirically-tested vision and strategy on how to achieve rural economic growth with poverty reduction, greater equality and sound environmental governance; and
3. Engage effectively in relevant national, regional and international debates on rural development policies and how they are applied in practice.