This past month, 350 plus rural development professionals met in Berlin at the Second European Forum on Sustainable Rural Development. By all accounts it was a fruitful meeting:
Philippe Mikos of the European Commission opened today’s Brussels Briefing series by reflecting on some of the messages from Berlin. Complimenting the organizers of the 4 July session for providing a space where the expert discussions of Berlin could be brought ‘out’ to the wider Brussels community, he welcomed the participants from civil society, research, the Commission, EU member states, the ACP community in Brussels, and indeed from regional organizations and agricultural producer groups in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
His main message from Berlin is that “agriculture and rural development are back onto the front stage”, after too long being away. As European evidence of this, he pointed out that some 10-15% of the current 10th European Development Fund will be spent in these areas. Agriculture is also a major element of the emerging EU-Africa Joint Strategy and other policy processes.
More important than the donor community however, he emphasized that agriculture and rural development are taking front stage in the policies and priorities of developing country governments. Governments and other actors have begun to understand that agriculture is the “heart of sustainable growth,” that it is the “rural heart of development … the bones and tissue of sustainable development.”
A second important message from Berlin was the changing composition of the participants and discussants. He noted a much larger civil society contingent, with farmer organizations and representatives especially active in the debates. This was welcomed by Mr. Mikos as representing a “wave of democratization” in which beneficiaries – farmers and their representatives – are actively “involved in the design of policies” on agriculture and rural development.
See more from the 4 July briefing