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30.1 Local policy formation in the context of rurality, remoteness and depopulation

5419.0114 (Kapteynborg)
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
9:00 - 10:30


Prof. Dr. Stefanie Dühr
Professor Of Urban And Regional Planning
University of South Australia

Policy and governance challenges for a more balanced settlement pattern in Australia


Australia’s population distribution and urban settlement structure is dominated by a handful of large metropolitan centres along Australia’s coastline. Since the early 1970s Australia has depended on immigration in order to achieve population growth and workforce renewal, with traditionally a majority of international migrants settling in the largest cities. This has resulted in considerable challenges for growing metropolitan cities, but also for different types of regional towns. This paper addresses the research question of how expected changes in population and economic growth is considered in contemporary Australian urban and regional planning frameworks, and how such planning policies are aligned with regional economic development and infrastructure strategies. Conceptually, the paper is guided by the international literature on balanced spatial development and spatial policy coordination. Methodologically, the paper draws on a desk study analysis of policy frameworks from two neighbouring states, Victoria and South Australia, which are facing different population trends. The analysis shows that the two states are pursuing different approaches to using spatial planning as guiding frameworks for more decentralized settlement structured and the coordination of regional policy and infrastructure funding.
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Donatella Gasparro
Researcher & Phd Candidate
University of Münster

Memories and hunches of life otherwise: re-valuing rurality and subsistence for degrowth futures, learning from the Souths-within-the-North.


In this article I argue for a radical inclusion of rural areas and of subsistence-oriented economies in degrowth scholarship and proposals, exploring the potential of Southern European rural peripheries as starting points for envisioning socio-ecologically sustainable futures. I focus on bringing to the center of degrowth imaginaries several marginalized entities – reproductive work, rural areas, subsistence economies, and the Souths-within-the-North – creating bridges across different degrowth-aligned fields. Starting from the materialist ecofeminist contribution, I argue for revaluing a subsistence approach, and for degrowth to take seriously 'putting reproduction back at the center', drawing on Mies and the ‘Bielefeld school’. I then address the gap in degrowth scholarship in regard to the rural, which, even in critical studies, is persistently obscured by the urban. I thus mobilize rural geography to argue for a systematic inclusion of the countryside in degrowth ideas of the future, and draw on peasant and critical agrarian studies to revalue some common senses of peasant ‘moral’ economies. Lastly, I propose a revaluation of the Souths-within-the-North, focusing on Southern Italy and building on Cassano’s Southern Thought. These peripheries, always ‘lagging behind’ the North in the growth race, could be reinterpreted as the core of a different society, where subsistence common senses still persist. Finally, I propose potential degrowth policy areas and research paths to kick-start a renewed attention to the rural, and to envision a degrowth society truly reorganized around joyous sufficiency for all.
Matthias Kokorsch
Academic Director
University Centre Of The Westfjords

Community resilience: a useful concept for declining Icelandic communities?


Many rural villages in Iceland face socio-economic and demographic challenges. Causes are usually a combination of individual actions and mobility, aspects of spatiality and the structural change of local economies in tandem with the loss of the dominant economic mainstay. Particularly (former) resource-dependent communities are in a vulnerable state and face structural unemployment, out-migration and social erosion, and a low potential for innovation. But how should communities be dealt with, where neither endogenous nor exogenous strategies have helped to overcome adverse effects of structural change(s)? What can be done in places that are stuck in a continuous downward spiral; places in which the development path has been so profoundly disturbed that any sort of equilibrium is beyond reach? The question is thus how much national policies can and should do to halt a seemingly pervasive urbanisation process.
This presentation focuses on regional development policies in Iceland, discussing aspects of municipality amalgamations, path-dependency, and community transformation. A critical reflection of community resilience serves as theoretical foundation. This reflection takes up some of the main criticism and projects it onto Iceland; a country that can serve as magnifier in the exploration of community resilience for a variety of reasons. Shortcomings of existing definitions, the role of politics and agency as well as the determination of equilibria and the question of an endpoint to resilience are the essential strands of argumentation.
Erik Logar
Junior Researcher, Research Centre

Evaluation of regional policy measures in Slovenia in the programming period 2014-2020: a comparative approach


Almost all countries in the world face the problem of regional disparities caused by different natural conditions, social, historical or other characteristics. Countries seek to reduce these disparities through regional policies, but they are largely unsuccessful. The reason for this is the complexity of regional policy, as it involves horizontal (regional) and vertical intertwining of different topics (economic, entrepreneurial, ecological, sociological) and decision-making levels ("multi-level governance"), as well as different interests of public actors.

Slovenia has a history of more than fifty years of regional policy. Regional policy has become an important part of development policy, as it provides for the construction or renewal of infrastructure in Slovenian regions, supports capacity building, promotes entrepreneurship and tourism development, supports entrepreneurial investments with grants and repayable funds, creates spatial conditions for business development, and promotes strategic development and regional marketing. Despite many achievements of Slovenian regional policy, its implementation is still characterized by insufficient inter-ministerial coordination, lack of integrated strategic regional projects, the dominance of local communities, lack of focus on key issues, inconsistency between development and spatial planning, and insufficient monitoring and evaluation of projects, programs, and institutions at the regional level.

In presentation we will present regional policy objectives for the period 2014-2020, present foreign practices in the field of regional policy evaluation and promotion of regional development, develop a methodological framework for general and in-depth evaluation of regional policy and its measures, and evaluate Slovenian regional policy.
Dr. Ilinca-Valentina Stoica
University of Bucharest

Trajectories of demographic transformations in the rural area of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania


In many parts of Europe, one of the most worrying phenomena in recent decades is the decline of the population, the associated demographic transformations, and land abandonment. In this regard, Romania, like other Eastern European countries, is facing a deep demographic crisis after the collapse of the communist regime (1989). This is particularly visible in the phenomena of depopulation and demographic ageing against a background of high migration, with long-term consequences for economic and social sustainability. In this context, the current paper focuses on investigating the demographic changes in the rural area overlapping the Carpathian Mountains (comprising about 25% of the country's communes). Overall, this region is considered one of the most fragile in terms of demographic features. In order to identify different trajectories and to establish a hierarchy, several relevant indicators (such as population dynamics, changes in the share of the population aged 65 and over, ageing of the working-age population) were calculated on the basis of official statistical data. Further on, a complex index was computed to provide an integrated perspective, by aggregating the indicators. The results reflect a very mixed picture, with many villages suffering serious decline, on the verge of extinction, while at the other end of the spectrum, there are settlements that have registered population growth (especially around cities, in attractive tourist places, or in favorable natural areas). To understand these divergent trajectories, the main driving forces were identified, as well as the implications of the current situation for future territorial development.

Session host

Matthias Kokorsch
Academic Director
University Centre Of The Westfjords

Josefina Syssner
Linkoping University



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl