AGA Brussels__ Looking back from the future in 2030 – what will the international development agenda look like? If the challenges and opportunities posed by today’s rural transformation are to be addressed according to Agenda 2030, a broader and more inclusive approach will be needed which helps to identify strategies of donors and IFIs to be more prepared and resilient to achieve the ambitious SDGs and their targets in the rural space in times of uncertainty and complexity.
The keynote speech delivered by Steve Waddell focused on dealing with the complexity of operating in a world where major trends are shifting. Speakers then discussed the strong case to broaden the rural agenda, for example by being more sensitive to rural-urban dynamics and placing more emphasis on south-south research and science for solutions that cater to both private and public sectors. Furthermore, it was raised that there is a demand for inclusive processes that support rural economic development, for example family agriculture, empowering youth and women as the backbone of rural communities and having farmers organisations at the center of solutions.
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High level forum__ For the first time, the AGA was accompanied by a High Level Forum which took place on the topic of rural transformation. Discussions were broad and covered financing and investments, migration, youth, employment, trade and partnerships among many others. The European Commission set the stage with the welcoming speech, which emphasised that the development paradigm is substantially modified after Addis Ababa, and funding now has to focus on a combination of ODA, domestic resource mobilisation and investment to be sustainable. This is because ODA creates enabling factors although it does not directly trigger economic development and jobs. ODA instead plays a catalytic role for policy dialogue and investments for sustainable development.
Panelists discussed the need to closely link rural and urban areas to create jobs and enable prosperous rural futures. There is a need for physical linkages, but also for social and cultural linkages as youth will only remain in rural areas if they are not left behind culturally, materially and economically. There is also need to move away from the dichotomy of rural-urban definitions as bipolar as there is a missing middle that shapes the reality of rural populations economically and socially. Furthermore, agriculture and rural development will only be sustainable if they are part of a broader development framework. For example there is a critical need to pursue the outstanding agriculture trade reform agenda and strengthen capacity to access markets as trade transaction costs are especially high in the agriculture sector and agricultural products are still subject to much higher tariffs than manufactured goods. Finally the forum focused on the fact that rural transformation will only succeed if it is enabled by governments but led by the private sector through policies, infrastructure and regulations.
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