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The challenge of articulating rural policy in Chile

The adaptation to a new rural paradigm confronts governance challenges

Over the past decades, rural policy has been subject to debate, review and adaptation in most OECD countries. Historically, central governments’ sector-specific policies for natural resources, mainly agriculture, fishing, forestry and the minerals and energy sectors, were the primary mechanism through which OECD countries influenced rural areas. However, the dramatic reduction in farm employment and the emergence of important non-farm niche markets, generated a common understanding across OECD countries that rural policy falls short if being conceived only as agricultural policy. At the same time, the increasing diversity and heterogeneity of rural regions means that one-size-fits-all central government policies were no longer suitable to capture the diversity of rural needs and challenges. The OECD has labelled this policy shift as the “New Rural Paradigm” (see Chapter 2).

This “New Rural Paradigm” requires important changes to include a cross-cutting and multi-level governance approach that is both capable of generating co-ordination and synergies between policies and sensible to place-based realities and idiosyncrasies. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, this New Rural Paradigm is particularly relevant for Chile, given the vast diversity in the characteristics, assets and challenges of its rural areas, and the increasing size of non-farm rural activities. Rural comprehensive and place-based programmes are better adapted to the diverse socio-economic characteristics and productive processes that affect the development of Chile’s rural territories (OECD, 2009a; 2011a). Yet, the adaptation to this new approach confronts, in governance terms, two main challenges: i) the top-down approach of rural development policies within the centralist administrative setting of Chile; and ii) the lack of institutional frameworks and mechanisms for generating co-ordination and synergies between rural development policies.

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