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The Rural Policy Committee

The Rural Policy Committee convenes six to seven times a year. Its Secretariat consists of about 60 officials and representatives specialised in rural affairs from several ministries and expert organisations. The members of the Secretariat function as liaison officers in their own organisations and are responsible for preparing matters concerning their own specific sectors. In its origins, the Rural Policy Committee was hosted by the Ministry of the Interior, responsible for regional policy. However, after joining the EU in 1995, the committee was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. As it is the case in other countries, by framing rural development within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, a tension of competing priorities and constituencies exists between agricultural and rural policy.

Sources: OECD (2008), OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Finland 2008, OECD Publishing, Paris,; Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (n.d.), “The National Rural Policy Programme and the government rural policy outlines”, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Santiago, development/Rural development programmes/programme policy outlines.html.

The current process of elaboration in parallel of these three policies in Chile - regional development policy, urban development policy and rural development policy - provides a good opportunity to create the right interactions among them.

It will be necessary to have efficient leadership over rural issues

It will be necessary to have an institution with a clear leadership role on rural issues in order to better integrate national rural policies, promote synergies and upgrade the concept of rural development in Chile. The appropriate place that rural policy should occupy within the “government” is an open and long-standing debate in OECD countries.14 The pros and cons of the different options in Chile should thus be carefully analysed, as there is no optimal solution. The agency chosen will need to search for synergies and interactions between the different institutions, and advocate for a higher presence of rural development in the action of the different ministries. Based on the experiences in other OECD countries, Chile seems to have four institutional possibilities to take the lead on rural development:

  • • The Ministry of Agriculture: The Ministry of Agriculture has the advantage of having a long-standing presence and leadership in rural areas. INDAP is the public institution with broader physical presence in rural areas thanks to a network of more than 122 offices. At the same time, the key historical role of agriculture in the Chilean economy, and the fact that for many years rural development was widely identified with agriculture, has given this ministry a kind of leadership over the rural territories. However, the latter also has a drawback, as it can be complex to upgrade the concept and orientation of rural policy from the sectoral/agriculture approach, to a broader and multi-sectoral focus if the leading institution is the Ministry of Agriculture. To confront this challenge, some OECD countries have created a division in charge of rural development in a broad perspective within the Ministry of Agriculture. However, even if rural development were to be recognised as a new field, the ministry could have strong incentives to behave in the traditional sectoral-oriented way.
  • • Creating a new rural development ministry. This option has the advantage that the new institution could be especially designed to cover the area of rural development in a comprehensive and integrated way, beyond the sectoral lens. It could assume the competence of different departments or ministries, as was the case with DEFRA in the United Kingdom (Box 3.3). There are, however, some challenges with this option. First, even if the new institution assumes new responsibilities, it will still be not possible to gather all the rural development relevant areas in a single institution. Second, creating a new institution could make more complex inter-institutional arrangements and co-ordination in the public arena in which there are already many institutions. Finally, the role, relevance and leadership of this ministry could be secondary given the strong dominance of traditional sectoral ministries like MINAGRI.
  • • SUBDERE: The Sub-secretariat of Regional and Administrative Development has the advantage of being an established institution, with long experience acting as “arbiter” to facilitate and foster integrated place-based approaches. It could facilitate the necessary interaction between different ministries and institutions, and help to integrate the territorial dimension and bottom-up perspective from the regions and rural territories. Finally, it would help to consider urban-rural linkages, as SUBDERE deals with both rural and urban development. The main shortcoming of this option is similar to the previous one, the relatively weak institutional position of SUBDERE compared to traditional sectoral ministries. In addition, the multi-task role of SUBDERE, dealing with regional, urban and rural development, even if it could strongly contribute to integrating these highly interconnected areas, could weaken the relevance of rural development, as compared with other options in which a single institution works with the already complex task of rural development.
  • • An inter-ministerial committee of rural development: It would have the advantage of being able to gather a broad set of actors, including the relevant ministries, public agencies, representatives from the territories and from the regions. It could also have a flexible and adaptable organisation, working in different commissions, with different actors associated with different areas of work. However, the experience in Chile shows that it is very difficult to give political relevance, functionality and stability to inter-ministerial committees. In the mid-1990s there was already an attempt to develop an inter-ministerial committee on rural development, but it did not last too long and was dominated by the Ministry of Agriculture. The role and functionality of more recent inter-ministerial experiences, like the inter-ministerial Committee on Infrastructure, City and Territory, have been very limited (OECD, 2013a). Yet, as mentioned above, some international experiences like the Rural Policy Committee of Finland have been more successful, thanks among others to clear political support to the institution.

The institution leading rural development should act as an inter-sectoral rural champion. The institution chosen would need to upgrade the concept of rural development in each of the ministries and agencies and down to the territories. Evidence across OECD countries (OECD, 2006; 2008a; 2010a) provides some valuable lessons to be considered in the new institutional setting for a successful implementation:

  • • Win strong institutional support through authority delivered by the President to deal, manage and co-ordinate rural policy; report directly to the President and/or to a relevant parliamentary committee, as a sign of the strong relevance and support of rural development. In other OECD countries like Canada or the United States, rural policy is only important if either the Prime Minister or the President think it should be important. Otherwise it languishes.
  • • Ability to co-ordinate the various sectoral ministries.
  • • Extend the use of shared and upgraded rural typologies (see Chapter 1) across ministries and in the dissemination of statistical information.
  • • Have its own financial capacity.
  • • Broaden the scope of support for rural concerns and for rural communities to a “whole-of-government” perspective.
  • • Be in a position to ensure the integration of urban and rural policies and to address urban-rural linkages.
  • • Ensure that territorial characteristics and sub-national visions are taken into account, and that there is fluent vertical co-ordination in designing and implementing rural development policies.

• Make a clear distinction of rural from agriculture (strengthening the fact that rural challenges extend beyond those of the agricultural sector), and help to re-engage the two in a positive, mutually supportive relationship.

Box 3.3. The place of rural policy within the government in OECD countries

The place that rural policy should occupy within the “government” is an open debate. In many OECD countries, the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture has been the one which traditionally interacted with rural areas has derived in the creation of a department in charge of rural development within this ministry. This is the case of Canada, for example, which created a Rural Secretariat within the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food and of the United States, which has an Undersecretary for Rural Development within the US Department of Agriculture. Some countries even restructure and change the name of the ministry in order to highlight the new rural development component. This is the case, for example, of Mexico, which named its relevant ministry the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA in its Spanish acronym). The previously mentioned solutions, where the Ministry of Agriculture adopts the rural development issue, are often second best because the inter-sectoral aspect of rural development is significantly limited being within one sectoral ministry, and although rural development is recognised as a new field, the ministry has strong incentives to behave in the traditional way given that agricultural interests are generally better organised than rural development interests.

External factors play a determining role, particularly in the case of EU member countries, which have to cope with external funding streams and rules that influence the decision of where to locate rural development policies. The two main streams of EU funds are the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the (Regional) Structural Funds. Since rural development funds have emerged from the CAP (the so-called “second pillaf’) and not from regional funds (although many countries, including Finland, have utilised structural funds for rural development), the straightforward place for rural development policies within European countries’ government structures has tended to be the Ministry of Agriculture, in charge of administering CAP funds.

Alternatively, several countries have sought to break the inertia by creating a new body with expanded scope and explicit jurisdiction over rural development policies or by assigning this jurisdiction to another ministry. An example of the first case is the United Kingdom, where the same central authority, DEFRA, embodies wider responsibilities over a broader set of areas, including the environment, food and rural affairs. An example of the second case is Australia, where the Department of Transport and Regional Services (DOTARS) has primary responsibility over regional policy (which in Australia is synonymous with rural policy). Finally, some countries have created a broad-based inter-ministerial committee to deal with rural development. This is the case of the Rural Policy Committee in Finland that brings together nine ministries, other public organisations and federations, as well as research centres and private stakeholders. Although it still has a relatively weak institutional role within the government, it plays a very important role in the governance of rural policy, both as an instrument for bringing together diverse actors and as an advocate for rural communities.

Sources: OECD (2008), OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Finland 2008, OECD Publishing, Paris,; OECD (2010), OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Quebec, Canada 2010, OECD Publishing, Paris,

This institution should thus act as a “rural champion”, working to guarantee that rural remains on the agenda and is not ignored or diluted by the multiple priorities of sectoral institutions. Nevertheless, it is also important to recognise that line ministries will always be responsible for the bulk of delivering policies that affect rural firms and households. Major ministries like Mining, Public Works, Health and Education, are unlikely to be greatly influenced by another department or a monitoring committee. The best that can be expected is that they pay more attention to the broader impact of their policies on rural territory.

Governance arrangements will be necessary to support the role of the leading institution

Governance arrangements can help to overcome sectoral approaches and give higher salience to rural development. Overcoming sectoral approaches in favour of an integrated policy approach to rural development is not an easy task. Nominating a rural champion is necessary, but not enough. Parallel co-ordination and governance arrangements will be necessary to enable the promotion of a comprehensive rural development policy and to encourage the various institutions that operate in the field of rural development to work together, ensuring that their sectoral priorities towards rural areas and their individual policies are not contradictory (OECD, 2006a). Various governance options could help to support this process in Chile, including:

  • • an inter-ministerial working group on rural development
  • • a potential institutional re-organisation
  • • rural proofing arrangements
  • • joint, inter-ministerial/inter-agencies programmes/funds
  • • better inter-institutional articulation of central government agencies at the regional level.

An inter-ministerial working group on rural development can support the role of the rural champion

A working group on rural development at ministerial level could help to give higher salience to rural development on the agendas of the different ministries. Currently there are several of these committees led by the Presidential General Secretariat of Chile on different inter-sectoral areas like environment and sustainability or the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure, City and Territory (Box 3.4). An inter-ministerial working group on rural development could help to promote the role of the “rural champion” in broadening the scope of support for rural concerns and for rural communities to a “whole-of-government” approach.

A re-organisation of public institutions could help

A more coherent organisation of rural development institutions and roles could help to reduce overlaps and improve rural development co-ordination. As mentioned above, there are numerous public actors intervening in rural development policies, often without co-ordination and interaction among them. There are issues directly related with rural development like fisheries, agriculture, water management or environment, allocated in different ministries. There is also institutional duplicity or overlapping with many institutions working in parallel in the same field (e.g. water management and irrigation). Finally, often there is a lack of synergies between public agencies working with highly inter-related subjects (e.g. public agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture).

Box 3.4. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure,

City and Territory (CICYT)

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure, City and Territory (Comite Interministerial de Infraestructura, Ciudad y Territorio, CICYT) is led by the Presidential General Secretariat (Secretaria General de la Presidencia, SEGPRES) and gathers several ministries involved in urban matters, including the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (MINVU), the Ministry for Public Works (MOP) and the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications (MTT). The CICYT was created to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the government’s reconstruction plan following the February 2010 earthquake. While it remains active, its role and functionality beyond reconstruction activities has been limited. This committee has its roots in the Inter-ministerial Committee for Urban Development and Land Management created in 1996, and in the Inter-Ministerial Committee City and Territory (COMICYT) launched in 2000 by the President of the Republic to promote inter-sectoral co-ordination at the ministerial level on issues of urban and territorial development.

Source: OECD (2013), OECD Urban Policy Reviews: Chile 2013, OECD Publishing, Paris,

An in-depth analysis should be made in Chile to document the overlapping areas and to suggest a more coherent re-organisation of subjects. Other OECD countries facing similar governance challenges opted for different options. Some countries have unified several rural development tasks in a single ministry. This is the case with DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs) in the United Kingdom, created in June 2001 to substitute the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. DEFRA broadened the focus of rural policy to inter-related areas like, environment, biodiversity, plants and animals, sustainable development and the green economy, food, farming and fisheries, animal health and welfare, environmental protection and pollution control, and rural communities. Other countries, like Sweden, have merged public agencies and institutions in an attempt to reduce fragmentation and public spending (Box 3.5). Developing a more coherent institutional organisation of tasks in Chile could help to develop a clearer government structure, reducing overlaps across agencies and institutions, and promoting greater synergies across policies.

Box 3.5. Re-organisation of regional development public agencies in Sweden

A reorganisation of national agencies involved in regional development took place in 2009 in Sweden. Three agencies - the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (NUTEK), the Swedish National Rural Development Agency and the Swedish Institute for Growth Policy Studies - were merged into two, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillvaxtverket) and the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis (Tillvaxtanalys). The objectives behind this merger were: i) develop a clearer government structure and reduce overlaps across agencies; ii) ensure greater cross-sectoral collaboration across policies, in particular between the regional and rural development policies; iii) enhance the focus on growth in the various territorial policies; and iv) clarify the mandate of the different agencies with a greater focus on evaluation from the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis (Tillvaxtanalys).

Sources: OECD (2010), OECD Territorial Reviews: Sweden 2010, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Yet, whatever institutional reorganisation is implemented, it will not be feasible or natural to try to integrate all the areas that impact rural development under one ministry/department. A broad number of institutions and public agencies will always intervene in rural areas, requiring interaction and co-ordination arrangements among them.

Rural proofing will help to give higher salience to rural development

Chile could benefit from implementing rural proofing arrangements. A well-organised and institutionally supported “rural champion” will help to promote coherence. However, sectoral agencies and ministries always tend to be reluctant to adapt to requests from one of their peers, and tend to have a sectoral focus. To deal with this challenge, some OECD countries have adopted rural proofing mechanisms. The overall goal of rural proofing is to ensure and monitor that all domestic policies and the different institutions and sectors take into account rural circumstances and particularities. Rural proofing arrangements are normally based on ex ante ministerial assessment and review of rural development coherence done by each government body (“policy mainstreaming”) or on ex post regional assessment evaluation of different ministries’ policy decisions on rural areas (Box 3.6).

Ideally, rural proofing mechanisms should be backed up with legislation requiring the different ministries and institutions to collaborate in implementing these measures. The implementation of these arrangements in Chile could clearly help to give higher salience to rural development among the different ministries and public agencies, and promote coherence between the different policies implemented in rural areas. Rural proofing arrangements will probably need to be carried out not only among central institutions in Santiago, but in the regions among deconcentrated public agencies.

Box 3.6. Rural proofing in the United Kingdom and Canada

Rural proofing searches to ensure that the needs and interests of rural people, communities and businesses are properly considered and integrated in the development and implementation of all policies and programmes. Rural proofing arrangements are normally based on ex ante ministerial assessment and review of rural development coherence done by each government body during the policy design stage (“policy mainstreaming”) or on ex post regional and rural assessment and review (evaluation) of different ministries’ policy decisions on rural areas done by a specific internal or external agency.

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