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The rural lens system (Canada)

Established at the end of the 1990s, the rural lens includes a checklist for determining if policy initiatives or programmes address rural priorities. The checklist of considerations is as follows: How is this initiative relevant to rural and remote Canada? Is the impact specific to a selected rural or remote environment or region? Have the most likely positive and negative effects on rural Canadians been identified and, where relevant, addressed? Have rural Canadians been consulted during the development or modification of the initiative? How is the benefit to rural Canadians maximised? (E.g. co-operation with other partners, development of local solutions for local challenges, flexibility for decision making).

Within Canada’s Rural Secretariat, a group of public servants administer the Canadian Rural Lens with colleagues in other departments in applying the rural lens to new policy initiatives. The officials responsible for the rural lens can advise their minister in the Agriculture and Agri-Food Department (AAFC) on whether or not to support a new initiative in the Cabinet. Of course, they only get involved with policies that have a rural angle. The rural lens has been somewhat successful as it has led to changes in several federal departments that have improved their services to rural regions. If the Rural Lens staff thinks that the rural perspective has not been properly presented, then they try to influence the policy proposal accordingly. The objective is not to advocate for putting rural considerations first, but to ensure that decisions are fully informed (i.e. of the implications for rural communities). Experience with the rural lens shows that it is crucial to carry out a cross-ministerial examination early in the policy process.

Sources: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2013), “Introduction: What is rural proofing?”, Crown Copyright, London, www.gov.uk/rural-proofing-guidance:

www.defra.gov.uk/crc/documents: OECD (2010), OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Quebec, Canada 2010, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264082151-en: OECD (2011), OECD Rural Policy Reviews: England, United Kingdom 2011, OECD Publishing, Paris,

http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264094444-en.

Despite the benefits associated with the concept of rural proofing, there are difficulties in implementing the concept. England and Canada have faced difficulties in implementing rural proofing due to the difficulties in the ability for any single department to influence the behaviour of another department. In Canada, the concept has been dropped in recent years.

It would be highly recommendable to extend the use of joint inter-institutional programmes and funds

Joint programmes and funds for rural development are a way to promote co-ordination and synergies between sectoral initiatives and programmes. The inter-institutional interactions in the design of these programmes drive to complement the vision, knowledge and approach of two or more institutions. At the same time, these arrangements can result in efficiency improvements, as individual resources will be summed, and especially because the resulting programme can generate synergies. The benefits and outcomes of an integral programme would be thus much higher than the sum of the parts of individual programmes or funds, and would contribute to provide a more comprehensive public support to rural areas.

As mentioned previously, inter-institutional programmes in Chile are still the exception more than the norm. The highly sectoralised national investment system (OECD, 2009a) and the lack of institutional frameworks for promoting inter-institutional interactions result in these experiences occurring in an ad hoc manner, normally as a result of the personal relationship among heads of public institutions.

However, Chile has had some successful inter-institutional initiatives that could be replicated. This is particularly the case with the “Chile Emprende” programme. This programme was already highlighted in the 2009 OECD Territorial Review of Chile as a positive example not only of inter-institutional co-ordination, but of a territorial approach adapted to the requirements and potentialities of the different territories in which it operated, and in which local actors had a strong voice in the management of the programme. This programme, however, matured in only two regions, particularly in the region of Araucania in the area of tourism. There are also some other interesting initiatives in other, non-rural development, areas, as the case of the inter-sectoral programme of social protection “Chile Crece Contigo”. This programme deals with child development, understanding that this is a multi-dimensional task involving health, biological, physical and social factors, not only of children, but also of mothers and parents. The programme counts on the involvement and coordinated participation of different public institutions including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Work and the National Women Service. A crucial factor for the success of this inter-sectoral programme is that it was developed by a national law, providing it with institutional backing, stability and continuity.15 This programme could be taken as an example to be replicated in the area of rural development.

Programming agreements could be used to finance rural development

Chile should consider a more active use of the existing programming agreements (convenios de programacion) in the area of rural development. Programming agreements are a main tool that allows formalising inter-sectoral and/or multi-level priorities through a sort of binding legal contract (Box 3.7). A main advantage is that these investment initiatives allow multi-year budgeting. At the same time, they allow the participation of regional and local governments, thus promoting multi-level governance interactions and co-responsibility in the design and finance of the initiative. However, this mechanism still has very limited use. It is normally used by the Ministry of Public Works or by the Ministry of Health for financing big infrastructure initiatives already in their sectoral plans with the financial support of FNDR regional government resources (OECD, 2009a; 2013a). This mechanism is rarely used to formalise inter-institutional programmes in the area of rural development. Therefore, it could be much further promoted as a way to formalise and give legal support to comprehensive rural development initiatives.

Box 3.7. Programming agreements

Programming agreements are formal agreements between one or more regional governments and one or more national ministries or public agencies, detailing measures and procedures to be undertaken in projects of common interest over a specified period of time. These agreements can also include other public or private national, regional or local institutions. For the resources to be made available, the agreements have to respect the following stages: i) formulation of the idea: to identify projects that address regional problems effectively in the context of the regional development strategy; ii) the signing of a protocol of purpose which initiates negotiations between the parties; iii) deciding on projects and programmes: project decision making, pre-investment studies if they do not exist, technical units for the investigation’s monitoring and results; iv) drafting the programming agreement: defining rights and responsibilities of the parties involved; and v) presentation of the agreement to the regional council (the main regional government institution) for approval and signature. Projects are carried out using the resources of both line ministries and regional governments (grants from the National Fund for Regional Development). These agreements offer a useful legal framework for co-ordinating regional and national priorities and responsibilities. Until now they have been mostly used for shared planning and financing of large infrastructure projects.

Source'. OECD (2009), OECD Territorial Reviews: Chile 2009, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264060791-en.

One way to further promote their use is to associate a system of incentives, e.g. leveraging a financial incentive when two or more institutions agree to work together, co-ordinating their interventions and resources through programming agreements. Different OECD countries apply systems of incentives to promote inter-institutional co-operation, especially in the case of inter-municipal agreements (see below). In Chile, this incentive system could give a premium for the participation of sub-national actors such as municipalities, which normally do not take part in these initiatives.

 
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