R-06/03 Integrated Rural Development: A Review of the Literature
Summary Integrated Rural Development (IRD) has become a buzz-word in debates about rural development policy in Europe. IRD has become the label attached to a new approach to rural development support in the European Union. IRD has been used as a mobilizing concept to help unify a range of rural development interests. IRD is also a common term used to label so-called 'bottom up' participatory approaches to rural development in local rural areas. Current conceptions of IRD are poorly theorized in Europe. Like its relative "sustainable development", part of the strength, appeal and utility of the concept of IRD lies in its vagueness and ambiguity. Debates about IRD among practitioners and social scientists in Europe touch upon a set of wider themes in social science and social theory that extend beyond the rural realm. These includes issues of: multi-level governance; endogenous development. While IRD may be useful in mobilizing opinion on the shortcomings of sectoral approaches to rural development, it remains only loosely-defined. The risk is that the concept becomes 'all things to all people' and loses any sense of analytical rigour.