Rural social policy and rural proofing
– in Finland, Norway, Great Britain and Canada
This report describes rural social policy in Norway and Finland, and the use of “Rural Proofing” in Finland, Great Britain and Canada. The report has been produced for the Parliamentary Rural Areas Committee (Parlamentariska landsbygdskommittén).
The sections on Finland and Norway describe how rural social policy is structured in those countries, its objectives, and the challenges and success factors that have been identified. There are many similarities between Sweden and these two countries but also numerous differences which alter the preconditions for how policy is implemented. Norway and Finland employ both targeted and broad rural social policies in order to integrate a rural perspective into all policy areas and take specific measures when deemed relevant to do so. Norway’s system is similar to that in Sweden. Rural social policy and regional policy are organised under specific ministries and are delegated down to regional level. In Finland, policy is organised in a more inter-sectoral and horizontal way with a council for rural social policy and work groups.
Finland, Canada and the United Kingdom have been examined with regard to rural proofing. Rural proofing is a way of illuminating the consequences of policy decisions for rural areas so as to prevent negative outcomes. The systems used in these three countries are similar but there are also a number of differences. Moreover, policy differs in the countries that make up the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland, a statutory requirement has been imposed in 2016 that makes rural proofing an obligatory measure, while in the other parts of the UK, it has been more or less optional. In England, rural proofing is mandatory but there is no follow-up. In Finland and Canada, rural proofing has been optional. Consequently, in all of the investigated countries, rural proofing has not been implemented consistently. The statutory requirement in Northern Ireland has not been in force long enough to make it possible to evaluate the effects. Where rural proofing has been optional, in some cases that has been the prerequisite for the policy being introduced at all.
In general, all the reports highlight the importance of limiting the geographical area in question and defining the objectives to be achieved. Clearly defined and evaluable objectives and customised statistics are deemed as being essential factors for follow-up and evaluation.