For more than two decades, Leader has provided rural communities in the EU with the tools to take an active role in shaping their future. It has enabled rural partners from across different sectors to define common local development goals and strategies and cooperate in the implementation of priority actions. Leader's area-based, bottom-up, partnership-oriented approach has proven successful in mobilising rural stakeholders, building up their skills and capacities, and increasing their sense of ownership of local development processes.
Since its launch in the early 1990s, Leader has grown from a small scale, pilot initiative to a methodological approach in mainstream rural development programming. The number of Local Action Groups, as well as the allocated funding and the EU territory covered, have increased significantly over time.
The EESC is currently preparing an opinion on the lessons learned from the Leader approach, which will also look into its relevance in the context of the CAP debate as well as with respect to the planning of the next financial perspectives. The opinion will also cover links and coherence with other integrated local development instruments, in particular the potential of the Leader approach beyond rural areas (e.g. in the area of urban planning), in the wider framework of the EU Cohesion Policy.
In order to support and feed into the debate, the EESC is organising a hearing on Leader as a tool for local development, which will take place on 20 June 2011.
The hearing will focus in particular on the following issues: