Meet our members | Lidija Pavić-Rogošić: the role of rural communities in the achievement of the SDGs

This page is also available in

Image
Lidija Pavić-Rogošić, member of the NAT section of the EESC

Lidija Pavić-Rogošić has been a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) from the Diversity Europe Group (GR-III) since 2013. She represents the Croatian association ODRAZ-Sustainable Community Development. She is currently a member of the NAT section and her work focuses in particular on sustainable development goals and the development of rural areas.

What drives you to be an active and engaged EESC and NAT Section Member? How do you make the link with your work (and your life) back home?

My motivation stems from my interest in the development of civil society and deliberative democracy, as well as in sustainable development and policies.

I work in the association ODRAZ - Sustainable Community Development, but also have experience of work in the public sector. This experience, including my education as an architect/spatial planner and my master degree in the practice of social change, gives me a broader view of development problems and possible ways of solving these issues.

Civil society has a responsibility and an important role in participating in decision-making processes as an articulated voice of citizens and the community, as a corrector of public sector practice, but also as a catalyst for development.

Although our focus is on bottom-up initiatives and community organisation, we are aware that public policies and the "top-down" approach also influence development. The combination and balance of those two approaches, but also political will, enables sustainable development in practice.

Although ODRAZ's focus is on sustainable community development, i.e. a bottom-up approach and community organisation, we are aware that public policies and "top-down" approach also influence development. The combination and balance of those two approaches, but also political will, enables sustainable development in practice. This is especially true for rural communities, given that a large part of these areas do not have the vital strength to start the process on their own. A cross-sectoral partnership and learning from good EU practices (e.g. LEADER* / Community-led-local-initiatives) are essential.

My organization is one of the founders of the Croatian Network for Rural Development, we founded the first Local Action Group (LAG) in Croatia, we were the initiators of the first Croatian Rural Parliament, etc. We are also members of the National Rural Network. Therefore, I believe that I can contribute to the work of NAT and EESC and to visibility of civil society priorities by suggesting topics and by participating in preparing opinions. An important task is informing Croatian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on what we do at the EESC, as well as distributing the opinions and other information. Therefore, on the ODRAZ's website, we have a sub-page dedicated to the work of the EESC.

You are currently the Rapporteur for the EESC opinion on the long-term strategy on rural areas. What is your take on the concrete implementation of this Vision and on the Rural Pact?

The European Commission's long-term Vision for Rural Areas is a long-awaited initiative. Proposals for an Action Plan, including the Rural Pact for engaging actors at EU, national, regional and local levels to support the Vision are welcome, as are those for the establishment of a Rural Observatory and a Rural proofing mechanism.

The Commission commits to delivering through the Rural Pact and the Action Plan. However, I think that so much depends on having the buy-in of all Member States, regions and local communities. The key to delivering the Vision is having a fully-funded Action Plan with clear targets and timetable for transparent measurement. If the Action Plan is delivered, there will be real grounds for an optimistic, confident future for rural Europe.

The Commission should also ensure consistency and added value between the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other policies. In my view, the implications of the design and content of the Commission's new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and CAP strategic plans for each Member State for the long-term Vision should be clarified.

I also believe that the implementation of the Rural Pact requires the Commission to create a governance model that includes local governments, local businesses, social partners and civil society organisations to ensure that local voices are involved fully so that the long-term Vision could be successfully implemented. The Pact should learn from the experience of the best of LEADER* and Community-led-local-development (CLLD) and the Commission and Member States should be active facilitators and funders of pilot projects.

In summary, I believe that more ongoing engagement with and empowerment for local rural/urban civil society organisations is needed for the Vision to be fully understood and inclusive.

You are also active on the implementation of the SDGs both at the EESC and within your organisation back home. What is the role of rural communities in the achievement of the SDGs?

Sustainable rural transformation is needed to achieve the sustainable development goals, prosperity and supporting the principle of "no one left behind". That includes cross-cutting policies that directly affect more than one dimension of rural development. Appropriate rural development strategies are necessary to achieve SDGs.

Transforming the economic structure of rural areas is a sustainable path for rural development. Technologies can help overcome the rural-urban division. Greater connectivity can make remote work more accessible. Countries that have managed to reduce both rural poverty and inequality have invested in infrastructure and public services and expanded social protection in rural areas.

Greater implementation of circular and conservation practices, as well as renewed efforts to strengthen the role of local institutions and incentives in natural and environmental resource management are important for sustainable rural transformation and the achievement of the SDGs. Rural development strategies should be country-specific and based on the country's natural and human resources' conditions. There should be adequate public investment in rural basic infrastructure (including broadband and sustainable public transport) and inclusive human capital development.

Rural inequality and inequality between rural and urban areas need to be addressed, and respect for the political voice and concerns of the rural population must be part of a process aimed at improving their lives.

* LEADER: From the French acronym for "Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l'Économie Rurale", meaning "Links between the rural economy and development actions".