Rural Movements of Europe

Croatian Rural Development Network (HMRR)
A civil society organization (NGO) committed to enhancing the rural development of Croatia. After more than two years of informal work, the Network was founded in early 2006 by seven civil society organizations linked in the wish to jointly contribute to improving conditions for integrated development and good quality of life in rural areas. The network currently includes ten member organizations. Activities are based on good European practice and the LEADER approach.

Czech Republic
The Czech National Rural Observatory
Established in 2005, following three years of preparatory work to bring together people involved in rural action, including national and regional conferences, training programmes and promotion of LEADER-type local action groups. The Observatory operates, through a National Network for Rural Development, as the network of more than 40 Local Action Groups throughout the Czech Republic.

The Danish rural movement has worked through two organisations:
The Danish Village Association – Landsforeningen af Landsbysamfund (LAL) Website:
The Council of Rural Districts – Landdistrikternes Faellesraad (LDF)
The oldest, LAL was established in 1976 as the ‘village movement’. LDF was formed in 1997 as a  ‘rural forum’ for the many rural NGOs. LAL focused on a wide range of projects to support village action and lobbying the government on behalf of rural communities. LDF is a strategic body, working closely with the government to provide a focus on the diverse interests of rural development.

The Estonian Village Movement – Kodukant    
Kodukant was the first movement established in Eastern Europe, in response to the crisis in agriculture and rural depopulation following independence. The work began in 1992, through a joint project with Sweden to form a village movement based on the Finnish or Swedish model.  Kodukant was established as a legally registered organisation in 1997. It has mobilised 15 regional associations and many village associations. This has created an impressive level of commitment and activity in the rural communities and a high profile with Government. Planning takes place at village, regional and national levels, shaping the work and providing a basis for lobbying. A biennial Rural Parliament creates a platform for raising the rural profile. Kodukant has been an active partner in building rural movements in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Village Action Association of Finland - Suomen Kylatoiminta Ry (SYTY)
The Finnish movement was the first ‘village action movement’. It began in the 1970s as a response to rural decline and depopulation. The current organisation, Suomen Kylatoiminta Ry (SYTY), the Village Action Association of Finland, was formed in 1997. Its main activities focus on strategic village planning and policy development, advocacy and lobbying, support to village and regional associations, projects and services for inhabitants, international co-operation. SYTY mobilises and supports almost 4,000 village associations and has formed regional associations in each of the 19 administrative regions. It develops strategic plans, including the National Village Programme, which feeds directly into the national Rural Policy Programme.  It also implements a wide range of rural development projects and supports the developing movements in Central and Eastern Europe. It has also provided the service of the Finnish LEADER network. One of its key achievements has been to influence the development of rural policy in Finland.

The Hungarian Rural Parliament - Vidék Parlamentje   
The Hungarian Rural Parliament was established in 1998, to promote dialogue and co-operation in rural Hungary.  Its formation was motivated by the increasing disparity in living conditions between urban and rural areas following independence, and the need for a strong voice to support the rural communities. It provided a forum for rural organisations and has had about 500 members, comprising rural NGOs and groups. Activities include local and national rural gatherings, training, and lobbying the government.

The Icelandic Village Action Movement - Landsbyggðin Lifi - “let the rural areas live!”
Landsbygden lifi was founded in 2001 as an umbrella organisation for rural people, inspired and supported by the Finnish and Swedish movements. The aim was to establish village action groups in each of the municipality areas, focussed on the co-operation of rural inhabitants.

Irish Rural Link (IRL)  
Irish Rural Link was founded in 1991 as a non-profit organisation, to represent rural community groups and associations at a national and international level. Membership comprises individuals, community groups, NGOs, statutory and corporate agencies. The group has grown significantly, and now directly represents over 200 community groups with a combined membership of 20,000.  It aims to build rural capacity, to represent the interests of rural communities, and to influence policy at local, regional, national and EU levels. It is currently focusing on a number of distinct areas of concern including rural services, social inclusion, rural development and transport.

Latvian Rural Forum - Latvijas Lauku Forums   
The Latvian Rural Forum was formally established in December 2004, following a process of discussion which was jointly initiated by PREPARE and the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture. The aims of the Forum are to encourage sustainable development of rural areas; to strengthen the development of civil society in rural areas; to represent the rural people at national and international level; and to co-operate with government and others. Membership is open to all organisations who are committed to uniting rural inhabitants, businesses or local administrations for the sake of encouraging local development.

The Lithuanian Rural Communities Union - Lietuvos Koimo Bendruomeni Sjunga
The Lithuanian Rural Communities Union is an independent union of active rural communities, with over 350 communities as members. It was founded in 2002, with the aim of uniting the rural communities of all regions of Lithuania and representing their interests. The Union co-ordinates and implements the tasks given by its members. Members take an active role in the network, through which they can share experiences, receive training and work for the development of rural communities. The mission of the Union is to ensure that Lithuanian rural areas are attractive and safe, with good infrastructure, viable agriculture, forestry, fishery and other sectors, healthy environment and well-managed landscape. The Union has representatives on several organisations and committees relevant to rural areas.

National Association of Small Towns and Villages
Landelijke Vereniging voor Kleine Kernen   
The National Association of Small Towns and Villages was established in 1979. Its objectives are to be a vital networking organisation, to contribute to the well-being of villages and their surroundings, and to influence national and European policy. The National organisation has 10-12 organisational members and every province has its own Provincial Association of Small Towns and Villages.  Most of the small towns and villages are members of a Provincial Association. The organisation works at village, provincial and national levels to identify issues; to exchange information, knowledge and experience; and to take part in national debates and projects.

Norwegian Neighbourhood Association – Vellenes Fellesorganisasjon
Royal Norwegian Society for Development – De konglige selskap for Norges Vel
There is no umbrella organisation in Norway to unite specifically rural interests. There are 2 similar organisations working with local communities - Norges Velforbund and De konglige selskap for Norges Vel.
Norges Velforbund is part of the Nordic network of rural movements, but is in fact a national union of neighbourhood associations, supporting the activities of the inhabitants of both villages and towns. It is by far the oldest movement, the first organisation being established in 1772. The present organisation was formed in 1974 as an interest and service organisation for over 6,000 local neighbourhood associations in Norway. Today NVF represents about 1,000,000 people, which makes it the second largest organisation in the country.
Norges Vel  was founded in 1809. Its mission is to develop viable local communities, in both rural and urban communities. The aim is to create useful human networks that help to facilitate cultural and economic development. Thirty-seven organisations and 1210 individuals are members of the society, in addition to 75 municipalities and companies as supporting members. Activities include local community development, promoting co-operative approaches and international development co-operation.

The Polish Rural Forum - Forum Aktywizacji Obszarów Wiejskich
The Polish Rural Forum was started in February 2002. The Forum is based on the cooperation of 50 rural development organisations from all over Poland, who have signed a Declaration of Co-operation. The initiators of the Forum are mainly non-governmental organisations working at national and local level. Its objectives are to build a civil dialogue and to create a national platform of organisations to support the sustainable rural development of rural areas and to build partnerships between NGOs, businesses and public institutions. It seeks to have an impact on the creation of rural policies in Poland and at the European level. 

Portuguese Association for Local Development ANIMAR   
ANIMAR was established in 1993, as a response to the Trans European Rural Network (TERN). ANIMAR works to promote equal opportunities and to improve the life quality of the people. It does this by networking the actions of institutions, groups and individuals, in the interests of local development. It has 12 directors and 5 staff, and a membership of about 70 national and regional associations and 100 individuals. ANIMAR undertakes a variety of actions to build local capacity and develop rural policy, and has participated in many EU Programmes. Since 1994, it has organised a national biennial “Fair and Assembly of Local Development” called MANIFesta. This enables the many local groups and organisations working for local development to meet, promote their work and develop policies to communicate to Government.

The Rural Parliament of Slovakia - Vidiecky Parlament na Slovensku (VIPA)
The Rural Parliament of Slovakia was established in 2000, to promote the development of rural areas and address the lack of co-ordination between the many organisations and groups working with rural development. The national organisation has also established regional associations in the 8 administrative regions of Slovakia. There are no village associations, due to the structure of municipalities at village level. Instead, the movement has focused on supporting the formation of partnerships at micro-regional level, and has initiated a network of 48 Communication and Information Centres. These form the grassroots of the movement.

Slovenian Rural Development Network - Društva za razvoj slovenskega podeelja
Established in October 2002, through the work of the PREPARE programme, the Network's main concern is to inform and educate its members and the interested public, so that the well-being of rural people can be effectively pursued. It acts as a meeting point and a focus for co-ordination and support to integrated development and practical rural projects, and represents the interests of its members at national and international levels. Members of the Network are individuals and organisations who are involved, at different levels, in rural development in Slovenia.

Hela Sverige ska leva!  All Sweden Shall Live! (former Swedish Popular Movements Council for Rural Development)
The Swedish movement is the largest and most highly developed, and is also the only movement to receive significant Government funding. It arose in the 1980s in response to a campaign, supported by Government, to address the de-population of rural areas in the north of Sweden.  The movement has assisted the formation of about 5,000 village associations, with 100,000 people directly involved. In addition to the village representatives, the organization has about 40 national NGOs as members. The organisation provides practical support to the local actors and develops programmes for rural development and to influence policy. The biennial Rural Parliament involves over 1,000 village representatives and provides a direct voice to the Government. The movement also has a lobbying role and seeks to influence the Government and politicians at every level.

United Kingdom
At present 3 rural movements are active in the UK - Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), Scottish Rural Action (SRA) and the Northern Ireland Rural Community Network. Previously there were other rural movements: Rural Voice in England, Wales Rural Forum, Rural Forum Scotland and Highlands and Islands Forum. These are now no longer active, though work is taking place to examine the need for new rural movements in Wales.

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE)  
ACRE is a national charity, formally a partner in Rural Voice, established in 1987. Its purpose is to support sustainable rural community development. It provides a national platform for its founder members, the 38 Rural Community Councils (one in each county) and for other bodies and individuals who work at local, county, regional and national level to alleviate rural disadvantage in England. The Rural Community Councils work to improve the lives of people who live in rural areas, by responding to the key issues in their county. ACRE provides a wide range of services to its members, in support of community development, communications, research, policy development and practical support.

Scottish Rural Action (SRA)


SRA was established in 2013 to support and promote the development of a Scottish Rural Movement and Scottish Rural Parliament. It is a membership organisation with 600+ members. Its purpose is to ensure that all people living and working in rural Scotland have the power to shape decisions about their communities. Working with members and partners at national, regional and community levels to: build a grassroots-led rural movement in Scotland that connects rural communities with each other and with politicians and decision-makers; collaborate with seldom-heard groups to create platforms that better enable their participation in the rural movement; collectively develop a cross-sectoral, locally-informed understanding of rural Scotland's economy, society and culture that shapes local practice and national policy; deliver the biennial Scottish Rural Parliament and a Rural & Island Manifesto for Scotland.

Northern Ireland Rural Community Network  
The Rural Community Network was formed in 1991. It is a voluntary organisation established by local community organisations to articulate the voice of rural communities on issues relating to poverty, disadvantage and community development in Northern Ireland. It is a membership organisation with over 500 members, and managed by a voluntary committee, made up of 2 community representatives from each of the 6 counties, along with voluntary organisations, statutory bodies and other interested representatives. It is core-funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, with the rest of its resources coming from membership fees, charitable trusts and projects.

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