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The LEADER programme (an acronym in French – Liaison entre actions de développement de l'économie rurale – meaning Links between actions for the development of the rural economy) is a European Union initiative to support rural development projects initiated at the local level in order to revitalise rural areas and create jobs. LEADER I ran from 1991–93, LEADER II from 1994–99, and LEADER+ from 2000-2006. In the current programming period (2014-2020), the LEADER method has been extended to cover not only rural but also coastal (FARNET) and urban areas under the banner of Community-led Local Development (CLLD).
Operation and objectives
LEADER+ projects are managed by local action groups (LAGs). Each project must involve a relatively small rural area, with a population of between 10,000 and 100,000. In France, the whole country is eligible with the exception of urban areas with over 50,000 inhabitants. France has 140 local action groups.
LEADER+ has three objectives:
- to encourage experiments in rural development
- to support cooperation between rural territories: several LAGs can share their resources
- to network rural areas, by sharing experiences and expertise in the development of rural areas by creating databases, publications and other modes of information exchange
- Area-based: taking place in a small, homogeneous socially cohesive territory
- Bottom-up: local actors design the strategy and choose the actions
- Public-private partnership: LAGs are balanced groups involving public and private-sector actors, which can mobilise all available skills and resources
- Innovation: giving LAGs the flexibility to introduce new ideas and methods
- Integration: between economic, social, cultural and environmental actions, as distinct from a sectoral approach
- Networking: allowing learning among people, organisations and institutions at local, regional, national and European levels
- Co-operation: among LEADER groups, for instance to share experiences, allow complementarity or to achieve critical mass
- LEADER I (1991–93) supported 217 LAGS with EU funding of €0.442 billion from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF)
- LEADER II (1994–99) supported 906 LAGs with EU funding of €1.755 billion
- LEADER+ (2000–06) supported 893 LAGs with EU funding of €2.105 billion, and a total budget of €5.05 billion
In 2013 the LEADER approach, which had developed in a rural context, was extended to apply to urban and coastal areas under the title of Community-Led Local Development (CLLD).