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Help shape the role of the Rural Champion - Gildernew

13 August, 2008


Communities, organisations and individuals with an interest in rural areas are being encouraged to air their views on how issues affecting them could be championed inside and outside government.

Sinn Féin Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has launched a public consultation outlining proposals on the rural champion concept and seeking views on how it should be developed and progressed.

The rural champion concept, which has already received the backing of the Northern Ireland Executive, aims to ensure that the needs of, and issues affecting, those living and working in the countryside are considered as all new policies are developed.

Launching the consultation the Minister said:

"It is recognised that rural issues impact across all of Government and that many rural concerns are no different from urban worries, for example on health, jobs, housing, education, transport and services.

"I want to see every government department test its policies against rural needs and examine their likely impact on rural people and places. The aim of the rural champion concept supports this and will work to ensure that a mechanism and culture exists which allows for rural communities to highlight issues, to provide evidence to support their views and propose sustainable solutions to the challenges they face. Ensuring consideration of the rural dimension as policies are being developed, rather than when they have been developed, will have a real impact on the people who live and work in the countryside.

"This is an important step in a process which, alongside the development of a Rural White Paper, will enable rural communities to define their futures. It is also an opportunity for government and rural stakeholders to engage in a meaningful way and to look at how we might all champion rural issues."

The Minister concluded by asking everyone to contribute to the consultation, saying:

"I encourage everyone to avail of this opportunity to tell us what they think the rural champion concept should be about and how we can ensure sustainable rural communities."

Key proposals in the document include the re-invigoration of the rural proofing process, the establishment of a new mechanism for engaging with stakeholders, the development of a rural evidence base, and the establishment of a new cross departmental Rural Policy Committee chaired by the Minister.

The consultation document and other relevant documents can be viewed at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/consultations/active-consultations.htm .
Copies in other formats, e.g. large print, Braille, CD, audio-cassette and other languages can be obtained from:-
Roy Griffin
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Rural Policy Branch Room 407
Dundonald House
Belfast BT4 3SB.
Telephone: 028 9052 4598

E-mail: [email protected]
The closing date for responses to the consultation is Wednesday 05 November
It is intended to make copies of the responses received publicly available on the DARD website at the end of the consultation period.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The Programme for Government PSA17 objective 2- Adopt the Role of a Rural Champion has two actions:

· define role of rural champion and enhance the rural proofing process
· develop proposals for a Rural White Paper.

2. The definition of the Rural Champion concept is a key aim of the DARD Strategic Plan 2006-2011 and DARD Rural Strategy 2007-2013

3. The consultation proposes a collective approach to championing rural issues inside and outside government and suggests six key rural champion roles:

· Advocate: to represent the views of the rural community across government.
· Watchdog / Mainstream: to ensure rural issues are addressed across government
· Listener: to build information based partnerships with rural stakeholders that enable the voices of rural dwellers to be heard.
· Advisor: to establish a rural evidence base that will aid the decision making of government policy makers.
· Initiator: to initiate the development of policies and actions to address specific rural needs.
· Exemplar (Setting the example): to lead by example in improving the rural economy, environment and rural way of life.

4. The process of rural proofing was developed to consider the impact of government policy on rural areas. The process was a Programme for Government commitment in 2002, designed to ensure that the rural dimension was routinely considered as part of the making and implementation of policy. Responsibility for ensuring that the rural proofing initiative is effectively developed and that Departments have adequate guidance for rural proofing lies with DARD. However each Department must apply the process of rural proofing to its own policies.

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