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Since the early 1990s, the EU has pioneered LEADER, a bottom-up, partnership based approach to rural development.  LEADER retains a distinctive niche to support multi-sectoral community-based development.  LEADER articulates upwards to EU territorial development policy whilst at the same time enabling individuals, communities and businesses to come together to design and implement local development strategies.

The LEADER approach is about proactive ‘animation’ (‘animating a territory’) and developing links between actions for the development of the rural economy. In this way the LEADER approach builds social and economic capital.  LEADER is also about the added value that flows from the bottom-up and partnership approach with better identification of local needs and local solutions, more engagement on the part of local stakeholders and greater scope for innovation.

LEADER is characterised by seven features (below) to help ‘actors’ consider the long term potential of their local area.


For period 2014-2020, EU implemented the new tool – Community-led local development. According Article 32 of REGULATION (EU) No 1303/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006:

  1. Community-led local development shall be supported by the EAFRD, which shall be designated as LEADER local development and may be supported by the ERDF, ESF or EMFF.
  2. Community-led local development shall be:

(a) focused on specific subregional areas;

(b) led by local action groups composed of representatives of public and private local socio-economic interests, in which, at the decision-making level neither public authorities, as defined in accordance with national rules, nor any single interest group represents more than 49 % of the voting rights;

(c) carried out through integrated and multi-sectoral area-based local development strategies;

(d) designed taking into consideration local needs and potential, and shall include innovative features in the local context, networking and, where appropriate, cooperation.