The European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD) is an international non-profit making association (aisbl) set up to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to maintain their population through sustainable, integrated local development.
In doing so ELARD campaigns to spread the philosophy of the LEADER method both at a local grassroots and at an institutional level. ELARD believes that a sustainable rural development across Europe is best achieved by this methodology grounded on the following eight key features:
ELARD was founded in Belgium in 1999 by the National LEADER Networks of Local Action Groups (LAGs) of France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain. At present, more than 800 Local Action Groups are involved either through their national or regional networks or as individual members.
Today ELARDs members come from the following 22 states: Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.
ELARD is currently working on expanding its membership base even further, especially among the new Member States and the pre-accession countries in an effort to create a culturally and nationally diverse front united by the common goal of a sustainable and viable rural Europe. The association is committed to involving all stakeholders in local rural development.
ELARD supports its members directly in their efforts to carry out innovative work in the field of rural development and to network with each other in order to cooperate and disseminate good LEADER practices and know-how from one territory to another.
In addition, ELARD represent the interests and needs of its members in front of other international, European, and national institutions. It is recognised by the DG Agriculture and Rural Development as the European Association representing the Local Action Groups at European level and has been admitted to the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD), as provided for under the new Rural Development regulation 1698/05, through participation in both the ENRD Co-ordination Committee and the LEADER Sub-Committee.
The association works actively to make the LEADER approach better known among the European decision-makers in order to maintain its position as an essential part of the European Rural Development Policy.