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Institute of

LV Rural Studies


Local government capacities in rural areas

Local government capacity in rural areas
© Gitta Schnaut
Local governments play a crucial role in rural development.

Being responsible for various public policies, local governments are crucial actors for safeguarding equal living conditions. To what extent do local governments in rural areas possess the necessary capacities?

Background and Objective

Rural development in Germany involves actors on different political levels. The European Union, the federal level and the Länder set the legal framework, formulate development goals and initiate financial support programs. In the end, however, rural development takes place at the local level, where concrete demands are transformed into strategies and projects, through both specific support programs and everyday policy-making.

This allocation of tasks follows the subsidiarity principle and, more specifically, the German constitution, which stipulates that „municipalities must be guaranteed the right to regulate all local affairs on their own responsibility“ (Article 8). As citizen preferences can vary from one place to another, this set-up is also convincing in light of democratic theory.  

This formal arrangement can create problems, however, if differences in local government capacities result in disparities in the delivery of public services. This particular thread has also been identified by the Commission on Equivalent Living Conditions, a cross-sectoral, multilevel government panel, whose chairs published their policy recommendations in July 2019.

Against this background, the project analyzes the capacity of local governments in rural areas, seeking to generate both conceptual and empirical knowledge. In doing so, special emphasis lies on the role of local government capacities play in safeguarding equal living conditions. 

Our Research Questions

  • What constitutes local government capacity?
  • What is the status quo of local government capacity in rural areas?
  • How does local government capacity influence rural living conditions?
  • What are options to strengthen local government capacity in rural areas (and beyond)?


7.2020 - 6.2024

More Information

Project status: ongoing

Publications to the project

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