The Area Based Development Approach (ABDA) is an innovative approach enabling a breakthrough in sustainable economic growth by targeting defined geographical areas in cross-border regions, which are characterized by a set of common, complex development problems. It is considered an effective approach to facilitate sustainable growth in rural areas in decline. It is suitable for targeting defined geographical areas in cross-border regions in SEE. The approach uses a methodology, which is inclusive, participatory, flexible, and ensures integration and coherence.

The idea for developing a specific approach emerged as early as 2006 and was discussed throughout the years by SWG members and supporters, namely FAO and the European Commission, at the regular meetings in the SWG decision-making bodies and the annual Agricultural Policy Forum (APF). Finally preparations for its implementation started in 2010, when DG-AGRI funded a project, carried out by the EC – Joint Research Centre (IPTS), for “Identification of potential rural cross-border target areas for the implementation of an area-based development approach in the Western Balkans: methodology & assessment”. The overall objective of the project was to perform a comparative assessment of the potential target areas identified in terms of their assets and handicaps, in order to be able to pilot the approach in a selected appropriate area.

The process continued in 2011 when SWG was commissioned by DG ENLARG to develop a proposal for an “Area-Based Development Project in the Western Balkans”. The output was a project fiche together with technical annexes (in-depth analyses and action plans for each of the regions) for the piloting of the Area Based Development approach in selected cross-border regions (“Drina-Tara”, “Drina-Sava”, “Prespa” and “Sharra”).

Based on the project fiche, DG ENLARG commissioned SWG in 2013 to carry out a pilot project “Preparation for implementation of the Area Based Development Approach in the Western Balkans”, which focuses on building the capacities and structures within the SWG and selected regions in order to be able to implement the forthcoming ABD programs. The project includes also a small pilot grants component, but further funding is sought to scale-up the grants program and to implement additional projects elaborated by the Stakeholder Groups (SHG). The project’s objective is the contribution to sustainable economic growth of the target regions by strengthening the cooperation of public administrations and other public bodies, the private sector and NGOs in the fields of local development and regional cooperation by building-up local and regional cross-border capacities.

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