For 20 years, PREPARE (Partnerships for Rural Europe) has played a key role in rural development, bringing together rural actors and stimulating exchange in the unique format of “travelling workshops”, a combination of visits, interactive discussions and joint learning. Thanks to this approach, hundreds of rural NGOs and community groups, active rural inhabitants, as well as many representatives of national, regional and local authorities have been able to meet and discuss the key challenges of rural areas and the best ways to address them.
The beginning of the organisation dates back to a cooperation between Forum Synergies and rural organisations from Sweden, Finland, Estonia and the UK. From the early 2000, the initiative has given the impulse to create national rural organisations in countries which were at the time preparing for EU accession, such as Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Poland. With time, its activities were gradually moving towards the warmer regions of Europe, helping to set up rural movements or networks in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo. PREPARE grew quickly to include over 20 national platforms of rural organisations and played a strong role in mobilising civil society, building trust and developing new democratic rural development instruments in new EU member states and candidate countries.
Since 2016, when PREPARE was registered as an organisation based in Belgium, special attention is paid to the Black Sea countries and EU’s eastern neighbours. Rural organisations from Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey have become official partners of the PREPARE network, participate in its activities and contribute to common positions. This broadening of geographical scope is made possible by the continued effort of peer learning and sharing of knowledge and experience between different actors, which has been the foundation of PREPARE from the start.
Another important feature of PREPARE is its ability to build cooperation and undertake joint action with a wide range of partners, including the Standing Working Group for Rural Development in South-Eastern Europe, UNDP, the European Rural Communities Alliance (ERCA) and the European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD). Cooperation with ELARD and ERCA has led to the joint initiative of the European Rural Parliament, a broad forum representing rural civil society movements across the EU and in neighbouring countries. Every two years, the ERP work culminates in a transnational meeting – in 2017, such a meeting (in the Netherlands), in 2019 in Canda brought together representatives of rural communities from 40 countries.
PREPARE is a cooperation platform which not only talks about a common Europe, but also puts into practice common rural development initiatives, which involve countries which are EU members as well as those that are not. It has become a serious player in development cooperation on rural issues.
PREPARE is helping rural actors to have their voice heard in policy debate, for example about the future of EU rural development. Together with its member organisations PREPARE is also actively supporting rural communities to face global challenges such as demographic changes, the digital divide, climate change and growing inequalities