Finland is one of the most rural countries in the European Union. About 95% of the country’s surface area is classified as rural, and the permanent place of residence of almost a third of the population is in the rural areas. Circumstances vary a great deal between the different parts of Finland, depending on e.g. the geographical features, structure of economic activities, socioeconomic differences and cultural factors.
In many respects rural areas function in a way that differs from urban areas, which is why decisions, programmes and legislation have different kinds of impacts on rural and urban areas. Rural proofing incorporates a geographical dimension into the preparation of legislative proposals. Rural proofing enables to identify whether the proposals that are being prepared – changes and the means selected to implement them – have significant impacts in and on the rural areas and whether there are features associated with them that will adversely impact the equality and nondiscrimination of rural residents relative to people living in urban areas.
Statutes may have unintended impacts on the rural areas, and it is important to identify these when the statutes are being drafted. This will contribute to better quality of the legislation and support its practical implementation, ensure the intended impacts of the legislative proposal in different areas and safeguard equality and nondiscrimination between people and regions. It is important to bear in mind that the impacts of the decisions vary within rural areas as well. They may have impacts on different policy sectors, directly or indirectly. Rural proofing enables to assess the socioeconomic impacts on rural areas and combined impacts from the perspective of the countryside.
Rural proofing guidelines and tools for legislative proposals
The common guidelines for rural proofing of the Ministry of Justice include general guidance on the proofing and more extensive detailed instructions. The guidelines for rural proofing are intended to be used for the assessment of the impacts of legislative proposals that are being drafted on a certain rural area or rural areas in general. The guidelines were drawn up in a cross-sectoral working group appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The rural proofing guidelines provide information on the background of the mechanism (Chapter 1) and on the countryside as an area to be assessed (Chapter 2), examples of topics to be assessed (Chapter 3) and tools for the assessment (Chapter 4). Chapter 5 of the guidelines presents the key cooperation partners and some useful sources of information.
Rural proofing of legislative proposals – Guidelines for law drafters for rural proofing is available in the Institutional Repository for the Government Valto (in Finnish, abstract in English).