Published on 

Speech by Minister Heather Humphreys at the Opening Ceremony Future Forum on Rural Development (ZFLE), Berlin, 25th January 2023

Good afternoon everyone.


And danke schön to Minister Ozdemir, Minister Lemke and everyone at BMEL for inviting Ireland, and indeed my Department of Rural and Community Development, to be the partner country for this year’s Future Forum on Rural Development.


We are delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to share our experience in supporting rural communities to build a future that is both sustainable and inclusive, and to hear from our colleagues in Germany.


Ireland has one of the most rural populations in the European Union.


I myself live in a place called Aghabog in County Monaghan.


And I can tell you, Aghabog is as rural as rural gets!


But I am extremely proud to hail from a rural part of my country.


And ensuring that our rural communities benefit from equality of economic, social and environmental opportunity and wellbeing is a high priority for both me and our Government.


The video that was shown a few moments ago references Our Rural Future.


Colleagues, that is the title of our ambitious national policy which was published in 2021.


Our Rural Future is a blueprint for rural development through to 2025 and we are very proud of the progress we are making under it.


In the policy, we acknowledge the necessity and urgency of the green transition, the resulting challenges, and the opportunities that will emerge.


The transition to a low-carbon, more digital economy and society must be fair and just.


It also must recognise the concerns and capacities of different communities to adapt.


And that willingness to change is required across all aspects of how we live, work and travel.


Rural communities need to be supported to overcome their challenges.


Some of our industries are changing or being eliminated entirely.


That is why it is so important that we as governments invest in and support a just transition.


One in which rural livelihoods are protected.


In this way, we will ensure than no one is left behind.




Colleagues, the conference theme of Land. Kann. Klima is one that really resonates with the Irish experience.


A change in the narrative around rural places, from areas of need and decline to vibrant areas of opportunity, innovation and growth, is long overdue.


We firmly believe that rural areas are uniquely positioned to take advantage of opportunities from the green and digital economies and make a real contribution to the national and international efforts to progress the climate transition.


Our Rural Future adopts a place-based approach to rural development.


It is about harnessing the belief that rural communities themselves are best placed to identify the key challenges they face, and the most appropriate interventions to achieve their goals.


Colleagues, it is the role of governments to support this.


Community-led local development can be a catalyst for innovation and a driver of sustainable development.


It depends on dialogue with various levels of government and locally-managed investment programmes such as the EU-funded LEADER Programme.


This is essential to developing a sense of shared responsibility across society and ensuring the climate transition is not a top-down process, but owned and embraced by our communities on the ground.


So I am delighted that this is the focus of the session we are hosting for you today, titled Empowering Rural Communities to Reach Their Climate Potential.


During this session, we will hear from policymakers and practitioners responsible for some fantastic and innovative community-based sustainability initiatives and some of the ways we are supporting them.


You will hear from leaders in rural areas which are successfully spearheading community energy and sustainability initiatives.


And you will hear as well from policymakers charged with delivering programmes and policies that enable rural areas to become active contributors to a green and digital future.


In closing I would once again like to say how honoured we are to be participating in today’s event.


I want to thank the German Government for inviting Ireland to be this year’s partner.


We really value the opportunity to engage internationally on all aspects of rural policy – there is so much to be learned from each other’s experiences, particularly in such a rapidly evolving area as climate action and sustainability.


So thank you again to our kind hosts and I do hope you enjoy hearing from our speakers later.





The Department of Rural and Community Development Press Office

01-7736843 / 087-1734633



Note to editors:


Forum for the Future of Rural Development (ZFLE)

The Forum for the Future of Rural Development (ZFLE) is Germany’s largest and most important national conference aimed at discussing challenges and opportunities for rural areas. It is organised by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) within the scope of Green Week taking place each year in January. The 16th Forum for the Future takes place on 25th - 26th January 2023. The BMEL would like to place a substantial focus on the major importance of climate change/climate adaptation for ensuring good living conditions in rural regions.