Abstract Three main reasons require to look closely at rural areas and to analyse rural development and policies: they represent the major part of world’s surface area; they are the object of strong competition between and within regions and countries; they contain almost all the resources necessary for human existence. They are therefore central to the public policies and strategies of interest groups and nations and their future is an inescapable issue on the agendas of policymakers, decision-makers and researchers. Nowadays rural areas are facing two fundamental types of change, suggesting that there is no longer a dominant model: they are subject to increasingly strong influence from cities and urban populations; competition for natural resources located in rural areas plays a key role in current development policies. The rural world appears as a mosaic of highly diverse socio-economic configurations and spatial distribution patterns, marked by a diversity of development paths, whereas public policies dedicated to rural development are undergoing important changes. The goal of the book is to provide tools for addressing the question of rural and peri-urban development, whether through analytical thinking or public policy development, on the basis of two distinct but overlapping approaches:—regional development approaches—especially regional science—on the one hand; and studies on rural dimensions and policies, on the other.
Keywords Local populations Natural resources Regional development Regional science Rural areas Rural development policies