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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Rural Development


As the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki – Moon noted in the Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, “disparities between rural and urban areas remain pronounced” and big gaps persist in different sectors:

  • It is estimated that in 2015 still roughly 2.8 billion people worldwide lack access to modern energy services and more than 1 billion do not have access to electricity. For the most part this grave development burden falls on rural areas, where a lack of access to modern energy services negatively affects productivity, educational attainment and even health and ultimately exacerbates the poverty trap.
  • In rural areas, only 56 per cent of births are attended by skilled health personnel, compared with 87 per cent in urban areas.
  • About 16 per cent of the rural population do not use improved drinking water sources, compared to 4 per cent of the urban population.
  • About 50 per cent of people living in rural areas lack improved sanitation facilities, compared to only 18 per cent of people in urban areas.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of the Post-2015 Development Agenda calls to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. In particular, target 2.a devotes a specific attention to “Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries".

Background information

Promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) is the subject of chapter 14 of Agenda 21.

The major objective of SARD is to increase food production in a sustainable way and enhance food security. This will involve education initiatives, utilization of economic incentives and the development of appropriate and new technologies, thus ensuring stable supplies of nutritionally adequate food, access to those supplies by vulnerable groups, and production for markets; employment and income generation to alleviate poverty; and natural resource management and environmental protection.

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) first reviewed Rural Development at its third session in 1995, when it noted with concern that, even though some progress had been reported, disappointment is widely expressed at the slow progress in moving towards sustainable agriculture and rural development in many countries.

Sustainable agriculture was also considered at the five-year review of implementation of Agenda 21 in 1997, at which time Governments were urged to attach high priority to implementing the commitments agreed at the World Food Summit, especially the call for at least halving the number of undernourished people in the world by the year 2015. This goal was reinforced by the Millennium Declaration adopted by Heads of State and Government in September 2000, which resolved to halve by 2015 the proportion of the world's people who suffer from hunger.

In accordance with its multi-year programme of work, agriculture with a rural development perspective was a major focus of CSD-8 in 2000, along with integrated planning and management of land resources as the sectoral theme. The supporting documentation and the discussions highlighted the linkages between the economic, social and environmental objectives of sustainable agriculture. The Commission adopted decision 8/4 which identified 12 priorities for action. It reaffirmed that the major objectives of SARD are to increase food production and enhance food security in an environmentally sound way so as to contribute to sustainable natural resource management. It noted that food security-although a policy priority for all countries-remains an unfulfilled goal. It also noted that agriculture has a special and important place in society and helps to sustain rural life and land.

Rural Development was included as one of the thematic areas along with Agriculture, Land, Drought, Desertification and Africa in the third implementation cycle CSD-16/CSD-17.

A growing emphasis is being placed on the Nexus approach to sustainable rural development, seeking to realize synergies from the links between development factors such as energy, health, education, water, food, gender, and economic growth.

In this regard and as part of the follow up to the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), in collaboration with SE4All, UN-Energy and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), organized Global Conference on Rural Energy Access: A Nexus Approach to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dec 4 – 6, 2013.

For more information and documents on this topic, please visit this link

Displaying 1 - 15 of 18
Title Type Date
Thematic discussion 2: Reaching the most remote: rural transport challenges and opportunities Background papers/Special studies 4-Nov-2016
A/69/279 - Agriculture development, food security and nutrition Secretary-General Reports 7-Aug-2014
Inclusive Finance for Food Security and Rural Development: Challenges and Opportunities Other documents 21-May-2013
E/CN.17/2009/4 - Policy options and actions for expediting progress in implementation: Land Secretary-General Reports 15-Dec-2009
E/CN.17/2008/4 - Rural Development Secretary-General Reports 21-Feb-2008
Agriculture, Rural Development, Drought, Desertification and Land Issues Affecting Sustainable… Other documents 7-Dec-2007
Synthesis of the Thematic Reports on Agriculture and Land, Rural Development, Desertification and Drought - An… Other documents 12-Nov-2007
An Assessment of Progress in Promoting Sustainable Rural Development in the Asian and Pacific Region Other documents 12-Nov-2007
Africa Review Report on Agriculture and Rural Development Meeting reports 27-Aug-2007
E/CN.17/2001/PC/13 - Agriculture, land and desertification Secretary-General Reports 29-Mar-2001
E/CN.17/2000/7 - Sustainable agriculture and rural development Secretary-General Reports 2-Feb-2000
E/CN.17/2000/7/Add.1 - Sustainable agriculture and rural development: urbanization and sustainable agriculture… Secretary-General Reports 2-Feb-2000
E/CN.17/2000/7/Add.2 - Sustainable agriculture and rural development: biotechnology for sustainable… Secretary-General Reports 2-Feb-2000
E/CN.17/2000/7/Add.3 - Sustainable agriculture and rural development: linkages between agriculture, land and… Secretary-General Reports 2-Feb-2000
E/CN.17/2000/5 - Sustainable agriculture and rural development: trends in national implementation Secretary-General Reports 28-Jan-2000
Displaying 1 - 15 of 94
Title Category Date Sort ascending
Summary: High-level Segment Roundtable 3 Integrated Land & Water Management for… 13-May-2009
Iran Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
FAO Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Guatemala Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
AOSIS Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Fiji Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Switzerland Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Colombia Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Oman Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Canada Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Nigeria Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Argentina Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Morocco Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
CSD-17 Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (IPM) Rural Development Rural Development 24-Feb-2009
Major Group: Workers & Trade Rural Development 24-Feb-2009


  • January 2015 SDG 2
    SDG2 focuses on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. In particular, its targets aims to: end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round by 2030 (2.1); end all forms of malnutrition by 2030, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons (2.2.); double,by 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment (2.3); ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality (2.4); by 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed (2.5); The alphabetical goals aim to: increase investment in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks , correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets as well as adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility.
  • January 2009 CSD-17(Chap.2B)
    CSD-17 negotiated policy recommendations for most of the issues under discussion. Delegates adopted by acclamation a “Text as prepared by the Chair,” including all negotiated text as well as proposed language from the Chair for policy options and practical measures to expedite implementation of the issues under the cluster. The text included rising food prices, ongoing negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the Doha Development Round, and an international focus on the climate change negotiations under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • January 2008 CSD-16 (Chap. 2B)
    CSD-16 and CSD-17 focused on the thematic cluster of agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa. As far as CSD-16 is concerned, on this occasion delegates were called to review implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation and the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the CSD-13 decisions on water and sanitation. A High-level Segment was also held from 14-16 May, with nearly 60 ministers in attendance.
  • January 2000 CSD-8
    As decided at UNGASS, the economic, sectoral and cross-sectoral themes under consideration for CSD-8 were sustainable agriculture and land management, integrating planning and management of land resources and financial resources, trade and investment and economic growth. CSD-6 to CSD-9 annually gathered at the UN Headquarters for spring meetings. Discussions at each session opened with multi-stakeholder dialogues, in which major groups were invited to make opening statements on selected themes followed by a dialogue with government representatives.
  • January 2000 MDG 1
    MDG 1 aims at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Its three targets respectively read: halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day (1.A), achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people (1.B), halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger (1.C).
  • The Summit aimed to reaffirm global commitment, at the highest political level, to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, and to achieve sustainable food security for all. Thank to its high visibility, the Summit contributed to raise further awareness on agriculture capacity, food insecurity and malnutrition among decision-makers in the public and private sectors, in the media and with the public at large. It also set the political, conceptual and technical blueprint for an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger at global level with the target of reducing by half the number of undernourished people by no later than the year 2015. The Rome Declaration defined seven commitments as main pillars for the achievement of sustainable food security for all whereas its Plan of Action identified the objectives and actions relevant for practical implementation of these seven commitments.
  • January 1995 CSD-3
    The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) first reviewed Rural Development at its third session, when it noted with concern that, even though some progress had been reported, disappointment is widely expressed at the slow progress in moving towards sustainable agriculture and rural development in many countries.
  • January 1992 Agenda 21 (Chap.14)
    Agenda 21 – Chapter 14 is devoted to the promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development and the need for agricultural to satisfy the demands for food from a growing population. It acknowledges that major adjustments are needed in agricultural, environmental and macroeconomic policy, at both national and international levels, in developed as well as developing countries, to create the conditions for sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD). It also identifies as priority the need for maintaining and improving the capacity of the higher potential agricultural lands to support an expanding population.