Rural-Urban Linkages for Sustainable Development:
An Economic Geography Perspective

As intertwined processes of globalization, digitalisation, environmental challenges and the search for sustainable development continue, rural and urban areas around the world become more and more interconnected – and interdependent. To a strong degree the rural population still commutes or migrates to the urban centres and depends on their workplaces, infrastructure or market access while the recreation of urban citizens happens in rural areas. Beside these “usual” connections in which the balance of power is shifting in favour of the “urban” far more complex phenomena are visible around the world.

A rural transformation is ongoing where some authors detect a ‘rural renaissance’ for businesses or place rural areas in the centre of sustainability transitions. In combination with (counter-)urbanisation processes a new creative industry, cross-sectoral linkages or new arrangements for sustainable food systems arise. We observe similar lifestyles in both rural and urban areas. The rural is „coming into town“ with things like urban gardening. Spill-over and spill-in effects take place through new coalitions and networks of residents and newcomers. On the one side, these new linkages challenge the dominant regime and create new opportunities. On the other hand, they also tighten the interdependencies of rural and urban to provide a range of goods and services.

SDG 11

Sustainability as a holistic concept for development is a basis for an approximation of the rural and the urban. The need to “plan” or govern the mentioned developments to a more inclusive and well-balanced form is not new. The Agenda 21 already stressed out the importance of common development strategies for urban and rural areas. Today the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) highlight this necessity. Especially in SDG 11 the target 11.a seeks „to support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas [..]“. UN-Habitat demonstrates through the New Urban Agenda the demand „to bridge the development gap between the urban and the rural“, defining ten entry points to urban-rural linkages (see UN-Habitat 2017).

Call for Papers

This year’s IGU- Mini-Conference in Innsbruck therefore seeks to advance our knowledge on this new rural-urban web. As the topic in general is still quite broad, we particularly invite contributions that challenge the rural-urban dichotomy from an economic geography perspective or a related field

  In order to focus on specific aspects of rural-urban linkages we especially welcome research in the following fields:

  • new theoretical and methodological approaches to study the linkages
  • (global) production networks and value chains,
  • new business models and labour markets
  • rural-urban innovations,
  • spatial flows of products, services and information
  • urban-rural partnerships for e.g. sustainable tourism,
  • food systems,
  • ecological economics in rural-urban linkages,
  • urban consume – rural sink: winners and loosers
Everybody who wishes to attend the conference, please submit an abstract via our conftool website by 17/04/2018. It is aimed to launch a special issue in a peer reviewed journal (see below) and  an edited book soon after the conference . Presenters who are interested are invited to submit a full paper by 30/06/2018.

Conference publication:

The IGU Commission on the Dynamics of Economic Spaces has a strong record of publishing from its conferences. Papers presented will be invited for peer review and subsequent publication in a Special Issue of Die Erde - Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, the world's longest-running scientific journal in Geography (see


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