Geography & Spatial Planning

RELOCAL – Resituating the Local in Cohesion and Territorial Development

To make the world a fairer place, public policies tend to give responsibility to local entities.
The RELOCAL project of the University of Luxembourg aims to identify factors that condition local accessibility to European policies, local ability to articulate needs and claims for equality and local capacity for exploiting European opportunity structures in a more just way.

Prosperity and opportunities are unevenly distributed territorially. Over the years, public policymakers have developed diverse approaches for tackling persistent social and spatial inequalities. Later policies focus increasingly on local-led approaches. They are based on the hypothesis that proximity better supports procedural justice, making the involvement of local communities within a fairer process of development a point of cohesion. This re-concentration on the local is also based on the assumption that top-down redistributive justice is not enough to combat territorial disparities.

To be valid, these political assumptions need to be assessed by research and this is the objective of the University of Luxembourg’s RELOCAL project.

Focusing on spatial justice

Funded by the HORIZON 2020, RELOCAL addresses questions such as: 

  • How do you analyse territorial inequality processes in different European localities? 
  • Can enhanced autonomy contribute to spatial justice or does it in fact accentuate disparities and favour localism, regionalism and nationalism? 
  • How can we improve accountability and legitimacy in locally-led development initiatives? 

The project proposes a bottom-up perspective within a multilevel context. Its basic premise is that localities and their functional spaces represent the contextual nexus where the relationship between individuals and spatial justice unfolds.

Therefore, the principal rationale of the RELOCAL project is to contribute to conceptually and empirically enhancing the knowledge base on spatial justice and territorial inequalities. It also helps identify and gain a better understanding of policies that promote spatial justice and wellbeing at various levels of governance.

Thirty-three case studies 

The RELOCAL (2016-2020) project first delivered a conceptual framework. It is empirically based on 33 case studies of local contexts that exemplify development challenges in terms of spatial justice. RELOCAL uses a set of mixed methodologies. While quantitative analysis informs the broader context of each case study, empirical analysis relies mostly on qualitative methods (e.g. participant observation, interviews, focus groups). In the case studies, locally-led development strategies are examined to analyse whether locally-led development can support the achievement of greater spatial justice. 

The results are analysed through three transversal prisms: the perception of spatial injustice, governance, and autonomy (winter 2019-2020). By applying a theory of change approach to each case study, the project will also identify framework conditions for greater spatial justice (autumn-winter 2019-2020), thus supporting the development of scenarios. The results will finally converge to support local and European policies through dedicated stakeholder involvement activities (2020).

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