There is need for urgent action toward a global solution to leave no area behind because persistent spatial disparities in living standards can adversely affect national unity and social cohesion, foster political instability, and increase the risk of conflict. In identifying priorities, it is essential to remind ourselves that leaving no area behind is NOT equal to “doing the same everywhere.” And to advance on the lagging areas agenda, we must recognize that the heterogeneity of challenges across territories needs to be met with a heterogeneity of policy instruments. To leave no area behind, each local challenge needs to be matched with a specific set of policy instruments. Policies should seek unity, NOT uniformity.
Strengthening the link between research and policy for a combined agenda is critical. Georeferenced data provides a tremendous opportunity for analysis of risk factors. In East Africa, for example, the issue of lagging lands is addressed by work in high-risk and conflict-affected areas, by addressing the underlying drivers of vulnerability and by reducing exposure to hazards of people. In the Horn of Africa, the EU has successfully applied geographical targeting in cross-border areas across the region, collaboration across borders through specific actions, and a regional approach based on research and evidence. In Cali, Colombia, the “Territories of Inclusion and Opportunities,” a land-based strategy addressing multiple risk factors, has been a successful tool in combating poverty, exclusion and violence.