Fostering higher levels of economic activity in rural regions constitutes an important policy challenge for most OECD countries. While some rural regions have higher than average growth rates, most grow at slower rates than the majority of urban regions. Because rural regions are structurally different from urban regions and face important distance and density challenges, the OECD has, over time, developed an approach to national rural policy that recognizes the distinctive features of rural areas. The specific policy approach has evolved in response to three main sets of forces. The first reflect the internal workings of the OECD, which dictate how policy problems are analyzed and establish the institutional framework. The second set reflects the changing interests of the member countries who provide funding in return for specific types of analysis preformed by the OECD Rural Programme. The third set can be thought of as forces of evolution. Over time, as the OECD conducted specific pieces of analysis on rural territories a learning process occurred. Each region provided new information, and the aggregated pieces of individual information provided an opportunity for broader syntheses. Because the work has extended over a long period of time and across multiple member countries, it provides a unique perspective on rural development in advanced economies. While the approach is not a theory of rural development, it does provide useful guidance for developing an implementing territory specific rural policy.