Projet européen EXIT, réunissant 11 partenaires de disciplines variées (économistes, sociologues, juristes, anthropologues), entend offrir une analyse approfondie du concept  de "left behind" utilisé pour caractériser les inégalités territoriales auxquelles sont confrontées certaines zones territoriales, d’une part, et identifier les stratégies pour remédier à ces inégalités, d’autre part, (01/11/2022 – 31/10/2025).

Equipe ULB : Isabelle Carles, Chargée de recherche - Vivien Gain, Chargé de recherche.
Aline Bingen, promotrice.

The EXIT project is funded with support from the European Commission under the HORIZON Programme.


The world is in the midst of multiple political, economic, and social crises. Mounting inequalities across Europe further fuel these crises. Some territories and their citizens are “left behind”, while economic dynamism is increasingly concentrated in a few places. This is particularly prominent from a geographical perspective as spatial inequality grows within regions. Despite overall country level economic growth, certain regions are experiencing long-term socioeconomic stagnation or decline. These areas have been often characterised as ‘left-behind’. Yet, little is known of what drives ‘left-behindness’.


EXIT will provide an in-depth analysis of ‘left-behind’ as a concept used for characterising territorial inequalities faced by certain areas, and identify strategies to address it. This means not only building knowledge on the drivers of inequality in areas that are characterised as ‘left-behind’, but also on what drives political, media and academic characterisations of these areas as ‘left-behind’ and experiences and perceptions of being ‘left-behind’ among inhabitants of these areas.
To do so, EXIT proposes bottom-up, interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research with a community-based and intersectional approach from the analysis to the transferability of practices.


  • Gain an in-depth understanding on how the concept of “left-behind” has been used in research, policy and political discourse to define certain areas facing territorial inequality.
  • Reveal and comprehend the complexity of “left-behind” places, by conducting an in-depth analysis of territorial inequalities within the EU in areas considered as “left-behind”.
  • Understand and unfold the rationale, added value and bias of the concept in relation to linked concepts such as geographic inequality, disparities and stigmatisation, territorial cohesion, and spatial justice.
  • Analyse and assess how policies at different levels (local, regional, EU) contribute to the perception of inequality among “left-behind” areas.
  • Gain knowledge on the experiences and perceptions of territorial inequality and how these vary among and within areas considered as “left-behind”.
  • Consider and explore territorial inequalities and their recent development at the local level and in areas considered as “left-behind”.
  • Understand how perceptions and experiences of inequality contribute to defining an area as “left-behind”.
  • Evaluate to what extent some features of the neighbour regions/localities are (partially) responsible for territorial inequalities.
  • Identify gaps between socioeconomic factors of inequality and perception of being “left-behind”.
  • Gain knowledge of existing practices and strategies that promote levelling up and social inclusion in areas considered as “left-behind”.
  • Identify and enhance the capacity of grassroots, local and regional initiatives that promote the development of areas considered as “left-behind” and analyse to what extent the initiatives work to counteract inequalities and polarization within these areas.
  • Enhance cooperation between local and regional stakeholders from areas in decline and policymakers at all levels, promoting the transferability and upscaling of successful initiatives.
  • Propose sustainable strategies of governance to address growing territorial inequalities through a participatory and intersectional approach.


– Policymakers at local and regional level
– Policymakers at national and EU level
– Local civil society actors, including grassroots initiatives, support organisations and unions
– People living in areas in economic stagnation and decline
– Researchers working in the field of territorial inequalities

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Mis à jour le 6 avril 2023