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The missing multiplier

How to use public procurement for more sustainable municipalities This policy brief is based on the final installment of Nordregio’s three Localising Agenda 2030 webinars held in March 2022. It aims to highlight the lessons learned from front-runner municipalities, as well as inspire local and national decision-makers to invest in and build capacity for sustainable procurement processes. The Nordic countries enjoy high standards of living, but they also stand out in global rankings as over-consumers of natural resources with major challenges to realising SDG 12 – Sustainable consumption and production. With several billions spent on public procurement each year in the Nordic countries, procurement is a powerful tool to leverage sustainability at a large scale.  This is also reflected in a report from the Nordic Council of Ministers (2021) where public procurement is referred to as ‘the missing multiplier’, emphasizing that public procurement can impact all 17 SDGs while addressing 82 percent of the targets. In this webinar, the municipalities of Gladsaxe, Denmark, and Vantaa, Finland, shared how they have altered local procurement processes to align with sustainability goals. Together with panellists from the National Agency for Public Procurement in Sweden, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) in Norway, and KEINO in Finland, the discussion addressed how other municipalities can use public procurement to strengthen sustainability practices and SDG mainstreaming across the Nordic Region.  

What’s in a voluntary local review? 

Developing meaningful indicators to measure local Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) progress in the Nordics This policy brief is based on the second of three webinars on Localising Agenda 2030 in the Nordics. It aims to highlight the shared experiences between Nordic municipalities and inspire local and national decision-makers to invest in and build capacity for measuring and reporting on SDG localisation. Establishing meaningful indicators that correspond with local sustainability strategies towards 2030 requires considerable technical and operational resources on the part of Nordic municipalities. Therefore, implementing SDGs at the local level, in addition to determining how to report on SDG progress, remains a challenge. Nevertheless, several places across the Nordic Region have come a long way since localising efforts began after Agenda 2030 was launched by the UN in 2015. In recent years, there has been momentum around Voluntary Local Reviews (see Box 1). These reports have proven valuable as a holistic process and documentation to track SDG progress and governance.  During the webinar session, the cities of Espoo, Finland, and Helsingborg, Sweden, offered their best practices on developing and applying local indicator sets and shared how they went about conducting their respective VLRs. Panel experts from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (Samband) also joined the discussion. The challenges of developing comprehensive methodologies suited to the local context, working across departments, and coordinating with fellow Nordic municipalities to report on common targets were among the topics addressed during the session. 

Steering towards a sustainable future  

How to integrate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and navigate goal conflicts at the local level This policy brief is based on the first of Nordregio’s three Localising Agenda 2030 webinars in 2022. It aims to highlight the shared experiences between Nordic municipalities and inspire local officials and decision-makers to invest in adaptive leadership and smart steering tools. Nordic front-runner municipalities in SDG achievement often have two things in common: committed leadership and a holistic steering process encompassing the Agenda 2030 framework. With 8 years remaining, the integration of the SDGs into local strategies will require leadership willing to revise budgeting systems, alter ways of working, transform conflicting interests into synergies, and serve the needs of the local community. Steering tools are an important foundation in many Nordic municipalities to govern sustainable development in a systematic way. Without them, efforts to address pressing social, economic, and environmental issues can be futile or, a minimum, difficult to monitor.   During the webinar, municipal leaders from Finspång, Sweden, and Kristiansund, Norway, presented their tested tools and learnings, followed by a panel discussion with Kópavogur, Iceland, and Espoo, Finland, addressing several questions: How is sustainability work organised within the municipalities to achieve genuine progress? How do mayors and officials collaborate to build commitment and momentum around Agenda 2030 in all departments? Which are the main barriers and success factors to efficiently integrate the SDGs into local planning and budgeting tools – and turn goal conflicts into synergies?  

Compact cities trigger high use of second homes in the Nordic Region

The phenomenon of spending time in a second home—a sommerhus, sumarhús, mökki, hytta or fritidshus—is an expression of the high quality of life in the Nordic countries. Estimations suggest that around half of the Nordic population have access to a second home via ownership, family or friends, and these ‘rural’ second homes are increasingly used all year round. The dominant understanding of the Nordic region is ongoing urbanisation, where people move from rural areas to urban centres. The analyses in this study nuance this understanding as there is also mobility from urban permanent homes to rural second homes ongoing throughout the year. This policy brief presents possibilities for how spatial planning can include second home users and seasonal tourists more directly as a factor for local development, in statistics and through proactive spatial planning. In the project “Urban-rural flows of seasonal tourists – local planning challenges and strategies”, five Nordic municipalities with some of the highest amounts of second homes were chosen for in-depth analysis: Odsherred, Denmark; Pargas, Finland; Grímsnes og Grafsningshreppur, Iceland; Nore og Uvdal, Norway; and Härjedalen, Sweden. This policy brief summarises the project Urban–rural flows from seasonal tourism and second homes: Planning challenges and strategies in the Nordics funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. A report has previously been published.

Agenda 2030 and SDGs at the local level – a brief start-up guide

The Nordic countries are often placed at the top of global rankings on sustainable development. Well-established democratic systems are in place to fight poverty, promote economic growth and ensure gender equality, as well as to protect the environment and peace and justice. Much of the success of the Nordic Region stems from the local system of governance, under which many decisions are taken in local democratic forums. In the Nordic countries, municipalities are the most local form of official public authority with elected politicians. In many ways, municipalities and regions support the wellbeing of our everyday lives in the Nordic Region. They provide public services such as infrastructure, waste treatment and social services. Therefore, local and regional authorities are critical to the overall successful implementation of the sustainability ambitions established at other government levels. A change towards sustainable development will not occur without the commitment of the local and regional governments. In October 2019, the Nordic Council of Ministers organised an event in Stockholm for Nordic municipalities and other local authorities to meet and exchange their experiences in working with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This policy brief provides a synthesis of conclusions from the event, findings from a previous study on the topic and the authors’ experience within the sustainability field.