Nordic overview of national support initiatives in urban planning
The Nordic countries share many cross-sectoral targets at the national level to meet ambitious environmental, social, sustainable, and innovative development goals and targets. However, in the context of spatial planning, central governments in the Nordic countries often have limited ability to influence local and regional level priorities. As the Nordic region seeks a greener, more competitive, and socially sustainable future, understanding the diversity of ongoing national interventions and mechanisms in local and regional land use and spatial planning is needed. The focus on Nordic national support initiatives is therefore to understand both the regulative and national support aspects (top-down) and the actual needs (bottom-up) to achieve national cross-sectoral targets as these relate to green and inclusive urban development. This policy brief presents a mapping of the relevant initiatives across the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).
Strengthening Nordic cooperation on remote work and multilocality
This policy brief summarises the first outcomes of the project ‘Remote work: Effects on Nordic people, places and planning 2021-2024’ and delivers recommendations designed to strengthen cross-Nordic learning and cooperation on this issue. The experiences of remote work during the pandemic have been fairly similar in the five Nordic countries. Similar trends are also evident, though to differing degrees, with respect to the effects on different places throughout the region. The most notable differences between the countries relate to the regional policy responses, and it is perhaps here that the greatest potential for Nordic added value emerges. Given this, our recommendations focus on ways in which to strengthen Nordic cooperation and cross-Nordic learning on issues related to the regional development and planning implications of remote work going forward.
Food self-sufficiency in five Nordic island societies
This policy brief seeks to increase knowledge of how greater food self-sufficiency can contribute to increased sustainability and resilience in the food systems of five Nordic island societies: Bornholm, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, and Åland. Increasing food self-sufficiency means rethinking global supply chains, (re-)adapting to local contexts, and ensuring optimal conditions for selling and buying locally produced food. Increased self-sufficiency and improved local food systems can have positive environmental, social, and economic consequences. However, whether increased self-sufficiency adds to more sustainable food systems depends on myriad factors, including production methods, the type of food in question, and the availability of local food on the local market. Previous research shows that local food production does not automatically equate to sustainable food production.
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?
Nordic border communities in the time of COVID-19
This policy brief gives a brief overview of the impact of border restrictions on border communities during the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provides concrete recommendations to cross-border committees, border municipalities, national authorities and Nordic organisations on how to strengthen the cross-border collaboration after the pandemic. The social and economic implications of closed borders have exposed the fragility of Nordic co-operation. The ability of border areas to exist side-by-side in an integrated, seamless way corresponds to the Nordic vision of being the most integrated region in the world, but the situation that unfolded shows a different story. Re-building cross-border collaboration will be vital after the COVID-19 crisis to secure resilient border communities and Nordic collaboration. The measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus were disproportionally damaging for border communities. Healing the wounds inflicted on society, business and institutions demand coordinated actions at local, national, and Nordic levels.
Recruitment and retention in the welfare sector: Nordic good practice
The Nordic welfare sector is facing significant challenges when it comes to providing effective social care services. While the demand for services for a rapidly growing elderly population is constantly increasing, the workforce delivering social care services is shrinking, with many workers reaching retirement age. Tackling the challenges related to recruitment and retention of qualified staff – and developing innovative approaches to the delivery of social care services – is becoming increasingly urgent, particularly in rural and sparsely populated areas (SPAs). This policy brief gives an overview of examples across the Nordic Region aimed at tackling these resource challenges and exploring innovative ways of organising and delivering social care services in rural areas and SPAs. It is based on a desk study funded by Nordic Welfare Centre (see more about this on the last page).
Policy brief – Public service delivery in the Nordic Region: An exercise in collaborative governance
Now, more than ever, is Nordic collaboration required across all levels of governance to help overcome the devastating socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and to solve the shared challenges posed by climate change and growing urban-rural divides. This policy brief examines six good practice examples of collaborative public service delivery from across the Nordic Region, highlighting the main drivers, challenges and enablers of collaboration and the replication potential of these Nordic collaborative examples. The policy brief finds that new and innovative models of Nordic collaboration are constantly emerging thanks to rapid technological developments that are helping to bring stakeholders together to solve common societal challenges. The high levels of cooperation outlined indicate that collaborative governance is continually evolving within the Nordic context.
Optimising the impact of Nordic climate policies
The challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to halt climate change is global. It doesn’t matter where emissions reductions take place, what matters the most is to reduce the overall global emissions as much as possible at the least possible cost. The Nordic countries’ climate policies are relatively ambitious in an international perspective, and the countries have progressively raised their climate targets in recent years. However, when designing national climate policies, it is important to assess not only their effects on territorial emissions but also the degree to which they will affect emissions in other countries. This policy brief provides recommendations on how the Nordic countriescan optimise the overall impact of their climate policies. The recommendations are based on the analyses and main conclusions from Climate Policies in the Nordics – Nordic Economic Policy Review 2019. The report evaluates the cost-effectiveness and global impact of Nordic climate policy in the context of the Paris Agreement and the available mechanisms for international emissions trading.
Matching the missing links – Skills development in Nordic regions
This Policy Brief takes a closer look at capacity building of skills across Nordic regions. It draws shared learning points from the steps taken by regional actors faced with trends such as increasingly urban and globalized societies, ageing populations and the fourth industrial revolution. Looking at regional skills ecosystems, it explores the development of distinctive skills bases as a key to handling future challenges and building resilient societies. Knowledge and skills are the raw material for growth at a time of digitalization and automation. In consequence, it becomes paramount for decision makers at both national and regional levels to facilitate the matching of the right people with the right jobs, and ensure the proper conditions for developing the skills needed. In this policy brief, based on the Nordregio report Skills Policies – Building capacities for innovative and resilient Nordic regions, we take a closer look at how six Nordic regions are working to meet these challenges. The Nordic countries share many similarities which make them suitable as a macro-regional laboratory where you can explore many common issues which are of interest also to a wider audience. This includes the matching or mismatching of skills in a regional context that will be in focus here.
Agenda 2030 och hållbarhetsmålen på lokal nivå
De nordiska länderna toppar ofta globala rankningar över hållbar utveckling. De har väletablerade demokratiska system som motarbetar fattigdom, främjar ekonomisk tillväxt, säkerställer jämställdhet, skyddar miljön, samt upprätthåller fred och rättvisa. Mycket av framgången i Norden har sina rötter i det lokala förvaltningssystemet där många beslut fattas i kommunala demokratiska organ. I de nordiska länderna är kommunerna den mest lokala formen av officiella offentliga myndigheter med valda politiker. Kommunerna och regionerna stöttar på många sätt välbefinnandet i vårt dagliga liv i Norden. De tillhandahåller offentliga tjänster som infrastruktur, avfallshantering och sociala tjänster. Därför har lokala och regionala myndigheter en nyckelroll för framgångsrik implementering av hållbarhetsambitioner som fastställs på andra förvaltningsnivåer. En omställning till hållbar utveckling sker inte utan de lokala och regionala myndigheterna. Den här policy briefen är en översättning av den policy brief som först publicerades på engelska, under våren 2020. Länk till den engelska versionen samt den rapport som publicerades under hösten 2019 finns längre ned på den här sidan.
Strengthening regional resilience through adaptive collaboration
This policy brief examines how co-management arrangements within small-scale fisheries can play a key role in enhancing sectoral and regional resilience. Despite major challenges, “multi-stakeholder collaborations” – such as co-management – demonstrate the potential for innovative knowledge transfer and strategic adaptation processes within the fisheries sector. The focus here is on Co-management Northern Bohuslän (Samförvaltning Norra Bohuslän), which promotes sustainable local fisheries and blue growth on Sweden’s west coast. The case illustrates how, under appropriate conditions, participatory local efforts can significantly contribute to sustainability and resilience. The policy brief presents findings on related challenges and opportunities, including recommendations on future directions for the co-management initiative itself, and more general suggestions for co-management as a means to promote sectoral and regional resilience in the Nordic region.
Breaking the downward spiral: Improving rural housing markets in the Nordic Region
A pressing problem: Are the rural housing markets frozen? In many rural areas, the market value of houses is low – often considerably below the cost of construction. As a consequence, it is very difficult to obtain the loan to build or buy. This ‘freezes’ the market and has a negative impact on rural development overall. So, how could the rural housing markets improve in the Nordic countries? This Policy Brief explores aspects of the dynamics of the ‘frozen’ rural housing market in the Nordic Region, with a specific focus on the role of financing, the part played by municipalities and the potential benefits of a larger rental market. In many rural areas, the market value of houses is low – often considerably below the cost of construction. In consequence, it is very difficult to obtain loans to build or buy. This ‘freezes’ the market and has a strong impact on rural development overall, in effect acting as a boost to the trend towards urbanisation and the depopulation of rural areas. In this Policy Brief, we will explore ways to counteract this dynamic. This Policy Brief is a part of the work of The Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Rural Development 2017-2020.
Policy Brief: Rural perspectives on digital innovation
Digitalisation holds considerable potential for rural areas. It offers the promise of overcoming geographical distance, ensuring equal access to opportunity regardless of where people live. At the same time, rural and sparsely populated areas are thought to lag behind their urban counterparts when it comes to the provision of digital infrastructure and the development of digital knowledge and skills. These urban-rural disparities are often referred to as the digital divide and can prevent rural communities from unlocking the opportunities associated with digitalisation. This Policy Brief explores strategies to overcome the digital divide, with a focus on increasing the competitiveness of small rural enterprises through digital innovation. It is based on a larger project which included desk-based research, a series of workshops held in rural locations around the Nordic-Baltic Region and a webinar series. You can learn about project results in digital divide, tourism, manufacturing and bioeconomy through these stories: https://nordregioprojects.org/innovation-results/
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.
Transition to a bioeconomy in Northwest Russia – current potential and challenges
The development of a bioeconomy is at the forefront of the national and regional agendas of many European countries. Yet, little is known about the status and the institutional and policy frameworks for bioeconomy development in Northwest Russia. This policy brief aims at increasing the understanding of the opportunities and challenges for bioeconomy development in Northwest Russia by drawing upon lessons learned from bioeconomy case studies in the Republic of Karelia, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk oblasts.
The value of high-speed trains in intermediate regions
A cross-border perspective along the Oslo-Stockholm corridor. This policy brief examines how small and medium-sized (SMS) cities can benefit from the introduction of a high-speed train connection. Our results indicate that such transport infrastructure projects might not be the best fit for all SMS cities, even though they can contribute to local urban developments, especially in medium-sized cities. The background information document offers a more detailed view upon the researched areas and summarises the main elements from the workshops and interviews with local stakeholders. These discussions aimed at answering the following question in a number of medium- and small-sized cities in Värmland–Østfold that might be connected to the future HST corridor between Oslo and Stockholm: ‘What could be the effects of the introduction of a faster train service between Oslo and Stockholm on the urban development in your municipality?’ More precisely, the discussions focused on urban and territorial developments in the selected municipalities (Arvika, Askim, Karlstad, Kristinehamn, Lillestrøm and Årjäng).
Implementing Smart Specialisation strategies in Nordic regions
This policy brief explores the adoption of Smart Specialisation (S3) strategies in the Nordic Region. S3 as a policy tool has quickly been adopted across the European Union and in the Nordic countries, but the implementation of S3 is not uniformly adopted. What is the added value of smart specialisation implementation in Nordic regions? Strengthened governance structures, clear ownership to S3 processes, and understanding S3 as a process in its own right are some of our key recommendations. We also explore if there is a Nordic Model of S3; A highly compatible Nordic innovation environment may suggest a favourable positioning for maximising the added value of S3 in Nordic regions. This research is part of the work of the Nordic Thematic Group on Innovative and Resilient Regions established by the Nordic Council of Ministers.