Nordregio Forum Day 2: Urban-rural relations in the Nordics and beyond

The second day of the annual Nordregio Forum delved deeper into the theme of urban-rural relations and discussed how to create more synergies between the two, pointing already towards the focus of next year’s Forum, which will deal with sustainable rural development from a post-growth perspective.

The day was opened by Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Dagfinn Høybråten, who started by taking a look outside the Nordic region in connection with a new project on Nordic Sustainable Cities, part of the Prime Ministers’ initiative on Nordic solutions to global challenges. The Nordics are in Top 10 of most international rankings according to a new study that tracks the position of the Nordic countries in the world, said Høybråten, adding that the demand for Nordic solutions has never been bigger. He added furthermore that a recent poll shows that support for Nordic co-operation is massive within the Nordic countries themselves, with 90% being positive to it and nearly two thirds in favour of increased co-operation.

The theme of the day was then expanded by Director General Hallgeir Aalbu from the conference co-host, the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, who called for an end to the false dichotomy between urban and rural development. They are two sides of the same coin and need to be handled as supplementary if we are to achieve sustainable development, he pointed out.

This was supplemented by Steinar Johansen from the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, who argued that contrary to belief, economic development and relative share of GDP is not that disparate between urban and rural regions as normally assumed, at least in a Norwegian context.

This was followed by a panel discussion on challenges within urban-rural relations and subsequently by round table discussions on similar topics.

Along with a string of parallel sessions on the first day of the conference – organized by Nordic City Network, Nordic Energy Research, Baltic Urban Lab and the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation – the Nordregio Forum 2017 added up to a varied and multifaceted event, that united policy makers and practitioners from across the Nordic-Baltic region. To round off the Forum, an add on ESPON seminar delved even deeper into the issue of planning and development in the Northern periphery of Europe.

The next Nordregio Forum will take place in Sweden in the Autumn of 2018, focusing on sustainable rural development as part of a holistic regional development in the Nordics. A core issue there could be getting beyond the constant focus on growth as a key driver for regional development, as was also pointed out by Guro Voss Gabrielsen in her closing remarks at this year’s Nordregio Forum, but the topics for next year will be explored in the months to come.