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22 Publications

Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024

The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 outlines our main mission and core research focus areas, which have been carefully aligned to address the key objectives and needs of policymakers and practitioners outlined within Nordic cooperation steering documents. In recent years, there has been a convergence of several global megatrends which are having a major impact on all aspects of the Nordic economy, society and environment. Climate change, migration, rapid demographic developments, digitalization and automation, increasing urban-rural divides, and growing socio-economic inequalities are some of the main threats facing the Nordic Region. Nordregio is focused on identifying practical Nordic policy solutions to help overcome these challenges and promote socio-economic growth and environmental sustainability across the Nordic Region. The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 has been written as a collaborative effort by our staff members in close cooperation with Nordregio’s Board of Directors, which represents the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. The overarching goals that guide Nordregio’s research are outlined in the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Action Plan for Vision 2030, which is approved by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation. The Action Plan defines the work to achieve the objectives of the Vision through a series of initiatives linked to the Vision’s three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region, and a socially sustainable Nordic Region. During the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio is committed to delivering high quality scientific, evidence-based research designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with sustainable policies to help overcome the main challenges faced by Nordic regions and municipalities. Our research will contribute substantially towards Nordic cooperation and synergies, while also showcasing Nordic policies, experience and competences internationally. The Board approved the Nordregio Strategy on the 15th of April 2021.

Localising the Sustainable Development Goals in Europe: Perspectives for the north

How do Nordic and European organisations support Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) implementation at the local level? Which initiatives are relevant for different Nordic countries? This report considers localisation efforts and serves as a guide, with the references providing information and background on selected Nordic and European SDG localisation efforts, reflecting important objectives, priorities, and key activities of the different institutions, organisations, and programmes. The aim of the report is to help navigate among the available resources and to identify which initiatives, networks, or tools might be most suitable for a given context and available capacities. According to the author of the report Diana N. Huynh, Junior Research Fellow at Nordregio, this report addresses primarily a Norwegian context, but it also builds on previous Nordregio work and Nordic Council of Minister’s publications. In many ways, it is taking stock and consolidating Nordic efforts to localise the 2030 Agenda with a European outlook in mind. Moving forward, it will be important to (re)consider how the Nordic countries are supporting regional and local level SDG implementation through national policies and action plans. Also – looking at the potential to strengthen policy coherence and/or indicator frameworks not just as it is planned and carried out within each country but across the Nordic Region. The report was published together with The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS). It provides an inspiration and further references to advance the work on Agenda 2030.

State of the Nordic Region 2020 -Wellbeing, health and digitalisation

This Special Edition aims to complement State of the Nordic Region 2020 by taking an in-depth look at some of the factors that contribute to wellbeing and health in the Nordic Region, and exploring how digitalisation in health care and social care can contribute to wellbeing. The theme of the report connects to the Nordic vision to become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world. This will be achieved by, among other things, promoting a socially sustainable Nordic Region which is inclusive, equal and interconnected with shared values and strengthened cultural exchange and welfare. National statistics and international comparisons provide an overview of how the countries are performing on different indicators relating tohealth and wellbeing. In order to learn more about wellbeing in different parts of the Nordic Region, we have also zoomed in on the regional and local levels. The report illustrates the central role of demography, whereby the composition and the spatial patterns of the population together with socioeconomic factors contribute to shaping the living conditions and wellbeing in different parts of the Nordic Region. Although life expectancy is increasing, the loss of healthy years due to non-communicable diseases and poor health-related behaviours remain obstacles to further improvement of health and wellbeing. Socio-economic factors such as education, employment and income have important roles to play as regards health and well being. Despite a general pattern of urban regions being richer, more well educated and living longer, we also find many thriving rural areas attracting new young residents. Digital infrastructure plays a crucial role in the development of those rural areas, and digitalisation in health care and social care also holds a promise of increasing equal accessibility to welfare services in rural and remote areas. A prerequisite for this is however to secure internet access to all…

Overcoming barriers to social inclusion in Nordic cities through policy and planning

This report examines how Nordic governments and municipalities seek to overcome barriers to social inclusion and to counteract inequality and segregation through policy and urban planning. Overcoming barriers to social inclusion is understood as the desire to improve the terms on which different individuals and groups take part in society through urban policy and planning while counteracting the negative effects of inequality. Examples of policy and planning initiatives to create more inclusive cities and communities can be found in all the Nordic countries. However, inclusion is a multifaceted issue and the specific challenges, and approaches to dealing with these challenges, vary among the countries and cities. To capture this diversity, this report examines five different thematic and geographical cases detailing strategies for inclusion from different perspectives in varying contextual settings. This report is the result of work done for the thematic group Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. The group focuses on: 1) social sustainability and gender equality; 2) spatial planning; 3) urban qualities in small and medium-sized cities, and the urban-rural relationship; and 4) the growth and development of Arctic cities. Within these broad themes the group decides what activities to conduct, and the researchers involved are responsible for the results.

Polar Peoples in the Future: Projections of the Arctic Populations

Projections of the future size, composition and distribution of the populations of the Arctic states and regions are useful for policymakers for planning purposes. This paper presents and analyses the most recent population projections undertaken for the Arctic states and regions. Global population growth is projected to continue rising, from the current total of 7.4 billion to 10 billion in 2055. The population of the Arctic, as defined here, is predicted to change little, with a projected population increase of just 1%. However, there will be considerable variation in growth rates among the Arctic regions. Among the Arctic regions of Alaska, Yukon, Nunavut, Iceland, Troms, Khanty-Mansiy okrug and Chukotka, substantial population increases are projected, amounting to more than 10% over the projection period specified for each. Nordland, Finnmark, Pohjoil-Pohjanmaa (North Ostrobothnia) and Nenets autonomous okrug are projected to experience a more modest rate of growth of between 5% and 10%. The population of the Northwest Territories, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Västerbotten, Norrbotten, Lappi, Yamal-Nenets okrug, Yakutia and Kamchatka oblast are projected to remain roughly the same, neither growing nor declining by more than 5%. Kainuu in Finland, Karelia, Komi, Arkhangel’sk, Murmansk, and Magadan in Russia are projected to undergo reductions in population of more than 5% each. Common trends identified for nearly all Arctic regions in the future are aging populations, more balanced gender ratios between men and women, increased concentrations of population within larger urban settlements, and the depopulation of smaller settlements. Research for this article is part of a project entitled Polar Peoples: Past, Present, and Future. This is supported by a grant from the U. S. National Science Foundation, Arctic Social Sciences Program (award number PLR-1418272). I would like to thank Olivia Napper, graduate student in the Department of Geography at George Washington University, for creating the…

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.

Bringing attention back to the city centre – six Nordic examples

Many small and medium-sized Nordic cities are dealing with challenges related to the role and development of their city centres. They use strategies related to urban planning, governance and business development, to aim for greater compactness, attractiveness, economic development and sustainability. What can we learn from the Nordic countries’ different approaches to city-centre development? This policy brief summarises investigations in six small and medium-sized Nordic cities. The discourse and practice of contemporary urban planning focuses strongly on densification and the compact city as the ideal and model for sustainable development. In the Nordic countries as well as elsewhere in Europe, there is a pervasive urban norm associated with planning, development and lifestyles. According to this norm, the compact city, and life in this city, is sustainable, attractive and safe. In parallel with this, sprawling urbanism has come to symbolise the environmental, social and economic problems of contemporary cities. Added to this, the central part of a city is a limited space for which there are high expectations related to the urban norm, expectations that can be particularly challenging for smaller cities. Our studies indicate that appropriate city-centre development requires co-operation across sectors and actors, recognition of the regional role of the city core, and investment in both the city centre and its periphery to create a balance that attracts residents, visitors and consumers. The policy brief summarises a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. The Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Cities and Urban Development 2017–2020 aims to help improve national, regional, local and cross-border strategies for sustainable cities. This is done via research projects and other communicative activities, addressing the following themes from the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning: 1) social sustainability and gender equality; 2)…

Addressing social sustainability through everyday life: Experience from a pilot study in four Nordic city-regions

Increasing globalization, climate change and shifting demographics are creating a new context for discussion of development and its spatial distribution. This is a new challenge for planners and politicians, who are expected to develop and approve plans encompassing the existing built environment, new settlements and urban infrastructure, at the same time as the context rapidly shifts. This forces a re-assessment of how growth and development are envisioned in planning interventions. Some policymakers support a major shift towards green growth, based on radical improvements in energy systems, as the new paradigm leading to sustainability. Green growth has been embraced in order to mobilize green investments and to mitigate the current economic and environmental crises. It is often criticized, however, for neglecting the effects on the everyday lives of the individuals who reside in the city-regions where green growth is envisioned. Nordic cities are not only growing, but becoming more culturally and socioeconomically diverse. In that context, the quest for green growth raises profound professional, technical, theoretical and ethical questions for planners and politicians, including implications arising from increased socio-cultural diversity and associated perspectives. The objective of the pilot study presented here is (1) to consider whether, and if so, how, knowledge about everyday life practices of different groups of women and men are present and integrated into Nordic city-region planning; and (2) to test the usefulness, for researchers and planners, of assessing city-region planning through the eyes of everyday life theory. The research included several interviews, a workshop, and text analysis of documents concerning city-region policy and the processes of sustainable urban and regional planning. Local perspectives were scrutinized through the lens of gender, then extended to consider intersectionality. Intersectionality is a theoretical tool that attempts to foster understanding of a multiplicity of social contexts, including the different discourses of power…

Social Innovation (SI) in local development in the Nordic countries and Scotland

This project investigates the role of Social Innovation (SI) and how it can respond to the challenges facing rural and remote regions in Nordic countries. These regions are facing continuing rural-urban migration, which not only...

Adapting to, or mitigating demographic change?

The Nordic countries continue to experience the impact of the long term demographic trend of migration from rural areas and smaller communities to larger towns and cities. In addition, the share of the Nordic population aged over 65 is increasing. Ageing population is especially pronounced in areas outside the largest city-regions. Depopulation and having relatively fewer people in working age is expected to have a severe impact on many Nordic municipalities causing additional problems with the future provision of welfare services. In addition, these municipalities face challenges when it comes to accessing the labour force especially in the welfare sector. Moreover, while population decrease imposes particular challenges to rural and peripheral areas, the large city-regions in the Nordic countries are experiencing significant population growth, bringing an altogether different set of challenges. At the same time, the nuances in this general picture need to be acknowledged given, primarily, the continuing strongly positive fl ow of international migration. All municipalities in the Nordic countries experience an in-migration of people from abroad. Indeed, in Norway in particular, migration from abroad has clearly contributed to population increases in rural and peripheral areas. The major demographic trends in the Nordic countries can be summarised as follows: Concentration of the population to urban areas has resulted in significant differences in population structure between growing urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas. Th is has led to new regional imbalances in the availability of and demand for labour. Stagnation or reduction of the workforce. The younger generations are not large enough to fully replace those leaving the labour market. Strong increase in the share of population aged over 65 and within the next 30 years there will be an increase in this age group in all the Nordic countries. Gender imbalance in many Nordic municipalities and regions.…