Do you live in a sparsely populated part of Finland, a big Swedish city, a Danish border region, an Icelandic coastal town or on a Norwegian island? Where you live affects access to jobs, skills enhancement, communications and services, as well as your future prospects.
There is a trend toward greater social and economic differences both within and between the Nordic countries. As a result, Nordic towns, cities, rural areas and regions have different starting points from which to face major changes, such as company closures – not to mention pandemics.
Learning the right lessons
Some regions will recover quickly from the COVID-19 crisis, others have more lasting wounds, in the form of deficits, unemployment and lower tax revenues.
Creating economically, socially and environmentally sustainable regions that are resilient in times of crisis is, therefore, central to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ new programme for co-operation on regional policy.
Three strategic priorities
The other two strategic areas for co-operation over the next four years are green and inclusive town planning and rural development.
In this context, regional policy co-operation will play an important role in realising the vision of the Nordic Region as the world’s most sustainable and integrated region.
Green transition includes sparsely populated areas
The vision adopted by the prime ministers in autumn 2019 is now being translated into action plans and is reflected in new co-operation programmes for all policy areas.
“Regardless of whether you live in a sparsely populated area or a big city, everybody should have the opportunity to participate in the transition. We must refine our policies and build on regional advantages and local capacity for adaptation,” says Linda Hofstad Helleland, Minister of Regional Development and Digitalisation in Norway.
Compact cities and enhancing knowledge in rural areas
Green and inclusive town planning is about building compact urban areas with short distances between housing, services and workplaces. The goal is to reduce both climate impact and social segregation.
One aspect of green and inclusive rural development is the supply of knowledge in sparsely populated areas.
In order to ensure good conditions for sustainable business in areas such as aquaculture, mineral extraction, the circular economy, energy and the bioeconomy, rural areas need a skilled workforce.
In turn, a skilled workforce requires environmentally friendly transport, attractive housing and digital technology. Without these amenities, there is a risk that the countryside will be hit harder by the green transition.
“A green transition offers business opportunities for companies in areas such as the circular economy, energy supply and the bioeconomy in the Nordic countries. Smart specialisation and regional leadership will help Nordic clusters and innovation ecosystems work more closely together and make the Nordic Region greener and more competitive,” says Mika Lintilä, Minister of Economic Affairs in Finland and chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Regional Policy in 2021.
Co-operation on regional policy will generate new knowledge that will inform the policies of the countries, regions and municipalities.
A large part of the knowledge work related to regional development takes place at the Nordic research centre Nordregio, as well as in three theme groups with responsibility for each of the priority areas.