About the NWG4

The Nordic Working Group for Green Growth: Sustainable Urban Regions (NWG4) was set up under the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Committee of Senior Officials for Regional Policy (EK-R) for the programme period of 2013–2016. Nordregio has functioned as the secretariat but has also carried out commissioned projects on behalf of the NWG4, occasionally in collaboration with others. The main task for this working group was specifically to explore how spatial planning can contribute to green growth within the context of Nordic city-regions. The members of the working group specified three main objectives within a working programme, which included diverse activities, projects and events.

 Objectives of the working group

  1. Identifying and analysing examples of urban forms and planning processes that can be models for different types of Nordic city-regions, and which can also be inspiring other city-regions in Europe.
  2. Contributing to knowledge on city-regional planning tools/models/concepts, and how they could be used, implemented and translated in practice.
  3. Facilitating exchange of planning and policy experiences between the Nordic city-regions with regards to development and planning for attractive and sustainable city-regions.

The first objective was to identify and analyse examples of urban forms and planning processes that can be models for different types of Nordic city-regions and that can also be inspiring examples for other city-regions in Europe. This objective was addressed through a number of different activities. Overall, the compact city appears as the model, and as Nordic policy, leading towards sustainable urban development. Planning practices and policies can then contribute to green growth primarily through regulating, and intervening in, the urban form. Another key issue is the integration of land-use, transport and housing polices. Considering the vertical relations between different administrative levels, important issues include the role that the region should have in sustainable development and the role that the state should have in local planning. These issues also overlap with opportunities for collaboration between municipalities within different functional urban areas.

The Nordic cities and regions are in many ways international forerunners in working towards more sustainable development, especially in terms of eco-technology and green growth. However, there are some worrying trends in terms of social sustainability and uncertainty about how to produce affordable housing and infrastructure efficiently, and how to create inclusive and ecologically sustainable urban areas. Nevertheless, there are also possibilities: the Nordic city-regions can – with necessary political decisions and with more perspectives and actors recognized in the planning processes – lead the way towards sustainable urban development.

The second objective was to contribute knowledge on city-regional planning tools, models and concepts, and how they might be used, implemented and translated in practice. This objective was addressed both directly and indirectly through various activities. Spatial planning is very much on the political agenda, and there are many initiatives aiming to make planning more efficient; for example, to integrate transport, housing and land-use planning through contractual urban policies. The Nordic countries appear to be good at making plans and polices regarding sustainable development; however, a key issue is how to implement, evaluate and monitor various plans and policies. Planning has become increasingly strategic and goal oriented, which also provides opportunities for evaluation and monitoring through, for example, indicator frameworks. The projects done on behalf of the NWG4 have shown how open data and open source geographic information system (GIS) applications provide opportunities to map urban form and service accessibility. There are a many different applications – for example, different kinds of integrated urban planning models – that can be used to facilitate city-regional planning and decision-making.

The third objective was to facilitate exchange of experiences between the Nordic city-regions. This objective has been addressed directly by the activities and engagement of the members of the NWG4. Seminars, meetings, workshops and publications have facilitated the exchange of ideas and experiences concerning how to develop functional, competitive and sustainable city-regions. The field of knowledge in urban and regional sustainability is vast, but by providing comparisons and producing state-of-the-art reports that synthesize the latest research, highlight the specificities as well as the commonalities between different city-regions, and exchange concrete solutions, Nordic collaboration contributes to the planning and development of attractive and sustainable city-regions.

The specific activities of the working group have been developed continuously through collaboration between the members of the NWG4 (i.e., national representatives from ministries or national authorities) and the key stakeholders (i.e., policymakers and planners in the municipalities and regions in the larger (city-regions).

Members of the Nordic working group

Chairman, Svend Otto Ott,
Ministry of Business and Growth, Denmark,

Holger Bisgaard, Ministry of Business and Growth, Denmark

Olli Maijala, Ministry of the Environment, Finland

Olli Voutilainen, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Finland

Ellen Husaas, Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Norway

Tore Leite, Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Norway

Maria Nordh, Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, Sweden

Patrik Faming, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, Sweden

Lukas Smas, Nordregio

Christian Fredricsson, Nordregio

Nordregio researchers contributing to the working group:

Lukas Smas

Senior Research Fellow

Christian Fredricsson

Research Fellow

Moa Tunström

Senior Research Fellow

Liisa Perjo

Research Fellow

Sandra Oliveira e Costa

Research Fellow

Ryan Weber

Senior Research Advisor

Timothy Anderson

Junior Research Fellow

Aslı Tepecik Diş

Research Fellow

Johanna Feuk

Communications Manager

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