Sustainable Cities and Urban Development

The Nordic thematic group for sustainable cities and urban development 2017-2020 aims to help to improve national, regional, local and cross-border strategies for sustainable cities.

The thematic group for Sustainable cities and urban development will contribute to implementation of the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017-2020 by focusing 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.

On a general level the Nordic countries, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland share challenges posed by the effects of urbanisation and centralisation on cities. The challenges relate to smart growth and to manage and reduce cities’ environmental burden, to counter segregation, create attractive and inclusive environments, leverage the potential of digitalisation in the development of smart cities, and overcome the divisions between cities and the surrounding countryside

Social aspects of sustainable urban development imply putting strategies for integration, housing, gender equality and quality of life at the centre. Practical as well as knowledge-based challenges include how to work with urban policy to develop attractive urban environments in small and medium-sized Nordic and Arctic cities. In a context of migration and urbanisation there is also a need to ask fundamental questions, for example about how urban and rural environments relate to each other, both as discursive categories and through material flows of people, goods etc. in times of increased globalisation and technological change such as digitalisation. Also regarding administrative municipal and regional reforms there is potential for Nordic learning.

Against this background the three overarching objectives of the work in all the activities in the thematic group for sustainable cities and urban development are:

-          to increase knowledge concerning the local urban qualities and socioeconomic conditions of small and medium sized Nordic and Arctic cities;

-          to help improve governance practices for sustainable development of small and medium sized Nordic and Arctic cities, based on their local urban qualities and socioeconomic conditions;

-          to deepen the understanding of linkages and external relations (regional, national, global) of small and medium sized Nordic and Arctic cities with particular focus on urban-rural relations.

The activities of thematic group builds depart from the previous Nordic Working Group for Green Growth: Sustainable Urban Rregions (2015-2016) which had a focus on the larger Nordic city-regions and the challenges and possibilities for governing and developing sustainable urban regions. Sustainability (social, economic and environmental) will continue to be a key issue and an important horizontal dimension. The main geographical focus will however shift towards to small and medium sized Nordic and Arctic cities and their specificities and qualities.