Column by Guro Voss Gabrielsen

This Nordregio Forum is dedicated to Nordic cities and the developing connections between urban and rural areas. The theme brings into play many of the whicked problems we all face when striving to advance sustainable development.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian Government presented a white paper on urban sustainability and rural strength. It pointed specifically to the need for a cross-sectoral approach to several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This, however, is a challenge for public management and requires creative dialogue between stakeholders.

As Norway holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers this year, we wanted to address some of these challenges from the perspective of small and medium-sized towns. While we have increasing knowledge of how larger cities can contribute to reducing climate emissions and decreasing social differences, we less often look for contributions from small and medium-sized towns. However, these remain the predominant urban forms in our Nordic countries, and they have extensive experience.

The goal of the presidency project is to prepare a joint Nordic strategy to make towns and their surrounding areas more attractive, through the development of vibrant and inclusive urban environments that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Key objectives are environment- and climate-friendly solutions, social balance and equal opportunities for all, good social and public health services, inclusive cultural activities, vibrant town centres, historical–cultural objects and environments, good blue-green structures, attractive urban spaces and architecture, co-ordinated land use and transport solutions and diverse job opportunities.

A network of 18 small and medium-sized Nordic towns has been established, and together they are working on mapping, developing and implementing methods to measure urban qualities and sustainability. Nordic decision-makers, administrators and academic communities are sharing knowledge and contributing to strategies for handling complex decision-making challenges in urban regions.

For more information on the presidency project and the towns, please visit our website: www.regjeringen.no/attraktivebyer