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Sustainable Rural Development

In the Nordic region, there are increasing regional imbalances between urban and rural areas in terms of population change, economic development, access to services, and social outcomes. The Nordic thematic group on sustainable rural development 2017-2020 explores these development paths and policies supporting or mitigating the changes. 

The thematic group on sustainable rural development is a part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017-2020. The programme has defined three goals for the group to focus on:

-          To contribute to the development of policies and new solutions to the challenges that the countries face with regard to sustainable rural development.

-          Contribute to the continued development of knowledge by identifying specific examples, statistics, and policy-relevant conclusions.

-          Identify organisational and structural aspects of the implementation of regional policy and contribute to an understanding of how multi-level governance affects the implementation of policies and initiatives in the focus area.


The work of the 2017–2020 Nordic thematic group for Sustainable Rural Development is organized around four major themes: demographic challenges, social innovation, the competences and skills necessary to boost economic growth, and strengthening cross-border cooperation. The thematic group will take on other issues, for instance, topics related to urban-rural interactions and issues related to attractiveness, regional innovation and economic development, to facilitate interaction with the other thematic groups. In addition, cross-cutting topics such as immigration, the Arctic and children and youth will have an influence on the project throughout the thematic group period. In 2018, the thematic group will also closely follow the Swedish chairmanship program, which will include an aspect of sustainable rural development. Sweden has recently conducted a parliamentary investigation into rural development and will soon launch a new political agenda related to this topic, which will bring about interesting reflection and discussion among all regions and countries. The activities of thematic group builds on the previous Nordic working group on demography and welfare 2013-2016  and Nordic Working Group for Sustainable Regional Development in the Arctic 2013-2016.

The objective of the Nordic thematic group for Sustainable Rural Development is not only to contribute to policy development and new solutions, but also to make sure that knowledge, tools and policy advice find their way to practitioners and policy makers. Therefore, projects and activities shall contribute to the continued development of knowledge by highlighting concrete examples, statistics and policy-relevant conclusions. It is equally important to highlight organizational and structural aspects of regional policy implementation and to contribute to an understanding of how results can be utilized in practice. Nordic cooperation is generally considered to be extremely important and an asset when working with rural development. There are similarities that enable stakeholders to learn from each other when facing analogous challenges, and the group has a unique opportunity to compare how issues are dealt with in different ways at both the regional and national level. It is also important to bring this Nordic added value to the local level.