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Nordic working group for green growth - sustainable urban regions presents:

During the period 2013–2016, the Nordic Working Group for Green Growth: Sustainable Urban Regions (NWG4) and Nordregio have, developed and shared knowledge about sustainable urban development, planning and green growth. Working in close collaboration with representatives from ministries and national authorities, policymakers and municipal and regional planners within larger Nordic city-regions, we have identified a number of common challenges and opportunities for sustainable urban development.

City-regions are important arenas for addressing the many challenges associated with urban sustainability, inclusiveness and attractiveness. This synthesis highlights some of these key challenges, indicates where there is potential to develop more sustainable and co-ordinated planning and policy-making. It also provides insight into implementation, monitoring and evaluation of various plans and policies through different tools, models and concepts. In addition to outlining common challenges and opportunities for Nordic urban areas and governing city-regions, this report highlights some of the specific national concerns for city-regional planning in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. It also provides an overview of municipal reforms and regional reforms in the Nordic region and an introduction to all the Nordic spatial planning systems.

First comes a brief overview of the challenges addressed in this report. The following sections (challenges for Nordic urban areas and challenges for governing city-regions) describe these in more depth as well as contextualising them with relation to the main findings from connected projects carried out by Nordregio. This is followed by national overviews of the spatial planning systems and regional reforms in all Nordic countries, as well as national concerns for city-regional planning. The report concludes with a section about the NWG4 and a list of the related Nordregio publications.


Nordic Challenges in a global context

Many of the challenges have clear connections to the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015. The primary responsibility to fulfil these goals, and the linked 169 targets, lies with nation-states. The role of the state in urban and regional planning and policy-making is an important but also difficult issue. For example, UN Habitat’s report Planning sustainable cities: global report on human settlements highlights the importance of national urban polices in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. However, within the Nordic region the relationships between the national, regional and local administrative levels differ; for example, in ways that the state can intervene in urban and regional planning issues. This became clear in the Nordic symposium on national urban policies (Read more about the symposium on planning Nordic city regions: experiences and agendas).

Of the 17 goals that are to be fulfilled by 2030, there is one in particular that is pertinent to the Nordic challenges discussed above: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal puts the Nordic challenges in a global context, reflecting a major issue for urban development in many parts of the world. Some of the specific targets related to this goal are particularly relevant within the context of Nordic cities and regions. These are listed below, but you can also read more at


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