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Enviromental and Regional Governance - Squeezed or Sustainable?

Change and variation among the professionals at central and regional level the last decade in Scandinavia. NORDIC RESEARCH PROGRAMME 2005 - 2008: Internationalisation of regional development policies – Needs and demands in the Nordic countries. REPORT: 5

Regional governance in the Nordic context are in transition – and in tension; between central and local politics, between coordinative and sectorial tasks, between conventional and innovative management. The regional policy level is strongly focused, both celebrated as well as highly contested. Thus some special conditions for policy change should be provided: Either that the melting pot of new initiatives and solutions regionally shapes a policy-making particularly innovative and flourishing, or quite contrary, that the all too contradictory situation implies cemented solutions, implementation deficits or futility.

This project addresses the changes and differences in Nordic regional governance the last decade. We will investigate policy shifts particularly at the regional level – and search for some
projects and innovations within a sustainable regional development framework. We will focus on the broad sustainability field, both of conceptual and substantial reasons. Sustainable policy-making is a highly innovative policy field when it comes to new conceptualisation, new framing and problem definitions. The question is, however – after more than two decades since the Brundtland report – whether the 'sustainable turn' in regional policies is – still – mostly a rhetorical ploy. At the same time, the tasks and responsibilities at the regional level have a substantial importance for sustainable development, e.g. comprehensive and spatial regional planning; environmental policy, transport policy, facilitating measures towards business development and peripheral areas. Still, it has just few years ago been concluded that '...there is a distinct lack of awareness amongst Nordic regional policymakers and researchers of the existence of SRD [sustainable regional development] theory and practice" (Clement &Hansen 2001). Addressing policy shifts in the sustainability field at the regional level is vital for tracing
potential new directions in regional governance for a sustainable development. At the same time, focusing environmental and planning professionals at the central and regional level, means studying the main "implementors" of the sustainable and regional, i.e. a litmus test of how the policies are implemented. Thus the project should be of high policy relevance.

The objectives of the project have been to investigate policy shifts as reflected in the policy orientations among the professionals in particularly sustainable policy fields, in planning, environmental and transport, at regional and central level, in the Scandinavian countries the last decade. Ten years ago, the interaction patterns and policy orientations among the public officials in these agencies were investigated (in addition, the agricultural sector and also Finland) This project has replicated the survey, which has provided a unique possibility for
documenting policy shifts, with a time-series of diachrone data on important policy change within the environmental and environmentally-relevant fields. The survey was replicated – with some limitations and supplements. We have examined and looked for changes in policy orientations and strategies, and supplemented the earlier questionnaire with requests for the professionals' view on particularly innovative governance practices, developments or regional hotspots in the Scandinavian countries.