URBACT in Sweden: Cooperation Gives Results!

Bertil Nilsson

By Bertil Nilsson, on January 28th, 2015

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Since I have started to work with URBACT in 2003, the interest for URBACT in Sweden has increased dramatically, and it has never been as high as now. I think that the reasons for that are a combination of the facts that more people can speak about URBACT experiences in Sweden, that the interest for sustainable city development is very high in Sweden, and that the URBACT program now has a stronger role in the national context in Sweden.The national URBACT information was entitled “Sustainable City development through URBACT and other EU-initiative and program”. All important actors dealing with urban development in Sweden were represented and listened to the possibilities offered by the new URBACT III program. The conference not only provided an overview of the URBACT III program, but also examplified the way all actors dealing with urban development can better cooperate.

Compared with the introduction of URBACT II in Sweden, I really saw a difference: URBACT is an important player now. But it took a some time to reach that position!

The event introduced URBACT in the frame and context of urban development in Sweden on local, regional, national and European levels – it was particularly interesting to see how the actors present that day built that context with each other. The national information days were arranged in cooperation between Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), The Swedish Ministry, the URBACT secretariat National Dissemination Point in Sweden/City of Malmö, in Stockholm on January 18th. About 120 people visited the seminar from cities, regions, authorities and partners in URBACT networks.

Urbact Sweden


The Swedish Association for Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) in its role

SALAR played host for the seminar; Eva Hägglund and Helena Gidlöf from SALAR welcomed the delegates. Helena Gidlöf is also member of the URBACT Monitoring Committee. Eva Hägglund talked about how to build a sustainable society and create attractive cities. SALAR is a key actor in Sweden. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions represents the governmental, professional and employer-related interests of Sweden´s 290 municipalities and 20 county councils, including the regions of Gotland, Halland, Skåne and Västra Götaland. All municipalities, county councils and regions in Sweden are members. Membership is voluntary. SALAR speak for their members in dialogue with the Government, the Swedish Parliament), government agencies, the EU and other key organisations.

The Swedish Government: Setting the Tone

Issues around sustainable urban development were highlighted both last year when the government decided to develop a platform for urban development in Sweden (see down), and most recently with the nomination of a minister responsible for housing and urban development in the new government. Mr Mehmet Kaplan is Minister for Housing, Urban Development and IT and responsible for IT policy issues and postal communication, housing and social development issue and for urban development issues. Both of latter responsibilities were previously under the responsibility of two different ministries.

A Multi- facetted Actor: the Swedish Association for Regional and Economic Growth – Tillväxtverket

Tillväxtverket is also Managing Authority for the URBACT program in Sweden. Stefan Larsson, Head of the Region South Sweden, is also member of the URBACT Monitoring Committee. But Tillväxtverket also bears responsability to handle the regional funds in Sweden, so the connection between URBACT networks in Sweden and the Managing Authority has good opportunities for success in the coming period. There are so far several good examples when Tillväxtverket has taken part in a URBACT Local Support Group. For instance during the network Conet, led by City of Berlin, where the City of Malmö was one of the partners: Tillväxtverket took part not only in the URBACT Local Support Group in the City of Malmö but also in the international network meetings and in the final conference in Berlin.

In his presentation, Stefan Larsson also highlighted the role of Tillväxtverket according to the new Swedish Urban Development platform: Tillväxtverket shall especially give process support about coordination and learning on sustainable city development within the structural funds programs.

Brand New! The Swedish Urban Development Platform

In February 2014 the Swedish government gave a mission to five agencies – the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning , Swedish Energy Agency, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (also Managing Authority for URBACT in Sweden) and Swedish Transport Administration – to establish and manage a platform for sustainable urban development. The platform builds on the special initiative the government led between 2008 and 2012 to promote the sustainable development of cities, towns and neighborhoods – the Delegation for Sustainable Cities.

The purpose of the platform is increased collaboration, coordination, knowledge sharing, dissemination and exchange of experiences in sustainable urban development. Some of the challenges which are known today revolve around lack of coordination within and between sectors and levels of government, inadequate investment in research and development of knowledge and a gap between sustainability rhetoric and practice. The state has an important role in strengthening cooperation, and the platform is an important link between practice and policy at local, regional and national levels. The platform will also provide a process support for the work according to sustainable urban development within the regional structural fund programs.

Yours Truly: The Role of URBACT National Dissemination Point in Sweden

SW Infodays 2

A lot of contacts have been made with the URBACT National Dissemination Point in Sweden before, during, and after the national information day. An article was written about URBACT III and published in the Swedish magazine ‘Public affairs’, which is distributed in about 15000 copies.

A conference, ‘Smart Summit’, gave us the opportunity to speak about URBACT for a broader audience, as well as to be on location during the two days with an URBACT exhibition. This speech was also broadcasted through web-TV.

Meetings with Cities, network of EU-coordinators and other actors are on-going.

What is going on in Sweden now really examplifies how National Dissemination Points need to be strengthened in the new program period – as is planned. There is a real need of information and dialogue in the national language.

“In what way can our City or region use the possibilities in the new URBACT III – program?”: the same questions arrives from all Cities and Regions. I for one look forward to continue the work to strengthen the URBACT work 2015 further together with all actors now that the URBACT III – program recently has been adopted by the European Commission.

Header Photo: Jaime Escofet on Flickr, under creative commons license.
Event Photos: Martin Grander, University of Malmö




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