Sustainable society development in the Arctic: the mobile workforce

Cold weather, mile-long distances, and scarce infrastructure. The far North Scandinavian Arctic Region, where three countries meet, possesses several challenges in terms of mobility and development of sustainable societies. A holistic and cross-national approach to sustainable society planning, by creating attractive places to live and lasting employment opportunities, is the answer.

By Rikke Nielsen

The increasing change in our climate has made the Arctic Region more interesting than ever seeing that global climate changes can create new opportunities in terms of natural resources extraction, new trade routes and an increased geo-strategic interest in the region from global stakeholders. The region is also marked by a general movement towards urbanisation. As in the rest of the world, changes imply both opportunities and threats to the region and local communities and hence different measures are applied, shaped not only by context conditions but also policy choices and strategies of cities.

Establishing cross-border task forces

To secure sustainable society development and build common labour opportunities in the far north, Finland, Sweden and Norway are teaming up in developing a joint labour force initiative as part of the development plans for the Arctic Region. Connectivity and mobility are of major importance in realising this vision. Ramboll is the consultant on the Arctic Development Region and our Arctic Task Force consists of employees from Ramboll Management Consulting and Ramboll in Norway, Sweden, and Finland who have done several transport studies together and will take on the project.

- The goal is to develop an international project group, with the main focus being on the cities of Tromsø (NO), Oulo (FI) and Luleå (SE). These are the only three nation border regions in the Nordics and the cities and their surrounding regions have a combined population of one million. This is approximately 25 % of the global Arctic population, says Nils Arne Johnsen, Arctic Director at Ramboll.

By designing and establishing a project organisation for the Arctic Development Region, the goal of the task force is to raise the stakeholder engagement in the three counties, through an organisation consisting of around 20 stakeholders from the public and private sector in Arctic Scandinavia.

Increasing mobility and cooperation

To gain a common labour market in the Arctic, Tornedalsrådet (Tornionlaakson Neuvosto) the only permanent cooperative body for 13 municipality units in the north of the three countries Norway, Sweden and Finland, established the project team to take on this challenge.

- Along with Tornedalsrådet, we have established the project and society goals, focused on three areas; the business community, education, and infrastructure. There is a university in each of the three cities, along with a vibrant business community and regional administration, which set the stage for a lot of stakeholder engagement, says Nils Arne Johnsen.  

In more detail, the objectives of the project are to strengthen the infrastructure for transport, energy grid and broadband access in the Region, support cooperation between the universities of Tromsø, Luleå and Oulu that includes the private sector as a contributing stakeholder.

- The project includes a very large stakeholder group. The three involved cities can support each other, as can the smaller regions between the cities. The potential synergies such as opportunities within mining, gas energy and tourism are many and show that Arctic Scandinavia can have an international role in terms of sustainable society building, says Nils Arne Johnsen.   

The project organisation for the Arctic Development Region will be established by 20 August 2015 and will be an examination of cross-national cooperation and local stakeholder engagement and networking which has yet to be seen in the Arctic Scandinavian region.

Ramboll Group A/S

Ramboll Group A/S
Hannemanns Allé 53
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
Tel: +45 5161 1000
Fax +45 5161 1001


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