The OECD recently launched a report titled “A Territorial Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals in Viken, Norway,” which explores the use of the SDGs as a framework for strategic regional planning. Moving beyond pre-conceived notions of the SDGs as a framework to be used in developing country contexts, the report sheds interesting light on the application of the SDGs in a high-income country.
Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals requires continued commitment from countries that are already doing well. The Norwegian government recently strengthened co-ordination for the SDGs through an action plan, a Coherence Forum and a State Secretary Committee. Based on two years of policy dialogues with more than 100 stakeholders, the new OECD report demonstrates how Viken, Norway’s most populous county, has implemented the SDGs in its regional planning. Representing more than 1.2 million inhabitants, the county government elected in 2019 “endorsed the SDGs as a holistic framework for the strategic planning and future development of the region, focusing on i) utilising the framework for governmental transformation; ii) drawing on the best available knowledge and indicators for the county; and iii) developing the region within planetary boundaries.”
Key findings and policy recommendations
Key findings show that Viken performs well in most social, economic and environmental dimensions of the SDGs compared to other OECD regions. The county sits in the top 25% of OECD regions in over half of the indicators related to poverty, health, education, unemployment, pollution levels and renewable energy. Nevertheless, some challenges remain. The report finds that women are overrepresented in part-time employment and that “uneven growth and spatial inequality threaten long-term sustainability.” Although the county benefits from its proximity to the capital of Oslo, it must develop peripheral areas to ensure lasting sustainability. There is also a need to take further measures to ensure environmental protection and green transport systems.
Despite these challenges, the report makes a strong case for the relevance of the SDGs as a “holistic framework” to strengthen multi-level governance in Norway. Based on its key findings, several policy recommendations are provided. These include engaging in dialogues with the national government and other counties to advance the SDGs on a national level, as well as raising awareness among civil society, the general public and the private sector to “operationalise the planning strategy, develop new regional plans and promote continued engagement.” The reports states:
“Continued engagement with civil society, youth councils and the business community will also be decisive for the county’s efforts in advancing the SDGs, making all parts of Viken attractive places in which to live and work.”
The SDGs are universal, meaning they apply to every country in the world. This new OECD report provides an interesting case of the operationalisation the SDGs in a high-income country, while highlighting the challenges that remain. Finally, it advocates for the SDGs to be used as the “missing key” to “provide a common language and framework for promoting synergies across administrative boundaries.”