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True North

This fall a Nordic Studies program opens at the prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. The program will cover politics, the economy, society, culture, international relations, and history of the Nordic region. The program will be open to undergraduate and graduate students. The initiative is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

There are good reasons to study the Nordic countries and how they are relevant to Canada. Together, we are among the world’s most successful nations – measured by the self-reported happiness of our peoples.  The World Happiness Report 2017 lists Canada and all of the five Nordic countries in top 10. Our countries regularly top international rankings for welfare and quality of life. Levels of optimism about the future are generally high.

In the Nordic countries, the combination of a high rate of employment, flexible security in a well-developed welfare system, and a high degree of trust and solidarity between employees and employers has proved robust and adaptable to globalization. Cooperation is a less known but important part of the Nordic story. 55 years ago, the Helsinki Treaty on Nordic Cooperation laid the foundation for one of the world’s most comprehensive regional partnerships. The Nordic economy ranks number 11 in the world, and is one of the most integrated.

However, increased competition, climate change and the global security situation are posing new challenges. The world is changing fast, and we need to change with it. In particular, we must influence the way it changes: It is still possible to reach the UN’s sustainable Development Goals by 2030, but only if we work together.

The Nordic region is focusing on solutions. Based on our own experience of cooperation we believe we have something to offer in meeting global challenges. That is why this year the Nordic Prime Ministers launched a new initiative called the Nordic Solutions to Global Challenge.

The initiative makes Nordic know-how and solutions in areas including green transition, gender equality at work and sustainable food and welfare available and accessible for the rest of the world. The three-year initiative involves six flagship projects, spanning sustainable town planning, regional energy co-operation, investments in gender equality, sustainable food production, smart welfare and climate solutions – all relevant to the 17 Agenda 2030 SDGs.

Most importantly, the Nordic region has proved that sustainable development is compatible with economic growth. We note that this is also a basic premise for the Canadian government’s approach.

In fact we can think of no other country that has more in common with the Nordic region than Canada: the aspiration to transition to a low-carbon economy, the commitment to gender equality and the efforts to strengthen the middle class and those that work hard to join it. The new Nordic Studies program will increase the exchange and further development of ideas that are relevant to our shared aspirations. Working together with Canada we can go much further and have much more impact.

We believe there is potential to be working more closely together. As Nordic Ambassadors we were delighted when we heard Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland in June tell Parliament that Canada will work with like-minded people and countries who share your aims. Our reply is: look to the Nordic countries!

In the words of Leif Ericsson, the first European to settle in North America over 1000 years ago: “We are all leaders whether we like it or not. There is always someone we are influencing – either leading them to good or away from good”. 

The Nordic countries and for Canada have the capacity and the will to lead by example, and to steer global developments in a positive direction – together.



H.E. Niels Boel Abrahamsen, Ambassador of Denmark to Canada

H.E. Vesa Lehtonen, Ambassador of Finland to Canada

Ms. Ólöf D. Sigvaldadóttir, Chargé d'affaires at the Embassy of Iceland in Canada

H.E. Anne Kari H. Ovind, Ambassador of Norway to Canada

H. E. Per Sjögren, Ambassador of Sweden to Canada


Originally published in the Hill Times September 18th 2017.