Nordic Week 2022 Op-Ed- The Nordic Model: Together We Are Stronger

From 2013 until today, every time the World Happiness Report (WHR) has published its annual ranking of countries, the five Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland – have all managed to score well. Far from perfect, the Nordic countries like many others strive for the improvement of societal happiness. Efforts in this regard include pursuing the enhancement of democratic and political rights, low levels of corruption, strengthened trust amongst citizens and between citizens and government, personal safety, social cohesion, gender equality and equitable redistribution of income.

Being a community of neighbours and friends, the Nordic countries have been fortunately assisted by a substantial regional economic integration and cooperation. Trade amongst the Nordic countries has been extensive and a significant share of foreign direct investments from one Nordic country has gone to another Nordic country. Over a long period of time, the characteristics of a `Nordic perspective’ based on common values of openness, trust, new ways of thinking, sustainability, and the equal value and voice of all people has been shaped and strengthened.

In general, Nordic cooperation has focused on areas where a Nordic approach has generated added value for the countries and peoples of the Region. The Nordic Region has relied and continues to rely on good cooperation between government authorities and private sector, and a well-developed safety net for those citizens who fall outside for whatever reason. Together, these factors make up the ‘Nordic model’ – a model that attracts international attention since the Nordic region has managed to come through times of crisis relatively unscathed.

There is a high level of trust between Nordic citizens and their decision makers. Low corruption, well-functioning democracies, and state institutions, coupled with extensive welfare benefits, free quality education and health care services as well as a world-leading focus on research, has greatly contributed to the Nordic region’s ability to innovate. The Nordic labour market is characterised by a high level of employment, with low revenue disparities involving all population segments of the society. Our understanding is that the contribution of many, where the population, regardless of their orientation, feel protected and trusts that their voice carries weight, will contribute to new and innovative problem-solving ideas, and enable people dare to take risks.

The ability of Nordic countries to generate a sense of autonomy, trust, and social cohesion among its citizens, perhaps contributes the most towards the solidarity and successful cooperation of the Region itself. The vision for Nordic Cooperation is to become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. The Nordic countries have found that the proverb “If you want to go far, go together” doesn’t just apply to the African context, it is precisely this perspective that positions the Nordic region in relation to the rest of the world. The Nordic countries agree that the whole Region and rest of the world, must work together towards sustainable development.

Achieving sustainable development is an ambitious but necessary goal. There is no other alternative: we must all improve global welfare and quality of life, while conserving the capacity of the earth to support life in all its diversity. Just as the world began to slowly emerge from a global pandemic—Russia unlawfully invaded Ukraine—hindering recovery and threatening sustainable development. The globalized world we live in means that people worldwide, despite their non-involvement are, at the very least, feeling the economic fallout of the war. Rapid fuel price hikes have led to rising commodity prices, food shortages and higher costs of living, globally. This destructive war has threatened multilateralism and exacerbated divisions and humanitarian crises everywhere.

The Nordic values are being put to the test but are now more important than ever. There is a need for openness and enhanced social solidarity to help those displaced by the war; for a global community built on trust, based on rules and the rule of law to protect human rights and the security of persons; and for a strong United Nations advocating for peaceful conflict resolution worldwide. In war and conflict, women and children suffer the most. Thus, there also exists an undeniable connection between gender equality, peace, and stability. The Nordic support for the global Women, Peace and Security agenda, has a clear focus on supporting women as leaders and as actors for peace and security. Promoting inclusivity and gender equality not only secures the rights of women and girls, but also makes societies more resilient to conflict, better able to peacefully resolve the conflicts that arise, and more resistant to all forms of extremism.

It is clear that the potential explanatory factors for high Nordic happiness WHR levels are all equally important, highly correlated, and mutually reinforcing. The Nordic perspective is a state of mind. The Nordic countries are characterized by a virtuous cycle in which various key institutional and cultural indicators of good society feed into each other including openness and well-functioning democracies, generous and effective social welfare benefits, low levels of crime and corruption, and satisfied citizens who feel free and trust each other and governmental institutions.

Nordic collaboration is not about achieving world domination or asserting superiority. It is about inviting and inspiring, conversation and cooperation, and the exchange of thoughts and ideas. Every year the Nordic countries in Tanzania host a ‘Nordic Week’ reflecting on our long and fruitful partnership with Tanzania. This year Nordic Week will take place 6th-9th June 2022. We will be facilitating discussions on women, peace and security, on women in leadership, on how to make technology work for and not against democracy, women in the critical fields of science and technology and promoting business links between Tanzania and the Nordic countries.

We welcome our long-time friend Tanzania to the discussions.

Written by; H.E. Mette Nørgaard Dissing-Spandet, Ambassador of Denmark to Tanzania; H.E. Riita Swan, Ambassador of Finland to Tanzania; H.E. Elisabeth Jacobsen, Ambassador of Norway to Tanzania; H.E. Anders Sjöberg, Ambassador of Sweden to Tanzania