26 March 2014
The Nordic countries have a long-standing commitment to development, and their work in peace-building has taken Nordic peacemakers into some of the toughest places in the world. The Nordic countries have been firm supporters of the United Nations system, when other countries have wavered. UNU-WIDER is thus fortunate to be located in a region, and in a country, that values openness in dialogue, the intrinsic worth of democratic processes, and the construction of inclusive societies.
New ideas are central to creating open and inclusive development. Many countries have abundant natural resources, but lack the right strategy to diversify their economy. Some hold back creativity and talent--especially that of women--by means of exclusionary politics and culture. Living in the northern hemisphere, where the weather can be harsh, and where nature provides many resources (but can also make for a tough life) the Nordics learnt to use all their people to good purpose. In their history and practice, the Nordic countries have constructed development pathways that led them from poverty to some of the world's highest living standards.
My thoughts on these and other dimensions of the Nordic model, were stimulated by a recent seminar on 'Nordic Cooperation towards Eradicating Poverty and Ensuring Sustainable Development for All', organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and held at the Hanasaari Conference Center. Speakers included Pekka Haavisto, Finland's Minister for International Development, who opened the meeting, as well as representatives from the development and foreign ministries of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Finn Tarp, director of UNU-WIDER moderated the event.
Gyan Acharya, Under -Secretary General (and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States) gave the opening keynote. Ambassador Acharya spoke of the plight of over 900 million people in deep poverty in the 48 less-developed countries (LDCs), countries that typically have above average poverty. He emphasized the fundamental principle of the UN charter; the duty to help the most marginal people--and give voice to the voiceless. This resonates with the Nordic conception of inclusive development, as not only an economic project, but a moral one as well.
So, what ideas did I take a way from the meeting? Like Finnish licorice, there was a lot to chew on. Three issues caught my...