Making the global local: Building Asker municipality on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Asker is a Norwegian municipality outside Oslo, soon to expand its borders. Sustainability lies at the core of the new municipality.

“The task of building the new Asker municipality has given us the opportunity to extend our gaze. We have been able to think bigger than before and set rather ambitious goals,” says the Mayor of Asker municipality, Lene Conradi.

When we began creating a new municipality, it was clear that it should not only be based on best practice, but also on “next practice”.

“We saw that the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals are also very relevant for communities of smaller scale. If the world is to successfully tackle all of the challenges we are facing, we have to start at the individual and local levels. We have therefore committed ourselves to using the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for designing the new municipality,” says Conradi.

“The aim is to create new value in new ways, improve welfare and well-being, and develop a sustainable local community.”

Most goes to health and education

In Norway, municipalities are responsible – also financially – for providing services in many areas of society. Health, education, waste management, housing and infrastructure – all of these are important for many people during many phases of life.

In 2020, three smaller municipalities – Asker, Røyken and Hurum – will be merged into the new Asker municipality, which will have a population of 91 000.

“Today, 80 per cent of the municipality’s resources go to health and education – which are two of the Sustainable Development Goals. We can look at the targets under these goals and find those that are most relevant for our local challenges and opportunities,” explains Conradi.

Important for municipal finances

According to Mayor Conradi, this forward-thinking strategy helps to raise awareness among inhabitants and politicians alike. But purely economic considerations are also important.

“These go straight to the heart of the definition of sustainability. Measures must not only be socially or environmentally sustainable – they must be economically sustainable as well. It is critical that municipalities have effective economic governance, and the measurement and realisation of profit is an essential part of the larger whole,” says Conradi.

This goes hand in hand with other priority areas for the new Asker municipality, which is also focusing heavily on innovation and digitalisation.

“The new Asker municipality aims to be Norway’s leading municipality in business development by facilitating startups, among other things. We firmly believe that this is a key to simplification, renewal and increased efficiency – all of which will benefit our inhabitants.”

Photos (from top): Asker municipality; Tove Lauluten; Sønstrødfotografene AS