A gathering of Finland’s largest cities, the C21 meeting, received extensive coverage in the media. Mayors from Finland’s 21 largest cities were invited to the event, with the mayors from the six largest cities led by Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori acting as conveners.
Finnish cities already benefit from a number of four that provide opportunities for discussion and joint working. The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities has an urban policy working group comprising representatives from Finland’s twenty largest cities, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has an urban policy stakeholder group, a dedicated formal committee and the six largest cities also have a proud tradition of working together. Despite the excellent structures already in place, the C21 meeting was a welcome and necessary addition.
The C21 mayors were remarkably united in their view that the process of urbanization in Finland is now so significant that ever closer collaboration between the cities is called for. Another priority is to ensure that Finnish cities have opportunities for working closely with central government. Finland’s burgeoning urbanism will drive up city population sizes, increase the density of the urban fabric and deliver greater numbers of jobs too. It is associated with a number of new elements, including increasing diversity and multiculturalism, digitalization and the need for user-centered services and amenities. The fashionable thing to do is to refer to this as “disruption”.
At the present moment, there is limited research into urban matters in Finland, particularly when compared with the extensive research carried out on rural areas and their economies. We face a situation where our politicians, ministers, parliamentary committees and civil servants do not have access to data and high-quality analyses on the Finnish urbanization process to inform the legislative process and to support reform. There is a particular shortage of user-centered information. This state of affairs goes a long way towards explaining why recent attempts at wide ranging reform such as the regional government and health and social services reform programmes have fallen short of meeting the challenges presented by Finland’s urban regions. There is also little in the way of truly informed parliamentary debate on urbanization and a near total absence of vision.
By contrast, there is a thriving research community focusing on rural matters, including economic development issues, which has succeeded in bringing together all relevant stakeholders, including landowners and others in the private sector. It is precisely this sort of urban research and development that Finland’s cities are calling out for, involving Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences,
The mayors all agreed that a successful Finland is a network of successful city regions. The city regions must have the tools to promote economic activity, entrepreneurialism and employment and the capacity to respond to global growth and urbanization in an economically, environmentally, socially and culturally sustainable manner.
F1 means Finland first – success for C21 means success for all of Finland.
Mayor Jukka Mäkelä
The City of Espoo