The NORDIC REGION...
Student Text Page No. 3: "Tomorrow's Challenge"
Space-age satellites over the Nordic Region are busy these days. Danes,
Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Swedes use them to track Hong Kong stock prices,
downlink real-time photos from South Africa, order coffee beans from Colombia,
and generally stay in touch with friends and clients around the world.
No doubt about it: Nordic people are digitally linked to the rest
of the global community….
And the links keep multiplying. Spurred by a global trend toward service
industries, Nordic nations have adopted information and communications
technologies (ICT) in a big way. Broadband access to the Internet is widespread
and allows Nordic governments, businesses, and individuals to exchange
data rapidly. Other societies use ICT, too. But the Nordic Region has
an edge. In 2010, the World Economic Forum ranked all five nations among the world's top
12 "networked" economies, with Sweden in first place.
Working hard. More than 1,000 years ago, voyagers from the Nordic
Region launched daring sea voyages, seeking trade in distant lands. Today, the region's
industries serve a global marketplace. Despite a combined population of only 24.8
million, Nordic nations deliver tons of high-quality products to that market. And
although Iceland's economy was hurt by the recent global financial crisis, Sweden,
Denmark, and Finland won 3 of the top 10 rankings in world competitiveness in 2010.
More: The per-capita incomes of Nordic nations ranked among the highest 16 percent in
But Nordic people don't take such success
lightly. They know that using fossil fuels to power up a modern economy
also contributes to air pollution and climate change. Responding to that
threat, all five nations now support clean, renewable sources of power: solar
energy in Norway, geothermal energy
in Iceland, biofuels in Finland and Sweden, and wind
energy in Denmark.
Reaching out. Shared climate concerns and trade are not the only
links between the Nordic Region and the global community. These five nations
also have a terrific record for helping other countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and
Finland rank first, third, fourth, and seventh worldwide in the percent of gross
national income that they devote to foreign aid (2009). The region is
a big financial supporter of the UN's Millennium Development Goals —
targeting world poverty, disease, and illiteracy. And Nordic leaders repeatedly
share their skills in peacemaking and rehabilitation with war-torn societies,
such as Afghanistan.
Alone, or together? "In unity lies strength." The governments
of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden agreed with that old
adage when they formed the Nordic Council in the 1950s. The Council helps them to
cooperate in many areas in the sustainable use of the oceans, for example, and in
reserving energy for tomorrow's world. The group also collaborates
with other northern nations on such matters as protecting the resource-rich
Arctic Zone. But the Nordic nations still make foreign-policy decisions
independently. Thus, only Denmark, Iceland, and Norway belong to the mutual-defense
pact known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). And only
Denmark, Finland, and Sweden have joined the European Union (EU). Indeed,
this balance between national independence and mutual cooperation may
be one of the region's strengths.
Regional Matters. As Nordic nations prepare for the future, they
face big issues: Can their small populations continue to sustain the region's
vigorous economies — and the generous welfare programs they support?
Would it be better for all five countries to belong to the EU
and NATO (both of which are still expanding)? As we observe how the Nordic
countries deal with such issues, we can also examine these critical questions:
What kinds of benefits do neighboring countries enjoy when they work
together? What are the most useful links a region can develop with the
rest of the global community?