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The location challenge – equal public services and democratic governance in the whole of Sweden

Research project One of the greatest challenges in securing sustainable living conditions in rural regions is to ensure that public services are accessible and of high quality. But this vision is far from being realized. Conditions for providing public activities are dramatically unequal between urban and rural areas. Hard political decisions will have to be made over the coming years and the future for Sweden largely depends on whether political actors will be able to democratically address these challenges.

The overall aim of the project is to learn how political priorities and decision-making on location of public services can be made in a legitimate manner. This will be accomplished via surveys towards political representatives and citizens as well as in-depth case studies. This will strengthen the ability of regions and rural areas to achieve sustainable development and provide input on how to accomplish these goals.

Head of project

Louise Skoog
Postdoctoral fellow
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2021-12-01 2025-11-30

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Political Science

Research area

Political science

External funding

Formas

Project description

This is of greater significance than just convenience. A rural school, for instance, provides more than education: it is a focal point in a community, it is one of few employers and it is a sign that the locality is alive and has a vibrant future. Few questions spur such strong reactions as when a public service unit vanishes from a locality. Vital democratic values and trust in public institutions and democracy are at stake when citizens feel that their rights and political influence are threatened. At the same time, many argue that a degree of centralization is necessary for public services in the countryside to function at all and to be able to be supplied with qualified personnel.

Hard political decisions on public service locations will have to be made over the coming years and the future for Sweden largely depends on whether political actors will be able to democratically address these challenges. If the democratic system is to thrive in the long run, citizens will have to accept or at least tolerate these decisions and perceive them as legitimate.

We argue that the constructive way forward is to learn from both successes and downfalls when it comes to managing hard decisions. All around Sweden, initiatives are taken to protect public services, save schools, find innovative ways to put their locality “on the map” and attract new citizens.

The overall aim of the project is to learn how political priorities and decision-making on location of public services can be made in a legitimate manner. This will be accomplished via surveys towards political representatives and citizens as well as in-depth case studies. This will strengthen Sweden’s ability to achieve sustainable development and provide input on how to accomplish these goals.

External funding