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Uppsala and Agenda 2030 - Voluntary Local Review

This is an account for the world around us, but also for ourselves. This is Uppsala’s first Voluntary Local Review. The report shows that we can and need to do more, and that our regular activity can be improved by the sustainability perspectives that are embedded in it.

Uppsala shares its successes, its challenges and the lessons it has learnt

For several years, Uppsala has been working systematically at increasing sustainability in the municipality: its governance has been developed, and its sustainability work is being carried out on a number of levels and in collaboration with others. Sustainability issues do not take a break from pandemics – or anything else for that matter – but demand that we are able to be sustainable in the long term.

Uppsala would like to share its experiences of sustainability work with others: successes, challenges and the lessons it has learnt. That is why we produced a Voluntary Local Review, a report on our work towards meeting the UN’s global development goals, Agenda 2030.

Facts About Voluntary Local Review (VLR)

The UN’s Agenda 2030 is a development plan with 17 global goals and 169 sub-goals, which the countries of the world have agreed upon. Since 2016, Member States have submitted national reports on their sustainability work, Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), to the UN. However, these same Member States are also being encouraged to regularly evaluate progress at the local level in so-called Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs).

In connection with Sweden presenting its Agenda 2030 work in a VNR for 2021, Uppsala, as one of the first municipalities in Sweden, will present an account of its local Agenda 2030 work in a VLR. Uppsala will be participating together with the Government Offices of Sweden, the municipalities of Stockholm, Malmö and Helsingborg at the UN’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, “High Level Political Forum” from 6-15 July 2021.

The recipe for success in Uppsala’s sustainability work

There are some common ingredients for how the municipality has worked with sustainability issues in a range of areas. One or two of the ingredients are being used in certain activities, but it is particularly when several or all are in use, that we have our greatest success. The ingredients are::

  1. Ambition – Create pressure for change through political attention.
  2. Capacity – Mobilise collaboration on issues where greater numbers of people can make an impact.
  3. Knowledge – Make differences visible through mapping and analysis.
  4. Focus – Target efforts to areas or groups that have the greatest need.
  5. Learning – Follow up and evaluate efforts in order to update the needs picture.
  6. Integration – Ensure that excellent innovations become part of the ordinary.

Examples of sustainability work in Uppsala

How an Agenda 2030 integrated governance has emerged

Sustainable development is one that satisfies the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy the needs of their time. It involves a striving for social welfare, economic growth and ecological balance for the present and future population.

In 2016, Uppsala municipality started to work on integrating Agenda 2030 in its regular governance. Agenda 2030 is being integrated chiefly within two areas – normative governance and activating governance. Normative governance is described in policies and guidelines and shows approaches for how the municipality should work and behave. Activating governance is described in Objectives and Budget, programs and plans and places a focus on changes in society that the elected representatives wish to achieve.

The focus goals contribute to achieving Agenda 2030

Every year, the Municipality Council adopts the governing document Objectives and Budget. The document has a three-year perspective wherein nine municipality objectives contribute to achieving the global sustainability goals based on Uppsala's needs locally. needs locally. Linked to each municipality objective, there are tasks directed at all, some or individual boards within the municipality organisation.

The municipality objectives and tasks are used as a basis when municipality and corporate boards and the operations create their own goals and plans. They are also the starting point for the municipality’s regular monitoring three times a year.

Here, you will find the focus goals that are currently applicable (in Swedish)

Together, we reach lower – the Uppsala climate protocol

The Uppsala Climate Protocol is a formalised network of companies, public enterprises, universities and associations that collaborate and inspire each other and others to achieve Uppsala’s climate goals, and to contribute to a sustainable world. 42 local actors with around 38,000 employees are members of the Climate Protocol, and are working together towards a climate-driven business and operations development. The working method has been inspired by the UN Climate Convention, and contributes to the municipality’s environmental and climate goals and a sustainable Uppsala. The municipality provides process management for the Climate Protocol.

Uppsala has a high level of ambition vis-à-vis climate work with the goal of being fossil-free by 2030 and climate-positive by 2050. During the period 2015–2018, emissions for members of the Climate Protocol decreased by 10 percent, but work is being intensified to reduce emissions at an even faster rate.

Watch a film about the Uppsala Climate Protocol (in Swedish with English subtitles)

Visit the Uppsala Climate Protocol website

Area collaboration for increased inclusion

Uppsala is working systematically to counteract exclusion. The municipality has developed a special package of measures specifically aimed at a few districts with the objective of increasing equality and safety. The plans are being implemented in collaboration between organisations in the public sector, business and civil society. It has led to the establishment of training and job centres, the development of meeting places, improved safety, sanitation and graffiti removal, the development of social support and expansion of leisure activities.

Detecting youth at risk

The collaboration between social services, schools, the police and after-school care (SSPF) is an example of a permanent way of preventing social unrest. The aim is to detect and support young people at an early stage who are at risk of exclusion, drugs, criminal activity and radicalisation. Since 2019, SSPF has included all upper secondary schools in the Uppsala Municipality and some primary and secondary schools. The SSPF groups create a shared image of the current situation, and give an opportunity to be advised on different situations anonymously.

The area work increases the capacity to tackle complex societal challenges. The area work also strengthens the municipality's preconditions for synergies between long-term urban development and area development.

Read more about the work in Gottsunda/Valsätra (in Swedish)

Read more about the work in Gränby/Kvarngärdet (in Swedish)

A municipality with equal sports opportunities

In order for the municipality’s finances to become more gender-equal, training has been carried out in gender mainstreaming, gender equality analyses and gender budgeting. This has led to more gender equality analyses being undertaken in the municipality, both related to the operation of businesses and investments.

One example is that Uppsala is working toward becoming a gender-equal sports municipality. The municipality sets requirements for, monitors and supports associations’ equality work through training and support material. The work has been successful. Contributions to sport for children and young people have been distributed increasingly evenly between girls’ and boys’ sporting activities in recent years. The contributions are based on membership numbers and activities carried out. In 2015, boys’ activities received 60 per cent of contributions, while the girls received 40 per cent. In 2019 the difference had shrunk to 53 per cent for boys’ activities, and 47 per cent for girls’. Contributions for sports for children and young people increased over the same period for both girls and boys, but more for the girls.

Watch a film about Uppsala Municipality’s gender equality grants (in Swedish)

Read more about the work for a gender-equal sports municipality (in Swedish)

To strengthen biodiversity

As Uppsala grows, plants and animals are affected by human activity. For this reason, the municipality is investing in securing ecosystems and in developing habitats to strengthen biodiversity. A specific example is how wild bees that require sandy habitats were moved a hundred metres from a site where homes and offices were being built, to a new bee reserve containing plants with long flowering times. As a result of the move, the endangered blister beetle, which lives on wild bees like a parasite, is also protected.

Uppsala’s nature reserves and other areas on municipality land with high biodiversity are being developed through ongoing care and major targeted care initiatives. This includes, for example, favouring certain trees and species associated with them, making it easier for fish to migrate, combating invasive species that harm the ecosystem, and establishing wetlands.

The municipality also supports the biological diversity in housing developments and on roofs. Prior to purchasing agreements are concluded, building contractors are given points for the installation butterfly beds, native species of trees and bushes that favour pollinators, homes for animals, biotope roofs and facade greenery. Social sustainability, biological diversity and climate adaptability are also given weighting.

Facts about Ulleråker

Ulleråker is a suburb of Uppsala where there was previously a psychiatric care hospital. Since then, a new residential area has grown up bedside the old department buildings. The district is now facing further housing construction and is developing a park environment connecting with the old hospital garden. The garden previously had extensive vegetable lots and orchards, but since the closing of the hospital in the 1980s, the green areas have fallen into disrepair.

Five hectares of land are being converted into flower fields and meadows that benefit pollinators. Habitats for bees and insects are also been established there in sandy slopes, fauna depots and insect hotels. 75 species-adapted nesting boxes for birds and bats have been set up, along with signboards informing visitors about the surroundings and the measures that have been taken. When completed, the park will include, among other things, a boules court, a playground, 200 cultivation plots and a large number of fruit trees. There are plans to create a stormwater park to further benefit biodiversity. The area will cover the equivalent of about thirty football fields.

Read more about The Hospital Garden

Working against violence in close relationships and honour-related oppression

Nexus is a municipality support activity for residents who are being exposed to threats or violence by their present or former partner, relatives or other related parties. This support includes various forms of sheltered housing for women and children exposed to violence.

I order to rapidly identify persons exposed to violence in close relationships, Uppsala conducted an awareness campaign in 2019. Some 90 employees from several social activities were trained by researchers and educators to become violence counsellors.

Watch a film about Uppsala Municipality´s training violence representatives (in Swedish)

In recent years, Uppsala Municipality has intensified its work against honour-related violence and oppression. The work is being carried out today on the basis of a survey carried out by the association “Tjejers rätt i samhället” (Girls’ Rights in Society), on behalf of Uppsala Municipality and the County Administrative Board of Uppsala County. The municipality has an in-depth collaboration with the association through an idea-driven public partnership. The initiative includes meeting points and homework help, sports activities, open support activities, expanded on-call activities and the training of working groups in the municipality. The aim is for more individuals, children and adults, to be discovered and given the opportunity to live a life free of violence, oppression and control.

In 2020, a special team was formed to strengthen the municipality's work against honour-related violence and oppression. The team was set up to function as a strategic network for long-term competence within the area. Its mandate is to help ensure that all in the municipality's organisation working with children and young people possess the right knowledge and methodologies for detecting and counteracting honour-related violence and oppression. The team means there is a common platform in Uppsala for honour-related issues and it consists of key people from administrations, organisations and authorities in Uppsala.

Support for those exposed to threats and violence in close relationships (in Swedish)

Future challenges for Uppsala’s sustainable development


The coronavirus pandemic has put the municipality and the local community through some serious tests. The operations have needed to prioritise, collaborate, and do new things and old things in new ways. Contagious diseases are normally treated as a regional or national issue, but the coronavirus pandemic has clarified the important role played by cities. A more clear-cut division of roles and responsibilities in dealing with protection from infection is important for a more effective management of similar crises.

Crisis management requires the municipality to be resilient, show adaptability and cooperate with the local community. These are qualities that are also important for adapting to climate change and extreme weather phenomena.

Management of conflicting goal

Uppsala is facing continued growth in terms of housing, population and business. This growth needs to take place at the same time as climate emissions need to be reduced in absolute terms more than they have so far. Equal access to clean air, clean water and biological diversity must be harmonised with social and economic needs. Local production of renewable energy and local circular food chains have a part to play in this.

Conflicting goals need to be managed in the municipality’s procurement in the same way. Sustainability criteria should indeed be seen as qualities in what the municipality purchases, but quality always needs to be balanced against cost. The municipality therefore needs to find wise ways of balancing quality and cost, to ensure that sustainability criteria are met and municipality services can be maintained.

From expert to facilitator

In the municipality, there has been a shift in roles when it comes to work with sustainable development. Employees who previously emphasised their role as expert as a starting point are being transformed into becoming development and sustainability leaders working in proximity to operations as facilitators. Such an approach better takes advantage of overall competences existing in the municipality’s operations.

By the same token, it is possible to see a shift in the role of the municipality as a local actor. More complex societal challenges have meant that the municipality is seeking co-responsible partners together with whom to amass increased strength and create larger entireties for residents, companies and organisations. There is also a development in progress from seeing the municipality resident as a more or less passive recipient of service to someone who is actively involved and creates value together with the municipality and others.

Read the VLR report

Read Uppsala and Agenda 2030 - Voluntary Local Review (full report in English) (PDF, 4 MB)

Read Frivillig lokal uppföljning av Agenda 2030 (VLR) (full report in Swedish)  (PDF, 5 MB)

In Swedish

Read this page in Swedish.