March 26, 2008
Scottish delegates impressed with Swedish village rural parliament
Every two years, community representatives from over 4000 village councils from across rural Sweden come together as one in the Swedish Rural Parliament. This massive event is attended by the country’s leading politicians. They are there to listen and learn about the key issues in Sweden’s rural communities. This is people power on a scale not seen in this country
The Swedish Village Movement has grown out of difficulties being experienced in many rural areas of the country especially in the sparsely populated areas in the northern region. Lack of jobs and service facilities, outmigration especially of young people was a fact. Village people felt abandoned by the authorities and began to see that they had to rely on their own initiatives and efforts. No one else would take action for them.
Today there are 4200 village action groups in Sweden spread all over our country operating under the municipal level (there are nearly 300 municipalities). We estimate that about 100 000 persons are directly engaged in these village groups and about 3 million Swedes are affected, which is a third of the Swedish population.
Many citizens participate in community work in a new (or rather traditional) way. Local people invest their time and money. We underline that our Village Movement vitalizes our Swedish democracy and strengthen the economy all over Sweden – not just in Stockholm.
Every second year people gather in a “Rural Parliament” to discuss and put focus on rural matters. The “Parliament” gives guidelines for the Councils work. One important aim is to rouse opinion for rural Sweden. The big event is open to all and there are always foreign guests.
Over one thousand delegates, out of whom around sixty come from abroad, usually attend the Rural Parliament. The main themes in 2008 are Climate, Environment and Energy. Many seminars will be held during the Rural Parliament. One of the main issues of this year’s Rural Parliament will be to discuss and contribute to the Government’s strategy plan regarding Rural Development
Our Swedish Village Action Movement is maturing. From rather simple to advanced tasks, from leisure to jobs, from specific actions to a holistic view on local development and from “want-lists” to elaborated local action plans. At the beginning the leadership could be more or less self-appointed, but nowadays local elections are made in good democratic order. From just a few examples of active villages there now is a strong popular movement and from a rather neglected phenomenon it has gained respect from many parties, including the government and the EU-commission.