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Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh: Sustainable urban development has been an important feature of the city’s transformation during the last decades

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh: Sustainable urban development has been an important feature of the city’s transformation during the last decades

An interview with the Mayor of Malmö, in Sweden

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh (Malmö, 1974) is the first woman to occupy the chairman’s seat of the municipal board of Malmö (the local equivalent for a mayoral position). She assumed that position on 1 July 2013.

Stjernfeldt Jammeh has been involved in local politics since 2008 when she became a social councillor at the Malmö municipality. Previous to that, she had worked as a magazine writer, political secretary and social communication consultant. She is a member of the Social Democrats.

Mayor Stjernfeldt Jammeh, could you describe the city of Malmö in your own words?

Malmö is a young, modern, and global city. It’s the commercial centre of southern Sweden with about 350,000 residents representing 180 different nationalities and almost half of the population are under 35 years old. That creates a vibrant, international atmosphere.

What has been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on your city?

In Malmö, as elsewhere, lots of people have been working hard to save lives. And everyone has been affected in some way, by the pandemic itself or by the restrictions.

In comparison with many countries, the economy has fared better. But we can see that several of Malmö’s large industries, such as trade and hospitality have been hit hard and people without a foothold in the labour market are especially affected.

At the same time, we have seen how society has gathered the strength to find solutions, and many creative ideas have been raised. We are continually investigating the impact of the pandemic and coming up with ideas on how to bounce back in the best possible way.

In the past decades, Malmö has been a place with an ever-changing economic profile. What have been the main challenges?

Malmö was an industrial city that reinvented itself as a modern, global city. Nowadays a large share of the residents in Malmö work in small and middle-sized companies within the service sector.

Half of the region’s new jobs are created in the city, which contains only a quarter of the population. The challenge is to spread the positive movement to everyone in Malmö – to its residents who lack higher education or a foothold in the labour market.

As for the good results: your city is hosting the ICLEI World Congress 2021-2022. How did Malmö become such a role model for sustainable urbanization?

Sustainable urban development has been an important feature of the city’s transformation during the last decades. We have been able to accomplish a lot by strong willpower and an inclusive culture that helps public authorities, universities, non-profit organisations, and the industry to collaborate and co-create successfully.

Over the last years, Malmö has received many international awards for its focus on sustainable urban development and pilot projects such as the housing expo Bo01 in the Western Harbour. Malmö was also appointed the first Fairtrade City of Sweden and we’ve been a member of ICLEI since 1996.

We have learnt a lot and are happy to share this with the rest of the world during the World Congress. We are also eager to learn more from other cities. We do have high ambitions for the city´s sustainability work - we have implemented the SDG’s in our steering system, and we have decided to stay at the forefront in terms of emissions, mobility, waste- and energy solutions.

Another major development is the plan for the world’s first trans-national subway system - the Öresundsmetro. What is the effect of having a capital city (Copenhagen) as an immediate neighbour?

Copenhagen and Malmö are the centres of a very dynamic region. The Oresund fixed link has been very important for labour matching as well as for freight transport.

For instance, a lot of young people in Malmö have service jobs in Copenhagen. We need to add another fixed link to meet future needs. Both to enlarge our regional labour market with the addition of millions of more people, but also to ensure climate-friendly transportation for a growing export.

Malmö is known as the most multicultural municipality in Sweden. Can you give us examples of sustainable development that have drawn inspiration from that unique feature?

Diversity is good for innovation, which is needed to find new sustainable solutions. One example of this is “Yalla Trappan”. Their aim is to create jobs and increased financial independence for immigrant women who are isolated from the labour market. They work in different areas but for example with catering services where employees cook meals inspired by their homelands.

During the last couple of years, a growing number of companies have also declared that they had moved to Malmö because of our young and global population. It´s seen as a great asset in a global world.

What is your vision for the future of the city?

The city is growing fast, and my vision is to continue to grow in a way that is at the same time socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. These three areas of sustainability need to work in mutual symbiosis and cooperation.

It is vital for the development of Malmö to create a socially balanced city with good living conditions for all its citizens. We need to build new climate-smart city districts, but also refurb and develop older areas with the aid of new technologies.

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