An Interview with
Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh
July 23, 2020
IMAGE: Malmö stad
Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, a member of the Social Democratic Workers Party, grew up outside Trelleborg, Sweden’s southernmost town. She studied political science at Sheffield and Lund universities and worked as a lead writer on the newspaper Arbetet and a political secretary before becoming a Malmö councillor in 2008, later becoming responsible for the city’s schools, security and welfare.
When she took office as Mayor of Malmö in July 2013, she became the first woman to do so. From the start, she’s made it clear she believes that the participation of the city’s residents and the prioritising of sustainability in all aspects of Malmö life is key to the city’s future progress and success.
Mrs Stjernfeldt Jammeh, what do the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mean for Malmö and why are they so important?
For any sustainability effort to be successful, it cannot be a separate issue that is brought in once the budget is finished and all priorities have already been established. Rather, it needs to be the overarching focus of everything else. Therefore, we have implemented the Sustainable Development Goals into our city council goals.
It helps clarify how all dimensions tie together; financial, social, and environmental sustainability. It allows for all our city agencies to clearly understand how they are part of something bigger and how they all play a part in ensuring that the SDGs are achieved. The agenda also clarifies how the local and global are linked to each other.
They give us a good platform on which to stand, base all our municipal work around, and concrete framework on which the city can form its policy. Its international dimension adds to the concept we often talk about in Malmö: that what happens around the world impacts our city, and what we do here also echoes abroad.
Malmö has established some of the most ambitious renewable energy targets in Europe (100% renewable by 2030, and the district of Hyllie by 2020). What progress has been made to-date towards these goals and are they still attainable?
We have revised this goal but will be able to reach 100% recycled and reclaimed energy by 2030. Unfortunately, we have not been able to fully reach the goals of the Hyllie Climate Contract yet, mainly because it has proven to be more difficult to produce enough energy locally, such as through wind power. We have, however, reached many of the sub-goals. But the work continues.
One of the things we love about Malmö is that the city doesn't just strive to be environmentally sustainable, but you are working equally hard to become socially sustainable too. Can you please tell us a little more about this unique perspective the city has taken?
It is based on the understanding that one cannot succeed without the other. We cannot achieve an environmentally sustainable society without also focusing on social sustainability. This is what it means to create a liveable city and it is also the reason why we were the first Swedish city to implement the SDGs into our city council goals—because they focused on both environmental and social sustainability, just as we do.
We want to create the city of the future. This is done by ensuring that we always maintain a long-term focus when planning, and when tackling challenges here and now. Sometimes the quick fix is only useful short-term. We want to ensure that the work we do now provides a foundation to build on long into the future. This includes everything from how we plan our different city districts to how we build and run our schools. Our goal is always to focus on inclusion. Everyone needs to be part of the progress.
What would be some of the main priorities for Malmö over the next decade?
Malmö is growing at a rapid pace and will soon be home to half a million people. We need to secure affordable housing and preserve our older housing stock, we need sustainable renewal of the Million Programme Areas, and we need climate-smart traffic solutions. Energy efficiency and sustainable growth, without threatening the arable land surrounding the city, is crucial.
Socially, we want to ensure that Malmö is a city in which people from all backgrounds and walks of life can live and prosper. It's important that Malmö's positive development benefits everyone, and that we continue to be a brave and curious city.
Can you please tell us why the meetings industry plays such an important role in creating economic stability and growth in Malmö, and in influencing the determinants of tourist behaviour?
There are several reasons for this, one being the geographical location of Malmö. The fact that our city is so close to an international airport certainly helps to make it easier for travellers from around the world to conveniently access our city.
This industry creates many job opportunities for the residents of Malmö. This includes not only hotels, arenas, and congress centres, but also their sub-contractors such as tech-companies, cleaning companies, and transport companies.
Another reason is that we have a young population which benefits from this industry. For many of our youth, their first job is within this sector. Added to this is our global population, with 184 nationalities from all over the world living here. This makes it easier to provide translation services, as most languages are spoken here.
New buildings can accommodate international meetings and conferences. Recent examples of this are Malmö Live, The Point, and STUDIO. We also have amazing restaurants with a wide range of food for visitors to enjoy. When people come here to work, they are likely to spend time in the city and explore what Malmö has to offer. They are also likely to come back as tourists on a later occasion, perhaps with their family. This means that the meetings and conferences held here have a positive ripple effect on our city's economic growth.
All these factors have made the meetings industry really important for Malmö and this is why we have invested so much in it politically.
Malmö has recently won the bid for hosting the ICLEI World Congress in 2021. Can you tell us a bit more about how this came about and what your goals are for the event?
The City of Malmö has been an active member of ICLEI for many years. This is an organisation which focuses on sustainability on a local level. We found that hosting the world congress here in our city would provide both an opportunity for us to showcase our best practices, and a chance to learn from other cities about how they work with sustainability in their part of the world. This sharing of knowledge is incredibly valuable. This also ties in well with our focus on the meetings industry.
We know that Malmö is well-equipped to host a major international congress of this calibre--the type of congress that’s previously been held in major cities such as Seoul and Montreal. The fact that Malmö was awarded the honour of hosting the ICLEI World Congress is a clear indication that we are on the same level as cities much larger and perhaps more well-known than Malmö. We are very proud of that.
We also feel that Sweden, in general, has much to offer in this area when it comes to different examples of how countries and societies could and should focus more on their sustainability efforts.
What, in your opinion, makes MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) travel in Malmö more sustainable than in other popular meetings destinations?
Part of it is the holistic approach. By focusing on all different aspects of MICE, we ensure that the meetings and events are set up and hosted in as sustainable a way as possible. This includes everything from paperless meetings or ensuring that there is convenient public transport to allow participants to move around easily, to ensuring that our city's youth are employed in this sector.
In global standards, Malmö is a small city, something which works to our advantage in this industry. Most meeting facilities are within a short distance of key locations, easily reachable by foot or bike or just one station away on the city train.
Lots of restaurants work with local products, seasonal produce and sustainability-focused food and drinks. Biking is also something which we encourage, as it is the best way to explore Malmö. With over 520 km of bike paths, it is an easy and safe way to move around the city.
These are just some of the reasons as to why Malmö is more sustainable than many other popular meetings destinations.
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