Nordic cooperation participants include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, and Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
The vision of the Nordic countries is to make the Nordic Region the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. The vision will be realised by focusing on three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region and a socially sustainable Nordic Region.
The Nordic Council of Ministers is an intergovernmental cooperation body consisting of ministers and senior officials representing the Nordic governments. The overall responsibility in the Nordic Council of Ministers lies with the Prime Ministers.
In practice, the responsibility is delegated to the Ministers for Nordic Cooperation and the Nordic Committee for Cooperation, which coordinates the day-to-day work of Nordic intergovernmental cooperation. The Secretariat of the Nordic Council of Ministers is based in Copenhagen.
The Nordic Council of Ministers consists of several councils of ministers. Issues that fall under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health include:
- social welfare and health
- gender equality, sexual minorities and gender minorities
- occupational health and safety
The aim of Nordic cooperation in the field of social welfare and health is to promote:
- the equal treatment of citizens
- solidarity in society
- the availability of basic services
- service quality and safety
The aim of cooperation in the field of equality is to promote:
- equality and equal treatment in the Nordic societies
- the equal sharing between women and men of the responsibility for care, power and opportunities to exercise influence
- the realisation of equal rights, obligations and opportunities for women and men in all areas of society and in all life stages
- the eradication of gender-based violence
- the active participation of men in promoting equality
The official Nordic gender equality cooperation has been working for over 40 years to
make the Nordic region one of the most gender equal regions in the
world. In 2020, the cooperation was formally extended to include the
prevention of marginalisation, promotion of inclusion, and strengthening of the active citizenship
of homosexual, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the Nordic
Cooperation in the field of social welfare and health is coordinated by the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs. Cooperation on equality, sexual minorities and gender minorities (LGBTI issues) is coordinated by the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality and LGBTI.
Iceland holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2023. The themes of Iceland’s Presidency in the area of healthcare and social welfare include the policy on persons with disabilities and older persons, pharmaceutical cooperation and public health issues, particularly alcohol and drugs policy.
Sweden will take over the Presidency in 2024. In its Presidency Programme, Sweden will focus on preventive public health work, crisis preparedness in the healthcare sector and social insurance issues. Cooperation with the Baltic countries will also be high on the agenda.
Nordic social security and social service agreements have been drafted in cooperation between the Nordic countries. The agreements facilitate the free movement of Nordic citizens in the region.
The agreement on a common Nordic labour market for certain personnel groups in the healthcare and veterinary sectors facilitates the exchange of data related to the mobility of professionals and patient safety between the Nordic countries.
Under the Nordic Public Health Preparedness Agreement, the Nordic countries have committed to cooperate in providing healthcare and social welfare in case of emergencies and disasters, taking into account their national needs. Among other things, the countries are committed to informing each other of measures taken, developing cooperation in the field, and exchanging information on changes to their preparedness systems. They are also committed to otherwise promoting cooperation by eliminating obstacles included in national legislation, exchanging experiences and engaging in cooperation on training and exercises.
In March 2022, the Nordic ministers for health signed a joint declaration in Stavanger to strengthen health crisis preparedness in the Nordic Region.