Reply from the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Dear Lilja Alfreðsdóttir,
Thank you very much for your letter dated 15 September 2016.
As part of our Nordic cooperation, we have been very aware of the need to focus on spinal cord injuries for a number of years, not least thanks to the excellent efforts by Iceland in this field.
Having received the letter from the Prime Minister of Iceland dated 5 June 2015, and in light of the subsequent proposal by the Icelandic Minister for Health, my office made sure that the matter was given its own item on the agenda for the meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs.
The meeting minutes reflect this, with the ministers “recognising, based on a proposal from Iceland, the need to continue to work actively to prevent spinal cord injuries”. At the same meeting, the ministers decided to ask the newly formed Nordic Contingency Group for Highly Specialised Treatment to discuss the specific proposal put forward by Iceland. This contingency group is a direct result of Bo Könberg's recommendations for Nordic cooperation on health.
I am also pleased that you highlight the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These goals serve as highly relevant signposts for our work.
You specifically propose that the Nordic Council of Ministers should initiate an analysis of databanks for Nordic neurological research and that the data should be coordinated to enable the identification of patterns, and thus the promotion of research into the nervous system.
As Secretary General, I should be more than happy to further this proposal. Seeing as it is very much a research matter, I believe that the best way to do this is through a Nordic research collaboration lead by NordForsk.
I will therefore make sure that the Icelandic proposal is included in the agenda for the Nordic Committee for Health and Social Affairs under the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs, and that this is done with a clear recommendation from me that the countries should ask NordForsk to examine the proposal more closely and provide feedback on the best way to bring it about.
In this connection, I should like to mention that the Ministers for Health and Social Affairs have a strong tradition of close cooperation with NordForsk, and thus also with the Nordic research environments. The large-scale Nordic Programme on Health and Welfare is not only supported by the Ministers for Health and Social Affairs, but also directly co-funded by their budget within the framework of Sustainable Nordic Welfare.
NordForsk is one of the most important Nordic institutions and the one which receives the largest share of Nordic funds from the shared budget. Administratively, NordForsk is an institution under the Council of Ministers for Education and Research. However, the nature of NordForsk means that it is responsible for coordinating and organising joint Nordic research initiatives for all sectors, and especially in the health and welfare area.
Important decisions relating to joint Nordic research initiatives are put forward and discussed by the NordForsk Board, on which Iceland has a seat. I would therefore like to conclude by recommending that Iceland use this as a complementary avenue for furthering this specific proposal.
The Nordic Council of Ministers