Finland reports on sustainable development

The coronavirus crisis accentuates the importance of global sustainable development goals (SDGs). Finland's strengths in promoting the achievement of the goals are collaboration and wide participation.

Students in Mozambique
In Mozambique, Finland has promoted girls' education and the right of all children to go to school and receive education in their own mother tongue. Picture: Hanna Öunap/MFA

The UN Sustainable Development Goals have a hard time: The Wider Institute estimates that global poverty is at risk of starting to increase for the first time in 30 years. The seriousness of the humanitarian and economic impacts of the pandemic will show only over time.

“There are major threat scenarios. On the one hand, we already have a global plan – the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – whose role in the current situation is probably more important than ever before. In the coming years, similar crises can only be prevented by means of global cooperation,” says Mikael Långström, who is responsible for the coordination of the Voluntary National Review (VNR) in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Finland is one of the countries that will be reporting on the promotion of the SDGs to the UN in the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in July. Finland’s previous VNR was submitted to the UN four years ago. The Voluntary National Review on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which is published today, covers the years from 2016 to 2020.

Equality at the forefront in global action

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 goals relating to human development and environmental sustainability. The VNR assesses Finland's actions both at home and internationally.

In global contexts, Finland has been particularly active in promoting gender equality and sexual and reproductive health services and rights, such as contraception and family planning. Also, tens of thousands of children and youth have benefited from Finland's development cooperation in the education sector in various parts of Africa and Asia.

“In its external relations, Finland has done a lot of work to help implement the Leave no one behind pledge. We follow the human rights-based approach to development. Finland has improved the rights of women and girls and people with disabilities in many ways. The civil society plays an important role for Finland and we reach people who are in vulnerable position also through civil society actors,” says Långström.

More than four million people have improved food security thanks to Finland's support in 2016–2019. Finland has also actively created jobs and livelihood opportunities in emerging economies and participated in international crisis management. The cuts in development cooperation appropriations in 2016 have however hampered the promotion of the SDGs. The cooperation conducted with multilateral and civil society organisations has suffered the most from the cuts.

Environmental sustainability is a challenge at home

As a whole, Finland ranks very high by many indicators in international surveys. According to the VNR, Finland has reached or is close to reaching many of the SDGs related to social and economic sustainability. These include goals related to poverty, health, education, water, energy and well-functioning institutions.

The biggest challenges facing Finland concern reduction of atmospheric emissions and consumption as well as maintenance of biodiversity.  In its Government Programme, Finland has set a globally ambitious goal of attaining carbon neutrality by 2035.

The merit of the VNR is in that it is based on wide cooperation at the national level. In addition to ministries, contributions to the review have been received from representatives of civil society organisations, cities, municipal mergers, companies and scientists.  Peer reviews to the reporting were requested from Switzerland and Mozambique, which is Finland's long-term partner in development cooperation.

After the July HLPF, Finland will start preparing its report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which the Government will submit to Parliament in autumn.

“Finland is committed to the SDGs. They are among the main themes recorded in the Government Programme. We are now preparing a roadmap of more concrete action for achieving the set targets by 2030."


Press release of the Prime Minister’s Office: Finland at the forefront of international sustainable development comparisons(Link to another website.) (Opens New Window)

Read the Voluntary National Review online (Link to another website.) (Opens New Window)