Sustainable foreign policy calls for action across all government branches

Sustainable foreign policy calls for action across all government branches

The recently published “Polku 2030” report identifies development aid funds as an important means of promoting sustainable development. Attaining the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda should lie at the heart of Finland's next government programme, the report recommends.

It is fair to expect that Finland, a country that by many standards of human wellbeing ranks high internationally, has what it takes to attain all the 17 SDGs of the United Nations by 2030. Finland could therefore adopt an even stronger role as a global trailblazer.

That is what emerges from the “Polku 2030” report, compiled jointly by the think-tank Demos Helsinki, the Finnish Environment Institute and the University of Helsinki. The report assesses how successfully Finland has promoted, both nationally and globally, the 2030 Agenda that was adopted in 2015. Commissioned from eternal experts by the Finnish Government, the report takes a look at both internal measures and foreign policy.

Closer involvement of trade, investments and taxation

On the global level, Finland contributes to sustainable development the most efficiently through its development policy. In the other spheres of Finnish foreign policy, the 2030 Agenda still plays a limited role in policymaking, although its importance is highlighted in various policy papers.

However, the influence Finland could potentially exert has been eroded by the recent cuts in development cooperation appropriations and in human resources. As a result of cutbacks in basic funding for UN agencies, Finland has clearly been excluded from its Nordic reference group and Finnish experts can no longer fully participate in international forums and discussions to which Finland would otherwise have a lot to contribute.

The report calls for coherence and collaboration across all government ministries and administrative sectors, noting that sustainable development perspectives should be integrated more closely with the political guidelines and policy dialogue on trade agreements and international taxation, for instance.

Bigger role for companies

While the SDGs make up a mutually supportive package, economic growth is one of the fields that may easily run into conflict with the other goals. Even though the private sector is now assuming an increasingly important role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, companies do not automatically have the capacity to look beyond environmental sustainability and also take into account the human rights effects of their business operations. Yet the report notes the progress achieved in recent years in private-sector instruments for development cooperation.

In the field of Finnish foreign policy, the recommendations include extensive inter-ministerial promotion of sustainable development. The report also proposes that a roadmap should be drawn up to help raise the country's development cooperation appropriations to 0.7 per cent of the gross national income (GNI). It is also recommends that Finland should produce an advocacy plan for multilateral development and foreign policies and make sure that the influence it exerts within the EU is in line with the UN SDGs.

Read more about the results of the “Polku 2030” report.