Speech by Minister Ville Skinnari at the European Sustainable Development Network Conference in Helsinki

Speech by Minister Ville Skinnari at the European Sustainable Development Network Conference in Helsinki on 30 October 2019

Esteemed Co-chairs of the ESDN Steering Group, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the European Sustainable Development Network Conference in Helsinki. Finland has been an active member of the ESDN since the beginning and we will continue to do so in the future.

In Finland, we are serious about the implementation of the Agenda 2030.
Finland was among the first countries to give a Voluntary National Review in 2016 and we have announced to report again next summer.
Furthermore, our Government Program is essentially based on the Agenda 2030. We are determined to transform Finland to a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society by that year.

One key objective is to make Finland carbon neutral by 2035, and carbon negative soon after. This – I believe - is among the most ambitious targets in the world.

The recently published Global Sustainable Development Report is an important landmark for us when developing and implementing our roadmap towards sustainable development.

The report highlights interlinked connections between various SDGs and emphasizes that all societal actors need to take ownership of the Agenda 2030.

One of its key recommendations is that all governments and all public entities should adopt SDGs as a guiding framework for programming, planning and budgetary procedures.

I am proud to say that in Finland, we have already integrated sustainable development to the State Budget and, we will continue to do so in the future.

We also aim to contribute at international level through various initiatives such as the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action - a joint initiative by Finland and Chile.

When we have the Finance Ministers on board, we will start seeing real change happening at the global level.


The Report also stresses the importance of transformation towards sustainable urban and peri-urban development. The report calls each municipality to find its entry points to transformation that are nearest to its particular culture and circumstance.

It is clear, that the Governments bear the main responsibility for implementing the Agenda 2030, but it is equally clear that the global goals must be made local. In this context, municipalities play a pivotal role as they are in charge of policies that bring SDGs close to citizens’ lives.

I am happy to say that Finland is among front-runners in this score also. The City of Helsinki reported on the implementation of the Agenda 2030 already last July at the UN, as the second city globally after New York.

Still, much remains to be done. We have more than 300 municipalities in our country. Although many of them have taken major steps towards including sustainable development into their planning and budgeting, most of them are not yet on track.

This is something we need to focus on in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is an immense financing gap for SDG investments in developing countries. The UN has estimated this deficit to be 2.5 trillion USD annually. Still, this is only a fraction of the total value of private sector financial flows globally.

To bridge the gap, it is of course important to increase traditional ODA funding, but even more important to find ways to leverage private capital for the SDGs.   
A good example is the Social Impact Investing Initiative of UNOPS, which has established its office in Helsinki recently. Through this program, UNOPS will play an important role in bridging the financing gap for infrastructure spending, estimated to amount 1 trillion USD annually.

In the same vein, our Government has recently increased funding for new returnable, development policy investments, which will provide loans and investments to initiatives focused on mobilizing private sector funds in developing countries.

Finally, in order to succeed it is important to make use of science, technology and innovation work for development more efficiently. As Finland, we are happy to offer our knowledge and experience for the benefit of others.

We are also very proud to co-operate closely with the UN Technology and Innovation Lab - or UNTIL - and UNOPS Global Innovation Center. UNTIL is already present in Helsinki. UNOPS Global Innovation Center will be here shortly.                            

As the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we see promising signs of strong commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Europe.

The President-elect of the new European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has stated in all her mission letters that each Commissioner will ensure the delivery of the SDGs within their policy area. Furthermore, her political Guidelines for the next European Commission include sustainability as an important component.

As Finland, we share the view that the common denominator of all EU action should be sustainability. It is of great importance that the EU and its Member States will be able to take a great leap towards achieving the 2030 Agenda within the next five years.  

It is no coincidence that our Presidency slogan is “Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future”.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, the ESDN and its annual conferences, workshops and peer learning platforms bring together sustainability experts not only from governments, but also from local authorities, civil society, and academia.

This is very much in the spirit of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The SDGs will only be reached, if we are all truly involved.

I count on your continued commitment to the cause.

Speeches held by Ministers and the top leadership of the Ministry.