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Report: Finland behind on sustainable development goals

Environmental and climate issues, equality and global responsibility were highlighted as areas for improvement.

Ilmakuvassa on suomalainen järvimaisema.
Finland's country report found there was room for improvement in achieving environmental and climage goals. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Finland is making some progress towards achieving the goals set out in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but there is still much room for improvement in certain areas, according to Finland's Agenda 2030 country report.

According to the report, Finland has achieved or is close to achieving many of the sustainable development goals related to poverty reduction, health, education, water and energy, and the rule of law.

However, the areas that were identified as requiring further improvements included environmental and climate issues, equality and global responsibility.

"Our production and consumption methods are not sustainable and our work against climate change is not enough," said Marja Innanen, a Deputy Secretary General at the Prime Minister's Office on the need to improve on environmental and climate issues.

"We have also not been able to stop the loss of biodiversity."

The UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, or Agenda 2030, has guided UN member states on the path to sustainable development since 2016. The action plan has 17 headline targets and a total of 169 sub-targets, the implementation of which was examined by the latest country report on Finland.

In a comparative study published last year, Finland was the third-best implementer of sustainable development goals after Denmark and Sweden.

Equality and global responsibility require attention

In addition to environmental and climate issues, the report pointed to Finland’s need to improve in the area of equality.

"Finland is not a model country for equality, although it is sometimes presented as such. For example, we have enormously high figures for domestic violence against women," said Rilli Lappalainen, director of Fingo, an umbrella NGO for Finnish development cooperation and global education organisations.

"Equal pay for women has also not been achieved in Finland," Lappalainen added.

Finland's third weak point is in global responsibility, which is defined by the UN as strengthening "global partnerships" in the effort towards achieving sustainable development goals.

"We are constantly far from the UN target of 0.7 percent of gross national income," Lappalainen said on the amount the Finnish government is spending in this area, adding that Finland has fallen further behind other Nordic countries on this goal.

Progress hampered by coronavirus crisis

Both Innanen and Lappalainen said they were concerned about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals.

Before the crisis, steady progress had been made in a number of areas, including the global fight against poverty.

Lappalainen referred to a recent study published by the NGO Oxfam, according to which the coronavirus crisis threatens to plunge half a billion people into poverty if developing countries are not helped to cope with the pandemic. According to Oxfam, poverty reduction can go backwards by up to 30 years because of the economic effects caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Innanen added that instead of comparing the countries that have best achieved the goals of sustainable development, the focus should be on the tail end of the list and helping the countries there.

“Developed Western countries must now feel a global responsibility. No one should be left behind in development,” Innanen said.

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