This year is celebration year in Finland. The country is celebrating its 100 years of independence. It is also election year because municipal elections will take place in spring. So much activity has diminished the space available to raise awareness among the general public about the ground-breaking progress that Finland has made on the 2030 Agenda.
And yet there is a lot to say! Finland is leading the way in the implementation of the Agenda. The country is one of the first in the world to publish a national implementation plan for the 2030 Agenda. This was done already in early February. And it also is one of the first countries to present a voluntary national report to the United Nation’s High-Level Political Forum. Done in July last year.
In addition, the country has a national strategy to encourage various sectors of society to engage with sustainable development. Many initiatives in support sustainable development are currently taking place in the frame of this strategy. One of them is the Civil Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development initiative.
At this stage, Finland is focusing on setting up indicators and monitoring systems to measure the implementation of the national plan. This is the task of an Indicator Network, composed of several civil society experts. According to plans, the Network will present a detailed list of indicators by the end of March.
The Finnish monitoring and evaluation plan is highly ambitious and is considered outstanding by global standards. This because it builds on the active involvement of different levels of government, including ministries and key government agencies. In this sense, an important open question remains. It is about how active a role the Finnish parliament will take in the monitoring. According to the implementation plan, the parliament will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the government’s success in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the most optimistic scenario, the SDGs would also have to be taken into account when revising existing legislation or when creating new laws.
But, despite the good progress, there have been several sources of concern, notably about the content of the implementation plan. Caritas Finland shares the opinion of many other civil society organisations that the implementation plan is disappointing, short-sighted and lacks ambition, especially when it comes to the approach to global dimension and the fight against inequalities. From civil society, we call for a more transformative approach and progressive ideas like decoupling social well-being from economic growth. But for the time being, the implementation plan largely follows the centre-right government’s more mainstream agenda. It focuses on the private sector and economic growth. To this criticism, the government replied that the focus on their current 4-year term is deliberate and that the following governments can revise the plan according to future needs.
Our conclusion from the Finnish experience is that sustainable development is not possible without broad cooperation from all sectors of society; private and public. To achieve this, it is very important to invest resources and efforts to communicate the 2030 Agenda to the broader public; to share knowledge and to show the good practices that exists nationally and internationally. The 2030 Agenda is universal in its scope. It requires action across borders and this is where Caritas Europa can play an important role since the network links together 36 countries in Europe. There already are great initiatives taking place in the network, such as the Mapping project to share knowledge, the network’s SDG action groups, etc.
We have less than 14 years left to reach the goals by 2030. So now is the time to act both locally and globally!