Finland's national strategy for sustainable development
Finland's national strategy for sustainable development "Towards sustainable choices. A nationally and globally sustainable Finland" was adopted in June 2006 by the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development. In December 2006 the strategy was adopted also by the Council of State.
The starting point of the strategy was to combine the sustainable use, management and protection of natural capital with citizens' well-being as well as to ensure the integrity of the society so that the result would be a competent Finland that utilizes its strengths in a sustainable manner.
In order to ensure the horizontal scope and extensive treatment of the strategy a broad-based multi-stakeholder Sustainable Development Strategy Group was established in 2005. The group was chaired by the Under-Secretary, Mr. Martti Hetemäki from the Ministry of Finance and wise-chair by senior officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The members represented administration at state, regional and local levels, business, producers and entrepreneurs, labour unions, and environmental, development and youth organisations. The Finnish National Indicator Network of sustainable development took part in the strategy work by identifying development challenges in the early phase of the work and by producing follow-up indicators for monitoring the implementation of the strategy objectives.
The vision and timeframe
The vision of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development is to assure well-being within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature nationally and globally. The objective is to create sustainable well-being in a safe and pluralistic society that promotes participation, and in which all people take responsibility for the environment. The vision guides both short and long-term activities, which serve to help various actors select solutions that observe the principles of sustainable development. The starting point is that the key guidelines of the Strategy form foundation for drafting Government and policy programmes. The timeline for the targets is beyond current generations, extending until about 2030.
From the Finnish perspective, the most significant development trends and challenges of sustainable development are associated with climate change, adaptation to rapid global economic changes, and demographic changes. Globally speaking, the most important challenges are, in addition to climate change, related to global poverty and inequality as well as population growth. These global challenges also reflect upon Finland. Sustainable resolution of the national and global challenges requires simultaneous and mutually supportive short and long-term policy actions on the Finnish, EU and global level.
The innovation and change management capacity of citizens and the society are particularly emphasized in the strategy. The objective is that renewable natural resources are used for economic activity and increasing human well-being so that they are not depleted but are renewed from one generation to another. Non-renewable natural resources will be utilised as eco-efficiently as possible. When operating in such a manner, the present generation will not endanger the possibilities of future generations to live a good life in a sustainable society.
The National Strategy for Sustainable Development will be assessed every two years, and it will be linked to the EU´s assessment process. The Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development will report to the Government on the results of the assessment. As a continuation of the Strategy, a systematic model will be developed to enable assessment of the Strategy´s impacts at the national, regional and local level. This will allow comparison in the assessment of the impacts of different programmes.
Long history of SD strategies
Finland has plenty of experience with sustainable development strategies, with many wide-ranging reports, programmes and strategies on sustainable development published over the last fifteen years. Already in 1990, the Council of State report titled "Sustainable Development and Finland" was given to the Finnish Parliament. In 1995, the FNCSD prepared its own Finnish Agenda 21, "Finnish Action for Sustainable Development". The Government Programme for Sustainable Development was approved in June 1998, reflecting an increasingly comprehensive interpretation of sustainable development, and establishing Finland as a forerunner in achieving the target set in 1997 by the UN General Assembly that all countries should have such strategies by 2002.
At the request of the FNCSD, various public and private sector organisations have also drafted their own programmes for sustainable development in the late 1990s. These organisations and their programmes were then included in the multi-stakeholder evaluation process of the Government Programme, which resulted in the report Evaluation of sustainable development in Finland, published in 2003.
Environment Counsellor Sauli Rouhinen, Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Department, tel. +358 50 565 8394