VNR Finland: Report on the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development


For easy reference, each chapter of the VNR report includes a summary of the key changes and lessons learned between the years 2016–2020.

Review process

The VNR of Finland builds on existing institutional, follow-up and monitoring mechanisms and relies on data, evaluations, research and reports. The VNR includes chapters written by stakeholders and institutions. The assessment of the progress in each SDG consists of two independent assessments: one by Government officials and one by civil society actors.
The Governments of Mozambique and Switzerland supported Finland in the preparation of the VNR by reviewing the draft report and sharing their views.

Progress on SDGs

Finland is at the forefront of many international sustainability comparisons and studies and close to reaching many of the SDGs related to social and economic sustainability.
Finland’s key challenges are related to consumption and production patterns, climate action and the state of biodiversity. Obesity is an increasing problem. Gender equality challenges, such as gender-based violence and labour market disparities, including a gender pay gap, still remain. Finland bears its global responsibility by, for example, contributing to international crisis management and supporting developing countries.

Addressing interlinkages
Discussion on the importance of the interlinkages has increased in Finland. Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government programme is based on a phenomenon based strategic objectives, which supports cross-sectoral approach and aims at addressing interlinkages in an effective manner.

All line Ministries are included in the Sustainable Development Coordination Network, thus enhancing Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development through sectors. All Ministries have also submitted in four consecutive years their yearly reports to the Parliament on the policies and measures to achieve the SDGs in their respective policy branches.

Leaving No One Behind
Universal social security and service systems, as well as good educational opportunities for the entire population, have prevented exclusion. Persons belonging to visible minorities and persons with disabilities continue to experience discrimination in different areas of life. National legislation and policy actions promoting equality and preventing exclusion aim to ensure equal opportunities for all.

Finland pursues a human rights-based foreign and security policy. Finland has achieved good results in strengthening the rights of women and girls, promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and enabling developing economies to offer more jobs and livelihoods. The role of civil society actors is essential in reaching vulnerable people at home and abroad.

Integration on SDGs into national processes and policies
National implementation plans are submitted to the Parliament as Government Reports. The first implementation plan was prepared in 2017. The current Government is preparing the second plan. The Government and Parliament engage in regular dialogue on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and the National Audit Office has integrated the 2030 Agenda into its audit programmes.
A sustainability assessment has been integrated into annual cycle of policy planning, budgeting and reporting of the Government. Since 2018, Finland has taken notable steps in sustainable development budgeting. The integration of environmental sustainability into policy has proven easier than the integration of social sustainability. Some line ministries have adopted the 2030 Agenda as a guiding framework to their strategies. The 2030 Agenda has also been integrated into national research programmes and innovation

Good practices
A multi-stakeholder approach is highly valued in Finland. Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development is a practical tool for anyone in Finland to participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with concrete action. It is one of Finland’s key instruments for engaging the whole of society: the public sector, businesses, civil society and private individuals.
Finland’s long tradition of participatory mechanisms and shared ownership has evolved over the years. The National Commission on Sustainable Development continues to provide a platform for the Government and a broad range of stakeholders to jointly advance sustainable development in the Finnish society. The engagement of youth, the private sector and cities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda has further increased.
Three forerunner cities have prepared Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). The region of Åland has integrated the SDGs into its core strategies.
The previous Government commissioned an independent evaluation of national sustainable development policy, which provided input for the current Government’s programme. The next evaluation will take place in 2023.

Innovative institutional mechanisms support national implementation. The Expert Panel for Sustainable Development and the 2030 Agenda Youth Group have taken a prominent role. The national follow-up system includes innovative participatory elements, such as the Citizen panel.

Challenges encountered
Finland’s biggest challenges in the SDG implementation are related to the need for changes in consumption and production patterns, climate action, and the conservation of biodiversity. Finland has not been able to restore its ODA to the level preceding the cuts in 2016.
Challenges remain in ensuring that all the phases of the policy cycle are interconnected in a systematic way: policy planning should guide the preparation of the budget, and reporting should clearly indicate how the Government has succeeded in the allocation of resources into policy areas that promote sustainable development in a desired manner.
Policy coherence and trade-offs pose a significant challenge, and trade-offs are often very difficult to reconcile even when identified. Spillovers would need to be better measured and understood.

Source: Government of Finland