Sustainable development is given more weight in the ministries’ activities

Sustainable development is given more consideration in the activities of ministries, but it should still be more strongly linked with policy preparation. Finland is committed to promoting the Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by the Member States of the United Nations (UN).

The National Audit Office of Finland (NAOF) has assessed how effectively sustainable development has been promoted in central government. As a Member State of the UN, Finland is committed to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The purpose of the NAOF’s audit was to assess how the Government has planned, steered, monitored and reviewed the efforts to promote sustainable development. The results and impacts of the efforts were not assessed in the audit.

The ministries have attached more importance to sustainable development in their activities. Some ministries have adopted sustainable development as a core theme in their strategies or as a strategic objective. The ministries have also identified and specified functions that help to implement the SDGs of the UN. The ministries have also strengthened internal networks, the task of which is to draw the attention of the departments and units to sustainable development.

However, sustainable development is not yet clearly linked with the preparatory work carried out in ministries, and the ministries have not analysed the ecological, economic and social sustainability of policy contents. Furthermore, the policy principles of sustainable development, such as global responsibility and long-term action, have not been analysed.

“The ministries should carry out more systematic analyses to ensure that their activities comply with the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development,” says Lassi Perkinen, Director for Performance Audit at the NAOF.

The budget proposals of the past few years have contained information on the appropriations, taxes and subsidies relevant to sustainable development.

“It is noteworthy that sustainable development is included in the budget proposal as a separate policy area. However, the presentation of information related to sustainable development has not yet steered the budget preparation,” says Perkinen.

The NAOF recommends that the Government should present the costs arising from the actions promoting sustainable development and strive to assess the impacts of the actions. It would also be important for the ministries’ activities to be steered more effectively by the objectives set by the Government.

The UN adopted its Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. It sets out goals for all countries of the world and urges each of them to draft its own objectives, taking into account the country’s development level and characteristics. In the spring of 2017, the Finnish Government published a national action plan for implementing the SDGs of the UN. Finland’s commitment to Agenda 2030 is a continuum in the Finnish sustainable development policy, as Finland adopted its first strategy for sustainable development as early as in 1998.

Read the publication: Promoting sustainable development

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