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Finland ranks first in international sustainable development comparison

Government Communications DepartmentMinistry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 14.6.2021 7.14
Press release

For the first time, Finland has been ranked number one in an international comparison of sustainable development. The esteemed ranking by the UN and the Bertelsmann Foundation is published annually, and Finland has also been in the top three in earlier years, together with Denmark and Sweden. The comparison assesses countries’ progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the ranking, Finland has achieved or is close to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty alleviation, health, education, water, energy, reducing inequality, peace, and the rule of law. Finland’s greatest challenges are related to the fight against climate change, the need for more sustainable consumption and production patterns and halting biodiversity loss. 

Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who also chairs the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development, emphasises that Finland’s first place ranking is the result of long-term work and the contribution of all of Finnish society. 

“Credit for this recognition is due to all Finns, who work persistently to build a more sustainable society. We are proud of our ranking, but we still have a lot to do in order to achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The most crucial thing now is figuring out how we can safeguard our wellbeing within the limits of our planet’s carrying capacity in the future,” says Marin.

COVID-19 pandemic has increased inequality

The results were published in a report by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the German Bertelsmann Foundation on Monday 14 June. Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari will represent Finland at the virtual release event on Monday afternoon.

Skinnari highlights the importance of the Nordic welfare model in the results of the ranking: Sweden, Norway and Denmark are also among the top ten countries.

Skinnari stresses that, in the post-pandemic world, Finland and other wealthy countries need to focus on supporting the most disadvantaged worldwide. The core idea of the 2030 Agenda is that no one should be left behind.

“The pandemic has led to a global increase in extreme poverty and inequality and has weakened gender equality. We need to make sure that everyone stays on board with the development and that we are able to close the gap between the most successful and worst-performing countries.”

Finland praised for participatory approach

Finland has received international praise for how society as a whole participates in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This past spring, the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development received the international Catalyst 2030 Award for sustainable development. The Commission brings together a broad range of stakeholders from different areas of society.

“A participatory approach has been an important part of Finland’s work on sustainable development for several decades. We are building a sustainable society together with the state, municipalities, businesses and organisations. Every Finn’s contribution is important,” Skinnari says.

Kirsi Airio, Special Adviser to Minister Skinnari, tel. +358 50 574 1729, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Sami Pirkkala, Chief Specialist, Secretary General of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development, tel. +358 50 598 0724, Prime Minister’s Office