Citizens’ panel more critical of Finland’s sustainable development than in previous years

18.2.2021 18.11 | Published in English on 19.2.2021 at 12.58
Nelikenttä, johon sijoitettu tekstissä näkyviä indikaattoreita Hyökkää, Vahvista, Varmista ja Huolestu -sektoreihin.
Summary of the findings of the 2021 citizens’ panel

In January 2021, the third citizens’ panel on sustainable development brought together around 500 Finns to assess the state of sustainable development in Finland. The 2021 panellists’ assessments of the current state and direction of sustainable development were more critical than in previous years.

In January 2021, the third citizens’ panel on sustainable development brought together around 500 Finns to assess the state of sustainable development in Finland. The 2021 panellists’ assessments of the current state and direction of sustainable development were more critical than in previous years. 

In the citizens’ panel, volunteers assess different areas of sustainable development, such as employment and carbon neutrality, based on expert reports. The panel’s findings are used to support the work of the Government and Parliament. 

The citizens on the panel assessed both the current state of affairs and recent developments with regard to sustainable development in Finland. They grouped their findings into four different categories: issues that are in a good state and must be secured moving forward, good developments that must be strengthened, things that give cause to worry, and areas where the situation is so poor that targeted measures are needed. 

The citizens' panel assessed the state of sustainable development as it was at various stages in 2020, so the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic were not yet visible in all materials. However, the panellists also had the opportunity to present their assessments of the impact of COVID-19 on sustainable development.

“In comparison to previous years, the citizens’ panel was more critical of the state of sustainable development. The panellists were particularly concerned about young people and nature. Many felt that development was moving in a worse direction and that swift action was needed to improve the situation,” says Senior Specialist Sami Pirkkala from the Prime Minister's Office.

ENSURE: Freedom of the press must also be guaranteed in the future

When it comes to social sustainability, there were several areas the panellists felt were in a good state and should be maintained, such as learning on the job, participation in adult education and overall quality of life. In particular, the panellists praised Finland's ranking in an international comparison of the implementation of freedom of the press. However, many also expressed concerns about the concentration of the media and threats against journalists. 

“Freedom of the press seems to be in a good state here, but threats against journalists around the world also raise concerns for Finland,” one of the panellists commented.

STRENGTHEN: Measures to reduce emissions

According to the panel, greenhouse gas emissions are one of the few areas of sustainable development that have improved in recent years from their previous poor state. However, this good development must continue if we want to achieve carbon neutrality. The panellists also drew attention to the outsourcing of emissions to other countries and, for example, the heavy climate impact of emissions generated by consumption and private vehicles. 

“The fact that emissions have decreased is a positive thing. However, they should decrease even further and, in addition, Finns generate emissions in other parts of the world through their consumption,” the panellists commented.

WORRY: Risk of increased inequality

The increase in social inequality – which can be seen in the weakening of young people’s literacy skills and the increase in income disparities, for instance – raised concerns among the panellists. Although Finland currently fares well in international comparisons, the panellists fear that the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate inequality in the future: "Income disparities lead to increased inequality in society. Intergenerational poverty and the accumulation of disadvantages among the same people pose great challenges. It is also worrying that the richest have become even richer.” 

TACLE: Everyday life should put less strain on people and the environment

The panellists called for improvement measures in several areas of sustainable development related to the environment and strain caused by everyday life. In the panellists’ view, the fact that burnout from work has become commonplace is a sign that workloads have become excessive. When it comes to environmental themes, the panellists called for measures to support biodiversity and to eliminate subsidies that harm the environment, for instance.

“It is alarming that more than half of people find their work straining. I think this is connected to productivity requirements. Everyone should be able to do the amount of work that is suitable for them, and we should improve opportunities for people to work part-time,” one panellist wrote. 

In these areas, the current situation and recent developments in Finland were assessed as poor. 

Image: Summary of the findings of the 2021 citizens’ panel

The citizens’ panel worked from 25 to 31 January 2021. The panel's findings were presented at a public event on 18 February 2021.