The first Finnish citizens’ panel on sustainable development
The first citizens’ panel on sustainable development brought together about 500 Finns to assess the state of sustainable development in Finland, all of them participating in the work on a voluntary basis. The results of the questionnaire will be used to promote the work on sustainable development by the Finnish Government and Parliament. Read more about the panellist's views and how it is going to work in future below.
Results from the citizens’ forum on sustainable development
The panel members commented on the various aspects of sustainable development, including the state of the natural and other environments and social inequality. The focus was on the state of affairs in Finland in 2018. The different aspects of sustainable development were grouped into four categories: issues where a good state must be secured in future, good developments that must be strengthened, what gives cause to worry, and where the situation is so bad that an attack is needed.
Worry: Uncertain future for the young causes anxiety
The citizens’ panel was clearly worried about the situation of the young. They felt that in many respects the current state of affairs is quite good for the young, but some of the recent developments have been poor. The respondents were worried about youth literacy, trust in society and life satisfaction. Exclusion of young people from work and education was considered a particularly serious problem. In terms of the numbers of young people excluded from work and education both the current situation and recent development were seen as negative.
"All too often the exclusion and loneliness of the young is only talked about in special occasions and political speeches. The young are the future; without them there is nothing."
Attack: The state of biodiversity calls for urgent action.
The citizens’ panel was particularly worried about the numbers of threatened plant and animal species. The respondents felt that both the current state and recent development of biodiversity are in a bad shape. Urgent action is needed to reverse the trend. The worry about decline in biodiversity is consistent with scientific research. The panellists also considered that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced more effectively.
"One of the key missions for our nation is to protect the diversity of our unique natural environment. We should work more on this, and a lot."
Secure: Citizens’ panel trusts in the structures of society.
The panel noted that for many issues the current situation and recent development are quite good. These are the issues where we must secure a good state of affairs in future as well. In particular, the panel members would strengthen certain basic structures, including freedom of the press and experiencing corruption. In Finland we have strong institutions that are trusted by the citizens. Issues that are worth strengthening also include the health and quality of life experienced by the Finns. Of the global responsibility issues where the situation is positive the panel members mentioned Finland’s responsible trade policy and active participation in international crisis management.
"The basics are in order in Finland, freedom of the press and not much corruption. This is a good basis to build on, but it is not self-evident."
Strengthen: Emissions must be more effectively reduced.
Among the indicators for positive trends are the share of renewable energy in energy end-use and lower carbon dioxide emissions from first-registered vehicles. However, more work needs to be done to reduce emissions. The panel members also felt that the global responsibility of large companies had improved in recent years. Responsibility comprises environmental and climate issues, which received considerable emphasis in the questionnaire.
"Politicians must have the courage to make bold decisions to combat climate change. Now is the time to adopt a perspective of several decades on climate change, instead of focusing on the next elections."
How does the citizens’ panel work?
The citizens’ panel organised in the beginning of 2019 was the first of its kind. Each panel member answered an online questionnaire on the state of sustainable development. The process included an opening event and a closing event where the results were published.
The citizens’ panel will continue as an ongoing process so that the National Commission on Sustainable Development receives information on what the citizens think about the state of sustainable development in Finland. New members may be included in the panel on an annual basis.
The questionnaire was based on the sustainable development indicators managed by the Prime Minister’s Office, expert analyses on these, and citizens’ dialogues. The indicator data has been divided into monitoring baskets designed in cooperation between scientists and experts. Read more about the monitoring baskets on this website at Monitoring. The topics of the monitoring baskets include the state of the natural and other environments, social inequality, and housing and communities.
Why do we need the citizens’ panel?
Scientists and public officials use research data to assess the state of sustainable development, but not whether this is to be considered “good” or “bad”. Citizens’ voice is needed in support of value choices and making decisions. It is important for decision-makers to know about the issues that the citizens wish to see improved.
The results will also be incorporated into the Government Annual Report submitted to the Parliament. The report has a chapter on sustainable development where the views of the panel are also presented. Public officials will be using the results in their daily work. The publication of the results is hoped to lead to discussions on sustainable development as we are heading towards general elections.