The Nordic Council of Ministers and sustainable development

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Yadid Levy /
The Nordic Region will be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. This is the Nordic Council of Ministers’ vision for Nordic co-operation. The Nordic countries are at the forefront of work on sustainable development. However, we still face challenges that need to be addressed. The Council of Ministers actively promotes sustainable development in the Region by focusing all of its efforts on twelve objectives linked to a green, competitive and socially sustainable region.

The Nordic countries agree that achieving sustainable development is one of the biggest challenges we face. It may be an ambitious goal, but it is also a necessary one. There is no alternative. We need to improve global welfare and the quality of life while maintaining the planet’s capacity to support life in all its diversity.

The Nordic countries may well be at the forefront of efforts to achieve sustainable development. We may well top international rankings for progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But we still need to work together to address several challenges, in particular associated with ecological sustainability – the Nordic countries have particularly unsustainable patterns of production and consumption – and with climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

Vision 2030

The Nordic Region will be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. This is the Council of Ministers’ vision for co-operation. This means working together to promote sustainability and integration. Vision 2030 is the framework for Nordic work on sustainable development. There is a clear link between Vision 2030 and Agenda 2030, with work on the former helping to achieve the latter and to make progress toward the SDGs.

The Nordic Ministers for Co-operation have approved an action plan for 2021–2024 to make progress toward Vision 2030. It outlines how the Council of Ministers will seek to achieve the vision. The plan is divided into three sub-sections based on its three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region, and a socially sustainable Nordic Region – and then into a further 12 sub-goals. The plan will govern everything that the Council of Ministers does for the next four years.

It is crucial that we follow up on the progress already made towards the ambitious vision, and the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation have adopted indicators for Our Vision 2030 to provide an overall picture of progress. The 45 indicators reflect the three strategic priorities and 12 sub-goals.

Integration of sustainable development

Sustainable development must be integrated into everything that the Nordic Council of Ministers does if it is to realise its vision of the Nordic Region becoming the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. The co-operation ministers decided this in June 2020 and adopted a new policy of integrating sustainable development, gender equality and a children’s and young person’s rights perspective.

Integrating sustainable development into the work of the Council of Ministers is about understanding and taking into account how initiatives and decisions impact on society in terms of the social, economic and ecological dimensions of sustainable development. Agenda 2030 and the SDGs point the way forward, mainly as an overall picture but also as separate goals and sub-goals.

Nordic Expert Group for Sustainable Development

The Nordic Ministers for Co-operation have overall responsibility for sustainable development in the Council of Ministers. They have appointed the Nordic Expert Group for Sustainable Development to assist them in work on Vision 2030 and sustainable development. The expert group consists of representatives of ministries and youth organisations in the Nordic countries with close ties to national efforts relating to sustainable development and Agenda 2030.

The Group's work is based on the Nordic Action Plan for Sustainable Development 2021–2024. The plan states that the Council of Ministers will implement initiatives to support and strengthen interdisciplinary work on sustainable development within all of its sectors. This work will contribute to Vision 2030, the three strategic priorities, Agenda 2030 and the UN SDGs. The focus is on promoting an integrated sustainability perspective and addressing challenges faced throughout the Region. This will involve work on sustainable consumption and a socially sustainable green transition and will involve civil society.

The Council of Ministers’ plan for inter-disciplinary work on sustainable development is based on the three mutually dependent dimensions within sustainable development: the ecological, the social and the economic. In line with Agenda 2030, it also reflects the basic principles of human rights and the idea that no one should be left behind.