Report assessment by the UN Youth of Helsinki

As part of the From Agenda to Action 2021 sustainable development reporting efforts, we asked the UN Youth of Helsinki association to provide comments and views on the report content. The comments are an element of Helsinki’s efforts around continuous sustainable development. For the comments, the UN Youths were provided with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the content of the report in advance, and the comments were then reviewed in a joint discussion. The UN Youth association will also have the opportunity to speak about the comments in the release event for the report. The comments yielded a great deal of valuable insights and development suggestions for our further efforts. The following is a summary of the observations made by the UN Youth association.

General observations

  • The report acknowledges the comprehensiveness and intertwined nature of the agenda goals, which is seen as both a challenge and opportunity.
  • The report is clear and easy to read.
  • However, the SDGs should be integrated into the planning and implementation of the City’s key programmes and strategies in a more informed manner, which is acknowledged in the report. This would ensure that the impacts expedite the realisation of the sustainable development goals even more effectively than before.
  • It would be important to involve young people as early on as possible in order to integrate their contribution into the end results of corresponding projects.
  • As it is, the City of Helsinki SDG report rarely goes beyond presenting abstract goals, which is evident in the scarcity or lacking implementation of measures to fulfill certain development needs.
  • Collaboration between local residents and various sectors is extremely important and should be increased. An example would be to utilise Helsinki’s strong start-up culture more efficiently to develop sustainable solutions.

Environment

  • It would be important to increase young people’s awareness of various practical engagement opportunities through communications, in order to alleviate climate anxiety. The repercussions of the impending climate crisis will impact the future of young people, which is why they should be more actively heard and included in climate-related decision-making.
  • Helsinki has the potential and, due to its globally privileged position, the obligation to pioneer various trials related to energy and consumption.
  • Contiguous and expansive green areas should be secured in construction efforts, as they support the well-being of urban residents. Furthermore, it is important to ensure easy access to natural locations and green areas for everyone, not only those with a car.

People

  • As an example, all age groups are affected by loneliness, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As such, it would be important to know how the City has supported and plans to support those who suffer from it.
  • The report places a fairly heavy emphasis on obesity as a national health challenge. However, the measures primarily focus on increasing physical activity, even though it would be important to examine and address the root causes more widely. Another aspect that should be considered in this context, too, is mental health.
  • It should be acknowledged that an approach centred around human rights must go beyond simply eliminating discrimination (for example, the right to sufficient income must be considered). In addition, the report mentions intersectionality but does not cover it as an overarching theme. The report as a whole should also represent sexual and gender minorities more clearly.
  • The report does not directly indicate how experiences of insecurity are related to participation and engagement. Furthermore, even though domestic violence is an important topic, the report once again neglects other sexual or gender-based violence. Other issues that are left unaddressed include harassment and hate speech, which have a massive impact on experiences of safety and social engagement.

Economy

  • We hope that, in the future, the economic section of the report will more widely cover the ways in which financial themes intersect with the SDGs related to the well-being of people and the environment. For example, the protection of land and sea ecosystems should be considered in more detail, in addition to the effects of the economic section’s themes on gender equality and inequality.
  • We appreciate the City of Helsinki’s willingness to change and commit to green values in the context of themes related to the economy, housing and infrastructure.
  • Helsinki is a vibrant and growing region, which is why it is important to ensure that all residents of the area can enjoy the City’s economic growth and opportunities.
  • Other intersectional aspects, such as speaking a foreign language and having an immigrant background, should be covered more comprehensively in future reports.
  • The term ‘responsibility’ is repeated towards the end of the report’s economic section. In order to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved, clearer definitions for responsibility and related enticement schemes in the context of procurement, business operations, tourism and economic growth are required, as are clear, ambitious and effective frameworks.