FinCEAL+ BRIDGES Seminar: Sustainable Development Goals and Partnerships for Transformation

November 27, 2019
Adrián Monge Monge

On 20th November, FinCEAL+ BRIDGES and the Finnish University Partnership for International Development (UniPID) organised a public seminar to discuss how to mobilise Finland’s expertise on research and innovation in support of global partnerships towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event took place at Think Corner Lounge, University of Helsinki.

The event was hosted by Adjunct Professor and Program Director for Strategic Research at AKA, Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki who welcomed panellists and other participants to the event. Members of the panel included Sami Pirkkala (Counsellor on Sustainable Development at the Prime Minister's Office), Ellen Huan-Niemi (Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Institute Finland), Sara Lindeman (Researcher, Aalto University), Pekka Tuovinen (Senior Advisor – Sustainability, Neste), and Niko Humalisto (Advisor on Economic Justice, Felm).

In their opening remarks, panellists discussed how to mobilise Finland’s expertise on research and innovation in support of global partnerships, from their own sectorial experience. Lindeman and Tuovinen agreed that expanding the networks of stakeholders around business opportunities is a way to support partnerships. However, Lindeman indicated that in the presence of risk or low margins some stakeholders require time to be convinced and this has a negative effect on implementation.

Huan-Niemi and Humalisto centred their presentation around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change in particular. Humalisto underscored the importance of synergies while working on the SDGs and the apparent need to rethink our partnerships if we aim to capitalise on those synergies. Huan-Niemi reminded the audience that for some sectors -- such as forestry and agriculture -- the trade-offs towards transformation to support the SDGs are clear and that partnerships for concrete actions are multiplying.

Pirkkala warned the audience against undermining existing partnerships in the search of new ones. The SDGs should be reinforced within existing partnerships and be used to better match and target activities towards sustainability. The SDGs should not be seen in isolation, but as a way to support the principles of universality, policy coherence, and global responsibility expressed as part of the Agenda 2030.

After a round of questions and comments, Andreas Göthenberg (Executive Director, The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education – STINT) joined the seminar through a video link from Sweden. Göthenberg provided an introduction to the STINT Foundation and how it supports the strategic internationalisation of Swedish universities and the rationale behind the instrument. After a question from the audience, Göthenberg indicated that even if the Foundation was created with a general mandate, it has been the active participation of national universities that has shaped the funding mechanism and the current goals.

In the second part of the event, participants were divided into three working groups to discuss the following questions (images summarise the main outcomes from each table).

1. What key sectoral actors can be identified and what roles could they play to mainstream Finnish involvement in transformative partnerships and international policy dialogues towards achieving the SDGs?

2. What are the best ways to influence national, EU, and global policy discussions to maintain focus on the SDGs in the Global South based on the collective Finnish expertise in Africa, Asia, and LAC countries?

3. What concrete actions are needed to facilitate and mainstream partnerships between Finland and countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean in support of the SDGs?

After a ten-minute discussion each group rotated to the next discussion point until all groups had the opportunity to discuss each question.

The preliminary notes from each question were presented at the end of the event and in the coming weeks the UniPID/FinCEAL+ BRIDGES team will be circulating a Green Paper first for comments by the participants, and then comments from the wider Finnish scientific community. If you would like to receive the first draft to make comments, please send an email to Helmi Jyrkkänen () with 'Green Paper Distribution List' as the subject.