Independent Group of Scientists: The state of global sustainable development is serious, solutions exist

Press release 2019-09-11 at 19:20
Eeva Furman
Research Professor Eeva Furman. © Kai Widell

The Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the UN has assessed the state of global sustainable development as worrying. Although positive developments can be found in the world, certain issues may prevent further progress. The Independent Group of Scientists has identified six key issues and the means necessary to improve the direction. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 has been published today in New York. The Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development is preparing a proposal for further national actions. The Independent Group of Scientists comprises Professor Eeva Furman from the Finnish Environment Institute.

Barriers to sustainable development are global

The key observation of the Independent Group of Scientists is that the 17 goals of sustainable development of the Agenda2030 are interlinked and should therefore not be promoted separately from each other. System-level changes and targets are needed to achieve individual goals. According to the researchers, four problematic phenomena prevent positive actions from having a sufficient impact.

"Inequality, climate change, biodiversity loss and the growing waste problem are four significant reasons why global development does not progress towards a sustainable direction as a whole," says research professor Eeva Furman from SYKE.

Six spearheads for change

In addition to these phenomena, the Independent Group of Scientists has identified six crucial areas in which action can steer the change into a more sustainable direction. It is essential to promote human well-being and opportunities for action, build a sustainable and fair economy, create sustainable food systems and support healthy food habits, ensure the supply of sustainable energy for all, develop the sustainability of cities and periurban areas, and secure global commons.

‘System-level changes are needed and means must be used consistently. When selecting measures, four different levers must be applied simultaneously to support each other. Sustainable political choices and economic solutions need to be made. Activities undertaken both by individuals and communities need to be supported. In addition, science and technology must be utilised’, says research professor Eeva Furman. ‘Changes should be promoted by considering the special features of each area and by tailoring the combinations of means accordingly.’

The position of sustainability science must be strengthened

According to the Independent Group of Scientists, the role of sustainability science must be strengthened when setting targets and making decisions. Especially in developing countries, the entire value chain of research must be strengthened and access to scientific networks and material must be ensured.

‘In developed countries, it might not be necessary to increase the amount of research, but to invest more in solution-centred sustainability science that recognises the diversity of challenges for sustainable development and seeks solutions together with various actors. This is currently not the case, as the majority of global research and development work in the private sector targets relatively narrow needs’, states Professor Eeva Furman.

20 recommendations for various actors in the society

In 2015, the UN Member States approved the Agenda2030, which contains 17 sustainable development goals for all UN Member States. In 2016, the UN set up a prestigious, independent group of 15 scientistss to draw up a scientific assessment of the state of sustainable development in the world to support decision-making and present an approach to guiding development onto a sustainable path. The report contains 20 recommendations for political and economic decision-makers, various institutions and citizens. The report will be submitted to the Heads of the UN Member States at the General Assembly on 24 September 2019 in New York.

Finland could become a pioneer in sustainable development

The Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development has launched a project in which it assesses Finland's role and opportunities to make sustainable development more efficient. Like other wealthy countries, Finland is placing a burden on the environment and thus bears responsibility for the progress of climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the generation of waste. According to the panel, however, in many respects Finland operates in accordance with the principles of sustainable development, and several actions mentioned in the report have already been launched in Finland. For example, the current government programme has been built on the basis of sustainable development, and the state budget is monitored from the perspective of sustainable development. The assessment of the Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development regarding Finland's situation and need for change will be completed in early 2020.


Further information

Research Professor Eeva Furman, SYKE,; Tel. +358 295 251 123
Member of the Independent Group of Scientists
Chairman of the Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development
(In New York from 5 September until 26 September 2019)

Senior Scientist Katriina Soini, Luke; Tel. + 358 29 532 6550
Senior Coordinator of the Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development

Senior Scientist Salla Rantala, SYKE, Tel. +358 295 251 257

Communications Director Kirsi Norros, SYKE,, tel +358 295 251 460
Communication Manager Johanna Torkkel, LUKE,, tel +358 295 327 333


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