The Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Expert Group on Sustainable Development is currently hosting a number of workshops all over the Baltic Sea Region to address the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and draft a strategy that would allow the achievement of these goals until 2030.
Last week, Krista Kampus, Head of the Baltic 2030 Unit and her colleague Olga Zuin were in Tallinn, Estonia, to talk to Estonian experts and stakeholders. We took advantage of that opportunity and sat down with them to talk about their ideas, ambitions and the challenges in working with Sustainable Development in the Baltic Sea Region.
What does the CBSS Expert Group on Sustainable Development do?
Krista Kampus: The Expert Group is the only platform in the Baltic Sea Region that systematically works with Sustainable Development Goals. Last autumn, we celebrated the Expert Group’s 20th anniversary. After the approval of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN-Level, there’s now a new global agenda for Sustainable Development. The main task of the Expert group has been and still is to support the countries in their national implementation of sustainable development goals with knowledge, best practice and exchange. Also, it engages main pan-Baltic organizations and wants to increase the coherence among the various approaches and policies relating to Sustainable Development.
What’s Baltic 2030?
Krista Kampus: Last summer, the CBSS member states endorsed the CBSS declaration called “Renewing the Commitment to Sustainable Development in the Baltic Sea Region”. They agreed that we need a new vision for the region on how to implement the UN 2030 Agenda in the Baltic Sea Region and mandated the Expert Group to elaborate an Action Plan, which is called Baltic 2030.
The UN 2030 Agenda: 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development
You’re currently travelling around the Baltic Sea Region with your format “Baltic 2030 – From Talk to Work”. What exactly do you do in these seminars?
Krista Kampus: This project, funded by the Swedish Institute, is part of the elaboration process of the Baltic 2030 Action Plan. The aim is to map competence and capacity-building gaps relating to Sustainable Development and to identify the needs in terms of exchange of best practices and information in the region. The seminars support the national discussions on SD implementation and help us in our mapping practice for preparing the next Action Plan steps.
What would the next steps be? What are you going for?
Olga Zuin: The aim is to apply for a larger scale project that is going to focus on capacity-building. The UN 2030 Agenda is very broad and it’s obvious that we need to prioritize some areas of Sustainable Development, eventhough we need awareness for all goals. The seed-money project Towards Baltic 2030 – From Talk to Work identifies the fields where there’s support needed and how the macro-regional perspective and implementation can be addressed. The problem so far really has been that sustainable development was mainly linked to an environmental focus, green economy or development cooperation. We need a shift of understanding. The larger scale project will work on this.
“Recogniz[ing] that many of the specific challenges related to sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region have also grown ever more pressing and that many of them, because of their fundamentally trans-boundary nature, require an enhanced macro-regional approach if they are to be addressed successfully.”
CBSS Declaration,Renewing the Commitment to Sustainable Development in the Baltic Sea Region, June 2016, online here.
What are your first impressions from the first Talk to Work sessions in Poland and Latvia?
Olga Zuin: There’s a lot of interest and there’s a huge momentum for that topic right now. In both Poland and Latvia several ministries, NGO’s and private sector representatives and research institutions participated. We manage to have varied cross-sectorial and multilevel participation.
The workshops can however just be a starting point. It’s nothing that can be dealt with in one or two years. What we do is activating the process, we throw the stone and then it reverberates and processes are initiated. Also, a central issue really is, that implementation of Sustainable Development Goals is still national. What we can do is to sensitize that it is important to address the goals and keep the regional aspect into account, because what I will do in my country will affect your country as well.
"The majority of sectors, such as for example transport, are thinking sustainable development goals are all about the environment or development cooperation. Even in the cultural sector, people are not sure what their role in this can be. There’s a huge need (…) to make the people understand, that sustainable development goals are about absolutely everything.”
Krista Kampus, Head of Baltic 2030 Unit
Let’s talk about the Sustainable Development goals and the level of implementation in the Baltic Sea Region. What are the main issues relating to the Sustainable Development goals?
Olga Zuin: It’s obvious that there’s a need to focus on some specific core issues such as climate change, environment of the Baltic Sea and social issues, as identified in our desk-study, but we really need to keep an eye open for all the other challenges as well. In my opinion, the biggest challenge right now is to work with cohesion and cross-sectorially, because each country has a different view on sustainability. It’s a potential but at the same time also a challenge. Each country has different ways of addressing these issues, some will give it to the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Environment or address in a completely different manner.
Let’s talk about culture. Ban Ki-Moon said in 2013, that culture is on top of the agenda relating to Sustainability. How has this reached the countries and their level of implementation?
Krista Kampus: I’m not talking about the Baltic Sea Region now, but all countries in the EU have said that for them the challenge is to break the silos and to change the mindset for a more cross-sectorial understanding of sustainable development. The majority of sectors, such as for example transport, are thinking sustainable that development goals are all about the environment or development cooperation. They don’t think that it’s their business. Even in the cultural sector, people are not sure what their role in this can be.
Participants in Tallinn discussed options for Estonia's new Sustainable Development Strategy.
There’s a huge need to change the mindset, to make the people understand, that sustainable development goals are about absolutely everything. It is about a holistic implementation in different policy areas and preparations.
In that sense culture and the cultural sector is very important – the cultural tools can explain in more understandable ways how different areas are interconnected. We’re for example also coordinating climate cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region and of course you can elaborate piles of documents and strategies, but it is a real challenge to make people understand how these facts relate to them and their environment. One filmmaker is just making one short 5-minute video and that tells and explains much more than any document. In that sense, I think culture is really overarching. You can use culture to explain the things.
Talking about the national strategies, do governments see the potential of how culture can explain needed change and raise awareness?
Krista Kampus: It’s different in the various countries, but in general I wouldn’t say so. That’s why we’re interested in cooperating with actors from the cultural sphere, because they via their networks can activate actors from the cultural sectors. They can initiate discussions and engage cultural actors more, so that they would also be involved in the reaching those global sustainable development goals.
Olga Zuin: So far it’s really been mostly the Ministries of Environment that we dealt with. We haven’t had the chance to reach-out to the Ministries of Culture for example that much. Now we’re slowly discovering, after events such as the EUSBSR Forum in Stockholm last November, an increased level of interest in talking about the Baltic 2030 Agenda.
Thank you, we’re looking forward to following your work closely.
You can read more about the "Baltic 2030 - From Talk to Work" workshops in our recent news article here.
Learn more about the CBSS Expert Group on Sustainable Development and the Baltic 2030 Unit here.
"Culture includes not only culture and arts, but also the way of life and system of values. In this sense culture becomes the major power for intellectual renewal and human perfection." (European Council Report on European Cultural Policy)