Mr. Soren Christensen
Secratary General 
of Nordic Council of Ministers

at the
World Summit on Sustainable Development

30 August, 2002 

Mrs / Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

Sustainable development is the key international challenge on local, national, regional and of course on global levels.

Huge efforts have been done to discussing goals and targets on all of the levels mentioned. I am going to dwell on the administration and implementation of sustainability in the Nordic countries Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland and the three autonomous Areas Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and Aaland , hoping to give some practical advice taken from the Nordic Council ,of Ministers experiences.

We have experienced that one of our main challenges is to connect the three pillars of economic, environmental and social sustainability and make them inter-operative.

In addition many economic, environmental and social challenges are shared between neighbouring countries and will increasingly do so. The Nordic countries have a formal Governmental cooperation. This enables us to be operational also in the fields of sustainability.

Mrs. Chair

In 1998 the Nordic Prime Ministers and the political heads of the self-governing areas adopted a political Declaration on sustainable development. In this Declaration it was agreed upon that the regional challenges in the Nordic Countries should be met on a regional basis. One of the first regional strategies in the world, the Nordic strategy "'Sustainable Development - New Bearings for the Nordic Countries" was adopted in 2001.

The common Nordic strategy affirms our strong commitment to implement sustainable development by making the necessary choices and by taking necessary actions in order to obtain results for the present and future generations. The strategy has also influenced the development of national strategies by defining a politically binding common baseline. The strategy contains the long-term goals of the Nordic countries for sustainable development to 2020, together with the specific objectives and initiatives for the period 2001 - 2004 which are prerequisites for achieving these long-term goals in a number of sectors, topics and cross-sectoral issues.

The strategy focuses on efforts to integrate environmental considerations and sustainable development into six important sectors - energy, transport, agriculture, business and industry, fisheries, and forestry.

Further more, five essential cross-sectoral issues have been included in the strategy: climate change, biological diversity, the sea, chemicals, and food safety. Finally strengthening public participation, local Agenda 21 activities and initiatives to promote the knowledge base, co-operation on instruments, and resource efficiency are commitments as well.

The main responsibility for following up on the objectives and initiatives of the strategy rests with the governments of the Nordic countries. It is also necessary that all actors, including local authorities, business and industry, and NGOs, actively participate in and take the responsibility for implementing the strategy. During the process those actors were extensively consulted. Thus openness and transparency was achieved. In this way it will be possible to enable civil society to evaluate the success or failure of the implementation.

Mrs. Chair

The process of implementation and follow upon of the objectives and initiatives of the Nordic strategy has started. The Nordic Council of Ministers is financing a substantial amount of projects and actions for sustainable development.
Indicators on sustainable development have been developed. Hopefully this can contribute to the ongoing international efforts to develop and define additional indicators for sustainable development. But in our experience developing indicators is a more complicated process than we had anticipated. We would be pleased to share our experiences with you. Our first attempt on a set of indicators is available here in Johannesburg and on the Internet.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
As a concrete example of our long-term goals I would like to mention the following goal concerning the sea:
Nordic marine areas are to be ecosystems in balance, and the resources of the sea are to be utilised on a sustainable basis. Marine ecosystems and biological diversity are to be protected and maintained.

  • Discharges of hazardous substances, such as heavy metals and substances, which are slowly degradable, must come to an end before       2020.
  • Discharges of nutritional salts to areas with eutrophication problems must be reduced by 50 per cent
  • Concentrations of naturally occurring hazardous substances in the marine environment should approach their original background               concentrations by 2020

Equivalent to these goals we have decided upon the following indicators: 

  •  Emission of selected dangerous and heavy metals.
  •  Emission of nutrients, in particular nitrogen and phosphorus 
  •  Concentrations of naturally occurring substances with a harmful impact on the marine environment, i.e. mercury, cadmium and dioxin
The strategy will be discussed further on the Nordic Sideevent later this evening.
Mrs. Chair
In conclusion, I would like to point out that regional and subregional cooperation will be important in furthering the outcome of this World Summit. And we are ready to play an active part in this process onwards.
Thank you for your attention.