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Sustainable development and the rights of indigenous peoples on the agenda during the 2021 Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 30.12.2021 11.50 | Published in English on 31.12.2021 at 10.38
News item

Finland’s presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers is coming to an end. Although the COVID-19 pandemic naturally affected event arrangements, solutions have also been found. For example, it has become commonplace to arrange remote and hybrid events, with recordings and reports produced for many events that can be used in various contexts, even after the presidency year ends. This documentation will effectively serve the continuity of the presidency and its impact on other future activities. The overarching theme of the year was sustainable development, viewed from an ecological, social and economic perspective.

The programme of the presidency reflected a vision of Nordic cooperation that seeks to make the Nordic countries the world’s most sustainable and integrated region by the year 2030. This cooperation seeks to create a Nordic region that is greener, more competitive and more socially sustainable. Here are some selected excerpts from events and themes of the year organised by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

Sustainable development in education

The first meeting of the Nordic Teacher Education Network was held in March, with Nordic teacher education institutes considering the prospects for establishing a Nordic network that would seek to improve the sustainable development skills of teachers at all levels of education.

Sustainable peace was also on the agenda when a seminar entitled Education for Inclusive Peace: the role of education and research in promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the Nordics highlighted the role of women in education and science, in relation to peace and security. A report of this event will be published in early 2022.

Culture across borders

In 2022 the Nordic countries will implement Nordic Bridges, a major cultural programme in Canada that will continue to present Nordic art and culture internationally. The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture joined the Nordic Council of Ministers in launching an associated interaction between officials of the Nordic countries and Canada in autumn 2021 by arranging Culture and Arts Policy Dialogues between Canada and the Nordics (online). Canadian Heritage served as a local partner in Canada. The themes of the Dialogues were: Cultural Dimension of Sustainable Development and Green Transition in the Field of Culture; Moving Forward: Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content Online; and Export Culture: International Collaboration and the Mobility of People and Ideas. A report on the events will be published in early 2022.

Several events promoted the operating conditions and competitiveness of the audiovisual sector over the year. In partnership with Nordisk Film & TV Fond (NFTVF), the Audiovisual Collaboration 2021 international discussion series was arranged in the spring to help strengthen links between industry operators and policymakers in the Nordic countries and Europe. Follow-up events will be held in February 2022, and a summary report of the discussion series will also be published in spring 2022.

The role of sustainable development in architectural policy was a topic of the New European Bauhaus project launched by the European Commission. The Nordic perspective of the project was discussed through public workshops arranged jointly by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and Archinfo with a view to finding better ways of living in Northern regions.

A joint Nordic discussion on diversity in the performing arts was also part of the Reshaping horizons of hope – Theatre of the Future event held in May. The programme was part of the #StopHatredNow event week, and was linked to the project An inclusive cultural sector in the Nordics arranged during the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017.

Intellectual Property of indigenous peoples and borderless Sámi education

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture is supporting cooperation related to the intellectual property of Nordic indigenous peoples. A conference was held in November on protection of the traditional knowledge and intellectual property of Nordic indigenous peoples, such as the Sámi, and the Inuit of Greenland. The conference highlighted the perspective of indigenous peoples on key issues, and served as a starting point for increased Nordic cooperation to promote intellectual property rights to traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. Nordic cooperation will focus on how current intellectual property rights protect traditional knowledge and how shortcomings should be addressed.

Developing Nordic cooperation in Sámi education was also one of the objectives set by Finland for its presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. In partnership with the Sámi Parliament (Sámediggi), a Nordic forum on Sámi education was held in December at the Sámi Cultural Centre in Sajos, Inari. The forum provided an overview of the state of Sámi education in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Its themes included the impact of international borders on the Sámi language, the language rights of Sámi school students, the training of Sámi-speaking teachers, and the organisation of distance learning of the Sámi language. Participants assembled at the event included representatives of the Sámi Parliaments and Ministries of Education of Finland, Sweden and Norway, organisers of education and training, and researchers in Sámi education and training.

Main event combines education, culture and youth in the context of sustainable development

The Alla påverkar! [Everyone influences!] virtual conference in June was the main event of the Finnish presidency. The theme of the conference was education, culture and youth as promoters of sustainable development. The conference programme examined the approaches of various sectors to sustainable development, and how these sectors draw on and support one another in promoting sustainable development. Conference partners of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture included the Nordic Expert Group for Sustainable Development, the Finnish Observatory for Arts and Cultural Education, and young activists. Besides young adults, the conference brought together various sustainable development networks and teachers.

The event was opened by Ministers Kurvinen and Saramo, and by Åland Minister of Education and Culture Annika Hambrudd. The conference coincided with the start of centenary celebrations of the autonomy of the Åland Islands on 9 June, which will continue until 9 June 2022. The themes of the centenary are democracy, peace and sustainable development.

  • Event reports and illustrations (in Finnish/English)

The conference also coincided with the launch of the Nord StarT climate change competition. This competition seeks to highlight the visions of Nordic children, youth and young adults, together with examples of how climate change can be mitigated. The final event of the competition will take place in February 2022.

News on 11 June 2021: Joint Nordic focus on sustainable development in preparation of the Nord Start Climate Change Competition

Reflection on the future of Nordic language policy and cooperation

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture arranged a digital conference in the autumn entitled Nordisk språkkonferens in association with Hanaholmen Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre and the Svenska Nu network. The conference celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Declaration on Nordic Language Policy and discussed the future of Nordic language policy and cooperation. It was organised to coincide with a meeting of the Nordspråk network. The Declaration on Nordic Language Policy will be updated in 2022.

Children and young adults

The Nordic network for arts and culture in school and early childhood education met in the autumn in Lahti at the time of the International Children’s Culture Forum. This was the first time that the network had met in Finland, and discussion topics included environmentally friendly children’s culture and art education, addressing the environmental and climate anxiety of children and young adults through art, and the sustainable development of children’s culture.

Promoting reading by children and young adults was one of the themes of the Finnish presidency. Together with Nordic Culture Point, the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture arranged a spring webinar on the Nordic Bokslukaren [bookworm] reading promotion project.

Nordic ministerial meetings

The Nordic ministers of education, science and culture also held official meetings over the year. Ministers Andersson and Kurvinen hosted a Helsinki meeting of Nordic Ministers of education and science in October. Topics discussed at this hybrid meeting included the social inclusion of young people and Nordic scientific and research cooperation.

At a November meeting in Copenhagen, the Nordic Ministers of culture adopted a joint declaration entitled “Art and culture as promoters of sustainable development”, noting that art and culture have an inalienable intrinsic value and much to offer in efforts to deliver the Nordic Council of Ministers’ vision of a Nordic region that is the world’s most sustainable and integrated region by the year 2030.

The Nordic heads of education and the permanent secretaries of ministries responsible for education also met in Helsinki during the presidency. Themes at a meeting held in November included the current state and future of Nordic cooperation, continuous learning, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Marjaana Seppinen, Project Coordinator (the presidency as a whole), tel. +358 29 533 0127
  • Kirsi Lindroos, Director, (the presidency as a whole), tel. +358 29 533 0393
  • Riitta Heinämaa, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Cultural Affairs, (Art and Culture), tel. +358 29 533 0090
  • Anna Vuopala, Senior Ministerial Adviser, (intangible property, intangible cultural heritage), tel. +358 29 533 0331
  • Anna Mikander, Senior Adviser (Education), tel. +358 29 533 0213