December 2022 - You are accessing an archived version of our website. This website is no longer maintained or updated. The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform has been migrated here:

Voluntary National Review 2020

Estonia is devoted to the UN Agenda 2030 both domestically and internationally. In addition to the 17 SDGs, Estonia is also focusing on maintaining the viability of the Estonian cultural space pursuant to the “Sustainable Estonia 21” strategy. The SDGs are the basis for the “Estonia 2035” strategy that lays down Estonia’s long-term strategic objectives and relevant policy measures. The SDGs are also implemented by integrating them into government level development plans.

This is the second Voluntary National Review (VNR) since adopting the UN Agenda 2030. The preparation of the VNR was coordinated by the Government Office in cooperation with the inter-ministerial working group on sustainable development, the Commission for Sustainable Development, and several non-governmental organisations. It is based on the Government’s activity reports, data collected from non-governmental organisations and enterprises, and proposals from ministries and the Commission for Sustainable Development.

The implementation of SDGs is monitored through a mechanism based on Estonian sustainable development indicators and a regular data based reviews compiled by Statistics Estonia in co-operation with the Government Office and various ministries. The list of indicators was renewed in 2017 to harmonise it with global SDGs. All central governmental indicators are available in the online data-driven “Tree of Truth” that illustrates the status of the goals by governance areas.

Main conclusions
Estonia is generally successful in implementing the SDGs. In the past four years, results in several areas have been maintained or improved. In 2019, Estonia was tenth in the global Sustainable Development Report.

Mapping the actions and indicator-based analyses indicate that Estonia is successful in several SDG-s. Our strengths are accessible and quality education, effective healthcare organisation, high employment rate with minimal long-term unemployment, and a high proportion of renewable energy in overall energy consumption.

Nevertheless, several SDG areas still require work. We need to focus on establishing gender equality (although decreased, the wage gap still remains among the highest in Europe), decreasing the risk of poverty for women and disabled people, including families with disabled children, establishing effective waste management and recycling, decreasing greenhouse emissions, and maintaining natural diversity. We also want to improve the health of our citizens, including mental health, and decrease the number of preventable deaths.

The global COVID-19 pandemic in the beginning of 2020 affects the implementation of SDGs in several areas – economy, employment, healthcare, education, culture, innovation, etc. Specific impacts can be evaluated in future reviews.

The principles for Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid are established in the Strategy for Estonian Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid 2016–2020. As of 2020, Estonian development cooperation follows the new development plan for foreign policy and a separate strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Pursuant to Estonian foreign policy objectives and international agreements to direct more resources into vulnerable countries, Estonia will continue to react flexibly to the needs of less developed and post-conflict countries, developing island states, and landlocked developing countries in areas where Estonia can offer clear added value (for example, healthcare or improving the availability and quality of education).

Next steps The most recent important milestone in strategic planning is establishing the Estonian long-term strategy “Estonia 2035” that helps to integrate SDGs into sectoral strategies in a stronger and more systemised manner. We will continue to incorporate sustainable development into different policy fields.

Estonia and other Eropean Union (EU) Member States agreed to integrate SDGs into European Semester, the EU instrument for economic coordination. This enables a centralised assessment of the SDGs o the EU level to increase the significance of the goals in Estonia and the whole EU.

We will also continue raising awareness on SDGs. This year we are going to participate in the EU Sustainable Development Week, discuss SDGs at the Estonian Opinion Festival and having Sustainable Development Forum. We are supporting and expanding the Coalition for Sustainable Development and creating a platform for sustainable development to enable the government and private sector, non-governmental organisations, and citizens to gain knowledge, take accountability and action in achieving the SDGs.
Voluntary National Review 2016

The Estonian national voluntary review on implementation of the Agenda 2030 gives information on the progress and status of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Estonia. It describes the main measures and plans for implementation of 17 sustainable development goals by government and non-government organizations. The report also presents an overview of the Estonian institutional framework for the coordination of sustainable development issues including the integration of three dimensions of sustainable development, incorporation of the SDGs in national frameworks and creating ownership. A preliminary gap analysis of governments’ policies and global sustainable development goals was initiated in spring 2016 and was used as a relevant input for the review.

The review was compiled in cooperation with several ministries and the Estonian Sustainable Development Commission. Estonian review generally follows the common reporting guidelines for Voluntary National Reviews at the HLPF, as presented in the annex of the Secretary-General’s report on critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at the global level (1).

Strategic framework

Estonia has considerable experience in advancing sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Act was adopted by Parliament already in 1995. In 2005, the Parliament adopted the Estonian Sustainable Development Strategy „Sustainable Estonia 21“ (2), which states 4 main goals for sustainable development in Estonia: 1) Viability of Estonian cultural space; 2) Growth of welfare; 3) Coherent society; 4) Ecological balance. The Estonian national sustainable development strategy is implemented by governments’ sectoral and thematic strategies and action plans. The national sustainable development strategy is one of the main horizontal strategies that has to be taken into account by designing governments’ strategic development plans.

Monitoring mechanism

The implementation of sustainable development goals is monitored through an agreed set of sustainable development indicators. The set of indicators is renewed on a regular basis and covers all the relevant sustainable development related topics. The current set of indicators was agreed upon in cooperation with the Sustainable Development Commission, inter-ministerial sustainable development working group and the statistical Office and Government Office. The last indicator-based report on Estonian sustainable development was published in March 2015. (3)

Institutional framework

The Estonian coordination mechanism for sustainable development issues involves government institutions and non-government organizations from all relevant sustainable development spheres. At the central government level, the implementation and monitoring of sustainable development issues is coordinated by the Government Office Strategy Unit, which also coordinates Estonian competitiveness strategy Estonia 2020 and drafts and monitors the Government Action Plan. This helps to maintain the coherence between main horizontal strategies. Estonia also plans to utilize the functioning national coordination mechanism for sustainable development issues in coordinating the implementation of Agenda 2030.

The Estonian Sustainable Development Commission was formed in 1996. It consists of non-governmental roof-organizations which cover different fields of sustainable development (for example education, environmental protection, culture, children, health, local government, academy, companies, agriculture, etc). The Commission meets 4-5 times per year and has thematic discussions on different sustainable development topics, discusses drafts of sustainable development related strategic action plans before they are adopted by the government and publishes focus reports with policy recommendations.

Coordination and monitoring also involves the inter-ministerial working group on sustainable development, which is comprised of representatives from all the ministries and the Statistics Estonia. The SD working group works on an ad hoc basis. For example, the working group has participated in compiling the set of sustainable development indicators, drafting Estonian positions for SDG negotiations, and compiling the Estonian review on Agenda 2030 implementation for the 2016 HLPF.

Next steps for the implementation of the Agenda 2030

The first actions connected to the Agenda 2030 were initiated during the compiling process of the national voluntary review. The preliminary gap analysis of governments’ policies and SDGs has been conducted, and its results were used as input for the review.

The Estonian Sustainable Development Commission has launched a review of the Estonian National sustainable development strategy “Sustainable Estonia21” in the light of Agenda2030 and global trends. The analysis will be completed in autumn 2016. It will give recommendations regarding the renewal of the national sustainable development strategy and its implementation mechanisms.

Estonian Statistics Office has conducted an initial overview of 231 global sustainable development indicators and approximately 14% of the indicators are measurable right now. The renewal of sustainable development indicators will be started in 2016. The aim is to include indicators that help to measure achievements in the fields of SDG-s. It will allow the next indicator-based reports on sustainable development to provide information about performance regarding Estonian sustainable development goals and also global SDG-s. A new list of indicators will be composed in cooperation with an inter-ministerial working group, the Estonian Statistics Office and the Estonian Sustainable Development Commission. Estonia will continue attaching great importance to the development of innovative technological solutions that help to implement the SDGs. As lessons learnt, promoting of digital technology and e-governance solutions have contributed to Estonia´s development in several areas including economic growth and human development.

It is also important to find effective ways to raise general awareness of the Agenda 2030 and to continue contributing to the implementation of the SDG-s via international cooperation.

Status of implementation of global SDG-s – initial results and main challenges

The gap analysis of Estonian governments’ policies and SDG-s, and mapping of policy measures showed that the Estonian government and non-government sector are already implementing measures and taking actions in the fields of all 17 sustainable development goals. Some targets are covered partially or via international cooperation. Gap analysis identified only few targets that are not covered by actions (for example combating desertification and protecting ecosystems in mountains).

The mapping exercise indicated the areas where Estonia has achieved positive results. In the overall picture, the rich biodiversity protections, high share of renewables in the heating sector, inclusive regulatory process of the government, quick and extensive access to public services through e-services and high quality and good accessibility of education stand out as Estonia’s strengths. However, the review has also shown areas where the Estonian government needs continued efforts toward contribution to the implementation of SDG-s and Estonia’s own targets. The main challenges lie in achieving productivity growth, developing an energy- and resource efficient economy, lowering CO2 emissions per capita, an improvement in the subsistence of low income people and tackling the gender pay gap.

Raising the general awareness of Agenda 2030 and creating ownership of SDG-s also need further attention in Estonia. The first conference introducing Agenda 2030 to the wider public was organized already in November 2015, where The Minister of the Environment, Minister for Foreign Affairs and other high-level officials, representatives from companies and civil society explained global sustainable development goals generally, as well as possibilities for implementing the goals using the example of SDG 12 – sustainable production and consumption. Innovative and comprehensive solutions are needed for creating awareness and increasing actions for sustainable development.

Support for other countries

The new Strategy for Estonian Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid 2016–2020 (4) is based on general international development agreements and goals, e.g. the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as the development policy decisions and guidelines of the European Union (EU). The priorities of Estonian development cooperation are: 1) supporting the quality of education, 2) supporting the development of health care, 3) guaranteeing peace and stability, 4) supporting the development of democracy, introduction of good governance practices and guaranteeing human rights, 5) promoting economic development, 6) fostering environmentally friendly development, 7) raising the awareness of the Estonian public, particularly younger people, concerning development cooperation and humanitarian aid, as well as global development problems.

Covering all areas, Estonia promotes more extensive application of information and communication (ITC) technologies in the framework of development cooperation. Estonian experience in digital development, especially in e-governance and respective public-private partnerships has taught valuable lessons. We are ready to share these lessons with other countries.

Focal point
Ms Eili Lepik
Adviser on Sustainible Development issues
Strategy Unit
Government Office

Partnerships & Commitments
The below is a listing of all partnership initiatives and voluntary commitments where Estonia is listed as a partner in the Partnerships for SDGs online platform.
IHO Hydrography Capacity Building Programme for Coastal States

The IHO capacity building programme seeks to assess and advise on how countries can best meet their international obligations and serve their own best interests by providing appropriate hydrographic and nautical charting services. Such services directly support safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, efficient sea transportation and the wider use of the seas and oceans in a sustainable way, including the protection of the marine environment, coastal zone management, fishing, marine resource exploration and exploitation, maritime boundary delimitation, maritime defence and security, and o...[more]

International Hydrographic Organization (IGO); 87 IHO Member States (Governments); International Maritime Organization (UN); World Meteorological Organization (UN); International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (NGO)
Action Network
Sustainable Development Goals
United Nations