The Red Cross and Sustainable Development Goals

A photograph taken from above shows a field in poor condition with an SOS written on it. There are destroyed buildings at the top of the picture.
Photo: Benjamin Suomela / Suomen Punainen Risti

The Red Cross promotes the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in Finland and around the world.

In 2015, UN Member States agreed on the Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 goals that guide the promotion of sustainable development.

The goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty in the world and safeguard well-being in a manner that is sustainable for the environment. The goals should be achieved by 2030.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development applies to all countries in the world. The operations of the Finnish Red Cross in Finland and around the world focus on the following goals in particular:

Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere

In one way or another, reducing poverty is a part of all the international aid work of the Finnish Red Cross.

We help reduce poverty both directly through developing livelihoods or microfinance and indirectly by improving the health of people and communities and their readiness to respond to crises and disasters.

Ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture

According to the UN, more than 820 million people in the world suffer from lack of food. The Red Cross helps people who suffer from food insecurity e.g. by distributing cash grants for buying food and other basic supplies.

The Finnish Red Cross helps the most vulnerable people, such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, elderly people and people with illnesses or disabilities.
For example, the promotion of nutrition awareness is an important area of our health work.

We strengthen food security for families affected by climate change e.g. by promoting low-water cultivation techniques, such as keyhole gardens, and by introducing drought-tolerant plant varieties.

In Finland, the Finnish Red Cross operates food distribution activities in some municipalities through the EU's food aid programme. With the vouchers from the Good Holiday Spirit campaign of several aid organisations, we support the holiday celebrations of low-income families.

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages

The Finnish Red Cross carries out long-term preventive health work with the most vulnerable people and communities. When disaster strikes, we are prepared to send health care professionals or even an entire field hospital to help people.

The Red Cross emphasises the importance of comprehensive health care globally. Every person’s right to effective basic health care is also a prerequisite for achieving the sustainable development goals.

Local Red Cross volunteers who share information in their communities play a key role in the long-term health work.

For example, volunteers improve the health of mothers and children by monitoring the development of children, working to prevent malnutrition, diarrhoea and infectious diseases, and encouraging the use of health care services and following healthy lifestyles.

Water and sanitation work of the Red Cross helps reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases, such as diarrhoea, among young children.

In Finland, the Finnish Red Cross promotes well-being and safe lives, strengthens people's independent coping and the community's ability to work together to increase well-being.

Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all

The Finnish Red Cross is fostering a new generation of helpers by cooperating with Finnish schools and educational institutions. The aim is to support the growth of children and young people into individuals who respect human values, appreciate themselves and care about others.

The Red Cross also carries out active work on global education by producing teaching material for educational institutions and through campaigns. Many international aid programmes emphasise the sharing of knowledge and skills learned at school among the members of the community.

Disaster preparedness is also promoted through programmes specifically designed for schools that promote the first aid skills of children and teachers, draw up and practise rescue plans and improve the safety of school buildings and going to school.

Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls

Strengthening gender equality is essential in order to reduce poverty.

In our international aid work, we strengthen the opportunities for girls to study, e.g. by improving menstrual hygiene, building toilets at schools and increasing young people's knowledge of sexual and reproductive health.

The Red Cross promotes women's opportunities to participate and lead the work of the Red Cross at all levels. Community programmes promote the role of women in village-level decision-making and train women e.g. for preparedness and rescue tasks, which are often seen as typical tasks for men.

Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

The lack of clean water and toilets and poor knowledge of hygiene cause a great deal of illnesses, especially in the poorest countries. In the event of a disaster, the lack of clean water and sanitation will further aggravate the situation.

The supply of clean water, the construction of water systems, toilets and sewers and the improvement and safeguarding of hygiene are key actions in the Red Cross disaster relief work and development cooperation.

Promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

The Red Cross helps small businesses practise and promote their livelihoods, e.g. by offering microloans and cash grants.

Safeguarding local livelihoods, protecting them against the effects of disasters or climate change or launching new livelihoods are reflected more widely in society and strengthen the ability of individuals, families and communities to cope and develop.

Reducing inequality within and among countries

An important part of the aid work of the Red Cross, both in Finland and around the world, is to influence decision-makers to take the most vulnerable people into account in their decisions.

The advocacy work includes responsibility for the development of poor countries and support for people who have left their homes for different reasons in the countries of origin, along the routes and in the countries where they end up. In accordance with its principles, the Red Cross helps those who are most in need. A large share of our development cooperation is directed towards fragile states in Africa.

Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Preparing for threats and repeated natural disasters caused by climate change is an important part of the international aid work of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross strengthens the disaster preparedness and resilience of communities in both rural areas and metropolitan slums whose inhabitants are particularly vulnerable in the event of a disaster. We support our partners’ community programmes designed for the urban environment and the improvement of preparedness for major accidents and earthquakes, among others.

Climate change is advancing, so ensuring the resilience of communities and society (ability to adapt, cope and recover from emergencies and crises) is also becoming increasingly prominent in the activities of the Finnish Red Cross in Finland.

Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns

The Red Cross complies with sustainable public procurement practices. The aim is to purchase products locally whenever possible, both because of cost benefits and carbon footprint monitoring. Local procurement also promotes the attainment of the eighth objective:

Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Climate change is the most significant global challenge of our time. It is also, to a great extent, a humanitarian crisis.

As the largest humanitarian operator in the world, the Red Cross is heavily involved in responding to the effects of climate change and does its best to mitigate it.

People with existing social and financial issues are the most vulnerable, such as seasonal workers and small farmers depending on agriculture, whose
livelihoods are threatened by global warming, extreme weather phenomena and heat stress in cattle. The risk of dying of the health effects of extreme temperatures and heatwaves is highest within the most vulnerable people in large cities.

The Red Cross promotes adaptation and preparedness to the effects of climate change.

Volunteers at the local level help people understand the effects of climate change, identify risks and prepare for them. Furthermore, we support the cooperation of vulnerable communities with the authorities and other operators.

The Red Cross prepares for risks also by developing early warning systems that make use of weather forecasts.We help small farmers with adapting to changing production conditions e.g. by introducing plant varieties resistant to drought and climate-smart farming techniques.

Preventive work in Finland is also emphasised as storms increase, sea levels rise and heavy rains cause floods.

In its own work, the Red Cross takes into account the climate impacts of its activities from travel and procurement to disaster relief operations. We set emissions reduction goals and draft action plans to reach them.

Our goal is to be climate neutral by 2030.

Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement is based on the widest possible participation at the local, national, regional and global levels. Participation is reflected in all activities and guides the advocacy work of the Finnish Red Cross and its cooperation with partners.

The operations of the Red Cross are based on principles that include humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Maintaining the principles and living up to them requires transparency and accountability towards different stakeholders.

Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

The need for humanitarian aid and development funding will increase significantly in the future due to challenges caused by climate change, among others.

In disaster preparedness, the Red Cross promotes models of activities and funding based on forecasts that respond to extreme weather phenomena and strive both to prevent damage and loss of life and to reduce the costs of humanitarian aid operations.

The Red Cross is present in 192 countries in the world, so it has the ability to act locally and globally as needed. The Red Cross seeks the best results in order to help people with the assistance of numerous stakeholders and partnerships.