UN Week in Oslo

The United Nations Student Association Oslo has organized the UN Theme Week, where several seminars, panels and discussions on UN’s Sustainability Development Goals took place.

The FN Studentene, as this group of young volunteer students are known, is composed by university students based in Oslo. Their main goals are to inspire and support the community by bringing different perspectives in today’s environmental, social and economic issues and contribute to a more sustainable world in which universal human rights are for all.
Our participants in the “Say Hit to Sustainability” project based in Norway have attended to some of these events: on the 8th march a discussion about Circular Economy, which is closely related to the 12th sustainable development goal: “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”.

Our team at the UN Week in Oslo
Our team at the UN Week, dedicated to the Sustainability Development Goals in Oslo

One of the main aspects of this panel was a discussion about how our manufacturing processes are not sustainable at all, simply because we do not have as many resources as we had decades ago to keep the currently production systems running. Therefore, we need to reinvent the way we produce, use and waste our goods, especially the ones which use plastic and other potentially pollution components that can take centuries to decompose. Also, we should definitely make our products last longer. One initiative worth getting acquainted is the FJONG app, a digital platform to rent and rent out clothes. It is very innovative, as we end up using some pieces very little throughout the year, such as party dresses or more fancy stuff. Instead of possessing them, you can rent them out when you need and make money from it by renting it to others!

For some specific products it is quite easy to find more sustainable alternatives, such as: grocery packs, mobile phones (you do not really need to get a new one every couple year, do you?), canned food, old furniture, clothing… the list goes on and on.
The debate has pointed out some concerns regarding waste across Norway and Scandinavia in general. For instance, Norway is currently the leading producer of electronic waste in Europe. On the other hand, it is the leading country in sustainable development initiatives, such as gender equity.
Some companies, such as H&M and IKEA are committed to incorporate circular economy up to 2030, according to the CEO of Virke, the Enterprise Federation in Norway, which represents over 21.000 companies with over 250.000 employees in the country.

The panel was composed by important businesses based in Norway, as well as national non-profit organizations committed to environmental issues and sustainability-related initiatives.

Another interesting discussion took place on Friday, regarding the Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. Represents from the Norwegian Government, such as the Minister of Industry and Trade Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, along with Kari Kaski, a politician from the Socialist Left party spoke about the political aspects to promote gender equity, while the other participants showed some statistics and shared moving personal experiences upon female discrimination and lack of opportunities in the Labor Market. According to them, there are structural barriers that prevent women from becoming entrepreneurial, as well as thrive in the private sector, which has been historically prioritizing male representatives for higher positions and as board members. Some statistics show that only 20% of the large companies have female representatives in their administrative boards. For the woman that are employed, the salaries are also 20% less than the ones paid to men with same education and role. This gap is even higher for middle management positions and gets even bigger (around 26%) for high-level management roles. The main challenge when it comes to private companies seems to be creating a career plan to make it possible for them to reach high level positions, such as CEOs, Directors and Board Members.

In Norway, there is also an issue regarding female employees that work part time, as they tend to not have the same pension benefits as men once they retire. As most of them become mothers and therefore seem to keep the tradition of taking care of their children, it is a must to create regulations that could compensate them as some may not be able to work throughout their pregnancy and especially in the early years after their children are born.

Written by Emilia Barreto and Amarilis Coelho