#WIMG is a PERMAGOV campaign designed to celebrate the role of women in marine governance. Case studies take the form of short interviews where participants share their background, interests, ideas and recommendations for improving the way in which ocean affairs are managed. Each story is unique. By spotlighting our WIMG stars, we hope that readers from all walks of life will be inspired to make their contribution in support of a sustainable ocean. Featured in this case study is Susanna Kaasinen, Associate Professional Secretary at HELCOM.
I work at the HELCOM Secretariat which coordinates the work and meetings of the Helsinki Commission, and ensures that the Contracting Parties, Baltic Sea coastal countries and the EU, meet their obligations for protecting the Baltic Sea. I support the work of our working and expert groups related to eutrophication, hazardous substances and economic and social analyses among others, so I work with several teams both internally at the Secretariat and with external contacts. A big part of our work is done in meetings which can last from some hours to several days and thus a major part of my work is related to preparing the meetings and taking care of the aftermath. Right now, a major focus of our work is implementing the actions in the Baltic Sea Action Plan, HELCOM’s strategic programme of actions for achieving good environmental status of the sea, and I’m involved in both planning the implementation and tracking the progress.
Study and career path
I have a master’s degree in environmental science and policy from the University of Helsinki. I ended up working with marine issues somewhat by accident since it wasn’t a focus area in my studies. I was on my final year in university when a former student of my professor was asking if there was a student that could help for some moths in a Finnish national project related to reducing nutrient inputs from agriculture to the Baltic Sea. I said I could do it. Some months turned into a year and into another project etc. Finally, eight years ago I ended up at the HELCOM Secretariat, first working with agricultural issues and then with other topics as well.
Participation in PERMAGOV
I try to be a liaison officer of sorts to make sure that the project understands how HELCOM works and that the project results are useful for our work and that our contacts know about the project and can provide input. I support the HELCOM Working Group on the Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach that works with horizontal coordination of the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan and is interested in finding possible barriers for our work and solutions for clearing barriers. This is something where the PERMAGOV project can give valuable input.
I don’t think marine governance is only about governments. Also, civil society including NGOs as well as the business sector are an important part of marine governance. HELCOM has several observer organizations including environmental NGOs and sectoral organizations representing farmers, shipowners etc. that can provide different perspectives and encourage governments to be more ambitious.
For me it’s an exciting topic to work with but as with other fields of environmental protection, change often takes time which can feel frustrating. It’s a very international field which I like since you get to meet many great people from around the region and world. I would encourage aspiring marine governance professionals to look into job opportunities already during your studies. You never know where something that might seem small at the time can lead you later. Our field doesn’t offer as many job opportunities as some other sectors so it’s good to be active from the start.