Together towards a sustainable Arctic: One year into the 2019-2021 Icelandic Chairmanship 9 June 2020Arctic PeoplesClimateOceanAgreements and cooperationIceland Editorial by Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials Sustainable development has been at the heart of the Arctic Council’s mandate since the Ottawa Declaration was signed in 1996. We chose sustainable development as the Icelandic Chairmanship program theme because in a rapidly changing world, we see the value in remembering our starting point. While no one could have predicted a year ago that the world would be facing a global health crisis today, it is ever more important that sustainable development lights our way, environmentally, socially and economically, as we gradually resume our daily lives after the confinement period has passed. I am proud of the Council’s resilience and efforts towards our common goal of a sustainable Arctic. Sustainable development is all-encompassing. During Iceland’s Chairmanship the Arctic Council is focusing on four different priorities. They highlight some pressing issues in the circumpolar north: People and communities of the Arctic, the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions and a stronger Arctic Council. Climate change already affects and will continue to impact the Arctic. That means effective mitigation and adaptation strategies are needed to address the adverse effects, and that it is imperative for us to strike a balance between economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. The steps towards sustainable development start with harmonizing the traditional knowledge and scientific data that build the foundation for the assessments and policy recommendations generated through our six Working Groups. Importantly, sustainable development requires close cooperation between the Arctic States, Indigenous Peoples, other inhabitants of the region and beyond. The coronavirus pandemic forced us to collaborate in different ways. We adapted and created innovative solutions, and this resilience and endurance in the face of extraordinary circumstances makes me optimistic about our progress toward a sustainable Arctic. People and communities of the Arctic We are conscious of the fact that human resources are the region’s biggest wealth. Initiatives that aim to promote the wellbeing of the four million people that call the Arctic their home are at the heart of the Arctic Council’s work. These uncertain times that especially threaten remote Arctic communities underscore the importance of this priority. The Council’s Working Groups are currently undertaking over 50 initiatives specifically related to Arctic peoples and communities. These projects range from economic opportunities, youth engagement, the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge, and of course, health concerns. Youth engagement is also a focus of the Icelandic Chairmanship, and Indigenous youth from across the Arctic brought a strong message to the planning of the future of the Arctic at the first Arctic Leaders’ Youth Summit hosted by the Saami Council and the Arctic Council Permanent Participants in November 2019. Delegates have lent strong support to the proposal to foster meaningful collaboration with youth. I look forward to furthering the discussion on avenues for future youth engagement in close cooperation with Senior Arctic Officials, Permanent Participants and youth representatives.