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Empowering the Cultures, Communities and Peoples of the Arctic

During Canada’s Chairmanship, much of the Arctic Council’s work focused on initiatives that support the well-being and prosperity of Arctic residents...

During Canada’s Chairmanship, much of the Arctic Council’s work focused on initiatives that support the well-being and prosperity of Arctic residents and promote sustainable circumpolar communities. At the Iqaluit 2015 Ministerial meeting on April 24-25, 2015 this work will be presented to Ministers.

Traditional practices, cultural skills, values and spirituality are vital to the well-being of Arctic Indigenous peoples and communities, and greater awareness of the importance of traditional ways of life could lead to better decision-making both inside and outside the region. To help promote awareness of these traditional ways of life, the Council developed a written collection of best practices and programs being undertaken at local and regional levels showing how these ways of life can co-exist with modern ways to support healthy communities.

The goal of the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) is to propose and adopt steps that Arctic states can take to advance sustainable development in the Arctic. Over the past two years, SDWG led on the following projects aimed at empowering Arctic peoples and communities.

Recognizing that the use of traditional and local knowledge can lead to better results in the Council’s work, recommendations were developed to help ensure this knowledge is used more consistently in the Council’s projects.

The Evidence-Base for Promoting Mental Wellness and Resilience to Address Suicide in Circumpolar Communities project builds on previous work of the Council in identifying and sharing best practices to promote mental wellness across the Arctic, with a particular focus on youth. The Circumpolar Mental Health Symposium in Iqaluit, Canada in March 2015 brought together a variety stakeholders to facilitate the knowledge transfer and sharing of evidence attained by researchers and communities.

Language is a crucial part of the cultural identities of Arctic indigenous peoples and ensuring their vitality can help contribute to sustainable communities. The Assessing, Monitoring and Promoting Arctic Indigenous Languages project included first steps towards the development of an indigenous-driven assessment tool, an analysis of best practices in language policy, an assessment of the state of language acquisition and further development of the website. An international symposium was held in February 2015 to further the vitality of Arctic languages.

The Arctic Adaptation Exchange: Facilitating Adaptation to Climate Change initiative involved the development of an interactive website to facilitate ongoing exchange and dissemination of information on climate change adaptation activities in the Arctic. The web portal will provide decision-makers with access to innovative approaches, thereby enhancing adaptive capacity.

The Review of Cancer among Circumpolar Indigenous Peoples addresses cancer as a continued health concern among circumpolar Indigenous peoples, and recognizes the need for effective prevention and control measures through reliable monitoring. It drew on regional health data specific to Indigenous populations and reviewed the patterns and trends of cancer among Arctic indigenous peoples.

Highlighting the challenges, opportunities and areas for change that will make reindeer herding in the Arctic a sustainable and fulfilling livelihood for generations to come, the EALLIN – The voice of reindeer herding youth project brought together reindeer herders, scientists and local authorities for a series of workshops to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and to understand and improve adaptation practices.

SDWG`s Gender Equality in the Arctic: Current Realities and Future Challenges report lays the foundation for a formal cooperation network of stakeholders focused on gender equity in the Arctic. This work is the result of the October 2014 conference held in Akureyri, Iceland that brought together government, policy-makers, academics, business, community members, non-governmental organizations and others to address key issues in gender equity including access to and control over resources and political participation.

The Arctic Human Development Report II (AHDR-II) is the 10-year update and synthesis of the state of human development in the Arctic. The report contributes to increased knowledge and understanding of the consequences and interplay of the physical and social processes of global change on human living conditions and adaptability in the Arctic.

All of the above-mentioned reports will be available to the public after the Iqaluit 2015 Ministerial meeting being held on April 24-25, 2015.

The Mandate of the Sustainable Development Working Group is to propose and adopt steps to be taken by the Arctic States to advance sustainable development in the Arctic. This includes opportunities to protect and enhance the environment and the economies, culture and health of indigenous peoples and Arctic communities.