Reindeer fur clothing, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, Russian Federation. Photo: S. Novotny
Reindeer fur clothing, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, Russian Federation. Photo: S. Novotny

Introducing the new SDWG Chair: “It’s necessary to protect Arctic cultures, languages and traditions.”

Abidat Magomedova is the new Chair of the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). She serves as Deputy Director of the Department of International Cooperation and Technological Development of the Far East and the Arctic, in the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic.

She brings to the role previous experience with the Arctic Council as part of delegation for the Russian Federation at the CAFF Working Group, as well as responsibility for Russian-Swedish cooperation on natural resources. As part of a committee on natural resources with Norway, she was involved in Arctic cooperation between the two countries. “The Arctic was always an interest, which is why I decided to move to the Ministry of the Far East and Arctic of the Russian Federation. Now I’m working closely with the Arctic Council, with the working groups and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Abidat Magomedova

People and culture in focus

Abidat is most inspired by the opportunity to improve life for Arctic Peoples.

“Our main goal is to support Indigenous Peoples… In a time of globalization, it’s necessary to protect Arctic cultures, languages and traditions.”

Projects focused on Arctic education (up for approval next year) and sustainable development, says Abidat, will support a future for children.

In the Arctic as elsewhere, Covid-19 has made clear the limitations of existing healthcare infrastructure. For example, says Abidat, people in the Arctic often must leave their home communities for medical treatment. Two new SDWG initiatives will address the impacts of the pandemic and help plan for future health crises.

The Covid-19 in the Arctic Assessment Report will synthesize information on Covid-19 impacts, lessons learned, best practices and future management in the Arctic, with benefits that will last long beyond the pandemic. The project Arctic Community Perspectives on Covid-19 and Public Health: A Multi-Site Case Study will assess the positive and negative societal outcomes associated with the pandemic in Arctic communities.

Abidat previously worked at the Russian Ministry of Ecology, and she brings her passion for environmental issues to the Arctic Council. An ongoing project to decrease Arctic pollution using the best available techniques, she says, “makes the Arctic a safer place to live in”.

“Sustainable development is a set of measures aimed at meeting current human needs while preserving the environment and resources, that is, without prejudice to the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It’s possible when three main components are in balance: economic growth, social responsibility and ecological balance. “

Participants in the EALLU project.

“We can finally see each other”

Abidat had dreamed of visiting the Arctic, and her first SAO meeting as SDWG Chair brought her to the Russian north for the third time. Salekhard, in the western Siberian district of Yamal, is “like a winter fairy tale”, says Abidat. “And just imagine that after two years of lockdown we can finally see each other.”

While virtual meetings have kept the Council running effectively during the pandemic, Abidat appreciates the opportunity to finally meet her colleagues in person, to make decisions and have big discussions. “It’s also an opportunity to meet the people who live here”, she says, “to experience their food, music and culture”.

Abidat is looking forward to further opportunities to strengthen and showcase Arctic cultures. Last week in Moscow, for example, the Russian Chairmanship hosted the Gastronomic Festival of Northern Cuisine. “Events like this reach people who don’t know much about the Arctic… We look forward to organizing more such events, to create results not just for a few days or years, but far into the future”.

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