Dryas flowers
Dryas flowers
© UArctic/Anna Pakkanen

UArctic 20-year anniversary: Congratulations by the Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials

Today, the University of the Arctic (UArctic) hosted a seminar commemorating its 20-year anniversary. Among the invited speakers was Ambassador Nikolay Korchunov, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. This is his anniversary speech for the occasion.

Dear distinguished guests, Arctic friends and colleagues,

It is a year to celebrate Arctic cooperation and I wish I could join you in person today in Rovaniemi – the very place we can regard as the cradle of Arctic cooperation.

This year we celebrate the anniversaries of our institutions: The Arctic Council turns 25, the University of the Arctic 20. But we also celebrate our shared history, our close collaboration and fruitful partnership over the past two decades.

While you have yourself referred to the Arctic Council as the “mother” of UArctic – and certainly, the initiative was born out of the context of the Arctic Council – we have regarded the University of the Arctic as an important cooperation partner since its inception.

Only a year after its launch, UArctic was accredited as an Observer organization to the Arctic Council. The Observer application pointed out that this formalization of the relationship would allow both organizations to cooperate in their common goals of addressing the challenges to the Arctic region. This is as true today as it was in 2002.

The activities of the Arctic Council rely on continuous and efficient cooperation not only between the eight Arctic States and the six Indigenous Peoples’ organizations with Permanent Participant status in the Council but also with the Observer states and organizations. It is only through this extended and diverse network that we can explore the best solutions for a prosperous future of the Arctic based on knowledge and multifaceted expertise.

It was no coincidence that the idea of a University of the Arctic, a university without walls but with the ability to connect people, communities, and institutions across the circumpolar Arctic, was pursued within the very first years of the Arctic Council. A sustainable future of the Arctic – now and then – depends on local capacity building to address local and global challenges, on an exchange of ideas and knowledge driving innovation, and on access to high-quality, relevant and appropriate education.

A network connecting educational and research institutions first and foremost connects people. It facilitates a dialogue across borders and benefits youth from and with an interest in the Arctic. UArctic has been, and I am sure will continue to be, an incubator for cross-border ties among Arctic youth and has provided student cohorts with an introduction to international and intercultural Arctic cooperation. This is also one of the priorities of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

Our goal is to further strengthen the Arctic Council’s youth engagement and to promote the potential of Arctic youth, their access to education, and the expansion and strengthening of international youth exchanges across borders. And as we intend to promote greater synergies with regional platforms such as the University of the Arctic, I believe that the close ties of our organizations will further strengthen in the future.

In the Arctic Council’s first strategic plan, which was adopted at the Reykjavik Ministerial meeting just two days after the UArctic Congress 2021, education is listed as an important strategic action towards achieving sustainable social development. It refers to the need to promote quality, culturally appropriate education for all Arctic inhabitants, including in cooperation with educational institutions in the Arctic region and specifically mentions the University of the Arctic.

I therefore see our joint anniversaries as an opportunity not just to celebrate our successes and close relationship but to look ahead. In our strategic plan, we state our vision for the Arctic in 2030: a region of peace, stability and constructive cooperation, that is a vibrant, prosperous, sustainable and a secure home for all its inhabitants, including Indigenous Peoples, and where their rights and wellbeing are respected. The cooperation of our organizations will play an important role in advancing towards this future.

Let me close by thanking Finland for hosting this UArctic 20-year anniversary seminar and for providing permanent home for the UArctic.

View Ambassador Korchunov's recorded speech