A woman and child in the Arctic. Photo: iStock

The Arctic is home to almost four million people today – Indigenous Peoples, more recent arrivals, hunters and herders living on the land and city dwellers. Roughly 10 percent of the inhabitants are Indigenous and many of their peoples distinct to the Arctic. They continue their traditional activities in the context of an ever-changing world. Yet, as the Arctic environment changes, so do livelihoods, cultures, traditions, languages and identities of Indigenous Peoples and other communities.

Changes in the Arctic affect inhabitants in various ways. Arctic communities are already facing challenges that result from the impacts of climate change, demonstrating the need for action to strengthen resilience and facilitate adaptation. At the same time, the Arctic offers potential for sustainable economic development that both brings benefits to local communities and offers ground for innovation transcending the region.

Human well-being in the Arctic

To cater for the differing needs of Arctic inhabitants, the human dimension of the Arctic Council’s work covers a wide array of areas, from mental and physical health and well-being, to sustainable development, local engagement, education, youth and gender equality. Arctic Peoples are represented in the Council by the Permanent Participants, and their work is supported by the Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat.

Improving physical and mental health

Several groups of people in the Arctic are highly exposed to environmental contaminants, such as mercury. Their level of exposure is greatly dependent on their lifestyle, including diets. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) has been assessing the impacts of various contaminants on human health since 1998 and is continuing to contribute to a substantial knowledge base on the issue.

Arctic communities are also experiencing elevated rates of suicide, especially amongst young people. The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) has been leading the Council’s efforts to address this issue and to engage those most affected in an open discussion about mental health and suicide prevention.

Engaging Indigenous Peoples and local communities

Indigenous Peoples have lived in the Arctic for centuries. They have learned to adopt to a changing environment over time, and thus hold a fundamental knowledge base of the lands and waters of their homelands. The Arctic Council and its Working Groups acknowledge that the inclusion of traditional knowledge and local knowledge is vital for exploring solutions to emerging issues in the Arctic, and to provide the best available knowledge as a basis for decision-making.

The active participation of the Permanent Participants is one of the key features of the Arctic Council and both the Protection of Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group and SDWG have developed good practices for an active involvement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Giving a voice to Arctic youth

"Arctic youth is not just the future but also the present."

Indigenous youth leaders coined this slogan when they gathered for the first Arctic Leaders’ Youth Summit in Rovaniemi, Finland. They called for a more active involvement in the issues that affect them – now and in the future.

Over the years, the Arctic Council has stepped up its efforts to engage youth. Working Groups like CAFF and SDWG have been forerunners in not just looking at how youth is affected by a changing Arctic but in actively involving them in their projects. Now the Arctic Council is taking its effort to involve youth to the next level and is exploring cooperation possibilities with organizations like the Arctic Youth Network.

For a gender equal Arctic

Changes in the Arctic affect both men and women – although sometimes in different ways. Gender equality is therefore an important element for achieving sustainable development. The Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2019-2021) has made it a priority to promote a dialogue on gender equality in the Arctic and to strengthen a network of experts and stakeholders in the field.

Featured Projects

Arctic Children: Preschool and School Education

Providing the children of nomadic Indigenous Peoples with knowledge and skills
Photo: Hjalti Hreinsson

Gender Equality in the Arctic

An international collaborative project focusing on gender equality in the Arctic
Photo: iStock / RyersonClark

One Arctic, One Health

A theoretical concept and practical approach for developing and sustaining broad interdisciplinary collaboration – to identify, prevent, and mitigate health risks in humans, animals and the environmen...
Ship in the Arctic. Photo: iStock / Alexey_Seafarer

Arctic Marine Tourism: Development in the Arctic and enabling real change

Analyzing and promoting sustainable tourism across the circumpolar Arctic.
Permafrost erosion in Alaska. Photo: USGS / M. Torre Jorgenson

Climate Issues: Cryosphere, meteorology, ecosystem impacts

Developing work on thresholds and extremes, Arctic/mid-latitude weather connections and performance of global models in the Arctic, with contributions from the meteorology community; and evaluating th...

Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network (CLEO)

Our world is changing rapidly, and local observers can detect subtle changes in weather, landscapes and seascapes, and in plant and animal communities.
Garbage incinerator in Greenland. Photo: iStock / olli0815

Community-based black carbon and public health assessment

Assessing and mitigating the risks of black carbon to public health.

The Tundra Project

Testing alternative clean and reliable energy solutions in a remote Sami community
USGS / M. Torre Jorgenson

Biosecurity in the Arctic

Supporting public health systems and public services in implementing a quick response to current and future biological threats related to the uncontrolled spread of highly virulent pathogens, parasite...
Cod drying. Photo: iStock

Blue Bioeconomy in the Arctic Region

The sustainable and intelligent use of renewable aquatic natural resources, with a focus on improving utilization and creating higher-value products.
Arctic Council logo

Digitalization of the Linguistic and Cultural Heritage of Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic

Preserving and developing Indigenous languages, traditional knowledge and cultures of the Arctic Indigenous peoples including food heritage as a foundation for diversification of local economies and n...

Indigenous Youth, Food Knowledge and Arctic Change (EALLU) II

Developing a sustainable and resilient reindeer husbandry in the Arctic in face of climate change and globalisation, working towards a vision of creating a better life for circumpolar reindeer herders...
Arctic Council logo

Sustainable Development Goals in the Arctic

Developing tools to apply SDGs in the Arctic
Drone Photography by: Sara Wilde

Project CREATeS

Inviting youth to engage in a dialogue about suicide prevention by telling their own stories, supporting them to make these stories into digital stories, or short films.
Arctic Council logo

Arctic Demography Index

Case studies on demographic change and migration in the Arctic

Good Practices for impact assessments and engagement

Providing Arctic-specific recommendations for large-scale projects in the vulnerable and changing Arctic environment, while taking Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants into account.

The Arctic Wildland Fire Ecology Mapping and Monitoring Project (ArcticFIRE)

Improving our understanding of Arctic fires and reducing the threat

Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Toolkit

The project created a comprehensive long-­term energy planning process for socially-­desirable and economically-­feasible energy solutions for communities in the Arctic by developing an Arctic Sustain...
Harald Finkler

Arctic Food Innovation Cluster

Pulling together relevant people in the Arctic foods value chain for a cluster-based approach to food production and regional economic development.

Prevention, Preparedness and Response for small communities

Working with small communities to improve their safety in case of an oil spill event.
Arctic Council logo

Meaningful Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Marine Activities

Compiling and analyzing existing documents and summarize stheir main aspects, principles, and processes for engagement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA)

Sharing knowledge and establishing professional networks related to energy resources for remote Arctic communities.

Resilience and management of Arctic wetlands

Enhancing engagement in relation to the roles and functions of Arctic wetlands as a resource to support sustainable development and resilience in Arctic biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the livel...
Arctic Council logo

Community Observation Network for Adaption & Security (CONAS)

Observers document environmental change in the Arctic

Local 2 Global

Circumpolar collaboration for suicide prevention and mental wellness
Mikko Kytokorpi - Salmon

Salmon Peoples of Arctic Rivers

Assessing freshwater river systems based on traditional knowledge

In the news

Yannick Schutz / Arctic Council

Gender equality for a sustainable and prosperous Arctic

Assessing gender issues in the Arctic is a challenging and important step towards gender equality.
10 May 2021

Tackling waste pollution in the Arctic with community empowerment

How the Saami Council engaged with communities to remove waste and reclaim land
10 May 2021
Malinda Bruce

What It Means To Be Gwich’in

"Being Gwich’in means strength and resilience, a strength that is not only physical, but spiritual and has been passed down from my ancestors before me."
10 May 2021
See all