Interview with the Arctic Council Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group 12 January 2021Arctic peoplesSustainable Development Working Group What is the Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group? What issues and projects is it involved in? Learn about this Expert Group of the Sustainable Development Working Group through this interview with its Chair, Embla Eir Oddsdóttir. The Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group (SECEG) works under the direction of the Arctic Council Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). The Expert Group focuses on supporting SDWG by providing expert advice and conducting with projects and activities relating to social, economic and cultural issues in the Artic. We spoke with Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Chair of SECEG, about her experience, SECEG’s goals, the key issues and projects the Expert Group is engaged in and what inspires her about SECEG’s work. What is your background, and how did you become Chair of the Arctic Human Health Expert Group? I have been working on Arctic issues for over 15 years. My undergraduate studies were in socio-economic development. I have also studied international relations, human geography, anthropology and human adaptation. I pursued a Master of Science at London School of Economics in law, anthropology and society and I also completed a diploma level program at the University of Akureyri in Polar Law. This interdisciplinary background provides me with a fairly good overview of the context and issues handled by the Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group (SECEG). My interest in the Arctic region became concretized in 2004 when I was doing my studies at the University of Akureyri and I traveled to Siberia for a month. We visited various communities, including in the Chersky and Neryungri areas, and we were greeted by wonderful people in communities and reindeer herding camps. People shared their lives and taught us a little about the realities of environmental, social and cultural change. The way in which people in these pretty challenging regions adapt is phenomenal. We rode on reindeer sleighs; drove on ice roads; and in tanks, among other things. This journey was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I became completely obsessed with Siberia and the Arctic region. Which is probably why, despite not being particularly fond of being cold, I continue to work in this field. When it was time for the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, I was asked by the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs to take on the role as Chair of SECEG. I saw this as a great opportunity to work in a field I was interested in and for a region that I am very fond of, so I accepted.