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Striving for a sustainable Arctic


The need of innovative approaches in combining the economic, environmental and social aspects of life and development in the Arctic came up repeatedly during the first sessions of the Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit Conference.

In his opening words, Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini noted that Finland is committed to implementing the UN Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. The focus is on a carbon neutral and resource-wise Finland, and a non-discriminating, competent and equal Finland. These two areas cannot be achieved without each other. Economy should be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development, and technological development should support the economy.

“Today, sustainable development is not just wishful thinking. It is a survival strategy for us all”, Minister Soini said.

Survival was a key theme also in the speech given by French Ambassador to the Arctic and Antarctic Poles, President of the Paris Climate Conference Segolene Royal.

She referred to the recent Warning to Humanity signed by more than 15000 scientists. The consequences of climate change are dramatic, and the Arctic is starting to pay a high price. Ambassador Royal also warned of the dangers of drilling oil and transporting heavy fuel oil in the Arctic seas.

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The fragile environment is facing great challenges. We should all take responsibility for a sustainable future for the Arctic.”

Ambassador at Large for the Arctic European external action service Marie-Anne Coninsx was along the same lines concerning the shared responsibility.

“The Arctic is global; it is not only the responsibility of the four million people who live there. If the Sustainable Development Goals are not implemented, the consequences to the Arctic are dramatic”, she said, also citing the Arctic region as a unique example of international cooperation.

The morning session of the Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit conference brought an impressive list of speakers to the podium, from the Executive Secretary of the United Nations to several high-ranking diplomats and officials. A distinguished panel presented their viewpoints on the kind of Arctic we want.

Indigenous issues were referred to in many of the speeches and comments.

The president of the Sámi Parliament in Finland, Tiina Sanila-Aikio noted that all of the sustainable development goals affect indigenous peoples. In her speech, she concentrated on quality education. There are hundreds of Sámi children and youngsters living outside the Sámi homeland, and many of them cannot learn in their own language. Virtual pedagogies are now planned to get culturally relevant language education for everyone.

“I hope that with the sustainable development goals we will achieve equality and recognition for indigenous peoples. When in the Arctic, do nothing to us without us”, Tiina Sanila-Aikio urged.

Photo: Marko Junttila/Arctic Centre

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