Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project

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Regular Meeting of the SDWG at Kotzebue, Feb. 2017

The regular meeting of the Sustainable Development Working Group, one of the six working groups in the Arctic Council, was held at Kotzebue in Alaska, United States from February 7th to 8th, 2017.

The town of Kotzebue locates at North West Alaska, facing with Chukchi Sea. The town is also known as a place where a tribe of Inupiat lives. When a cold wind brew, which local folks called like a wind biting cheek, it was cold enough to feel like minus 30 degrees in Celsius, although the weather forecast told minus 20 degrees.

Frozen Chukchi Sea

Sunset at Kotzebue

The purposes of the regular meeting were: 1)follow-up of the projects during the U.S. Chairmanship (2015-2017),2)to select projects to be continued under the Finnish Chairmanship (2017-2019), 3)to adopt new projects, 4)to prepare a SDWG Strategic Framework document.

Regular Meeting of SDWG

Observers’ seats

The participants were from four different kinds. First is the Arctic eight States, and second group is Permanent Participants which consist of the six indigenous representatives: Aleut International Association (AIA), Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), Gwich'in Council International (GCI), Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) , Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), Saami Council (SC). The third group is the SDWG expert groups:  Arctic Human Health Expert Group (AHHEG) and Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group. The last is a group of the Observers: Japan, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, in addition to those of non-governmental observers: Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) , Association of World Reindeer Herders (AWRH), International Arctic Social Science Association (IASSA) and Northern Forum (NF).

The outcomes from this regular meeting will be wrapped up as a SDWG Strategic Framework document to be presented at the SAO meeting at Juneau, Alaska in the beginning of March. After a decision is made at the SAO meeting, the document will be submitted as one of highlights of the U.S. Chairmanship to the Ministerial meeting of Arctic Council at Fairbanks, Alaska in the mid May. 

Before the regular meeting, a business trip was organized by the secretariat of the SDWG. We visited the Red Dog Mine, local entrepreneurs and Alaska Technical Center. The Red Dog Mine is one of the world’s largest zinc mines. It was a good start-up getting close to the topic of sustainable development for indigenous and local communities.

Fujio Ohnishi (Hokkaido University, a member of theme 7)