©

Building intergenerational dialogue to solve Arctic Challenges

24 September 2021

This article originally appeared in The Circle: The Arctic Under Pressure. The Circle shares perspectives from across the Arctic, and the views expressed here are not necessarily those of WWF. See all Circle issues here.

Having recently celebrated 25 years of existence, the Arctic Council continues to evolve. It is now chaired by Russia after Iceland passed along the chairship in May 2021. The organization’s focus on youth engagement has been growing and is a major priority of the Russian chairship. ARSENII KIRGIZOV-BARSKII and PÉTUR HALLDÓRSSON share their perspectives on how the Arctic Council and youth can work together during the Russian chairship to solve Arctic challenges.

THE ARCTIC FACES complex and nuanced challenges that have been created by a combination of climate change, loss of biodiversity and colonialism. These forces have negatively affected its rich diversity of cultures, languages and knowledge systems, in turn impairing the resilience of its communities and their ability to manage the region sustainably. Recovering from this situation will require an unprecedented level of international, interregional and cross-cultural cooperation.

We believe cooperation between the Arctic Council and youth is one of the key elements needed to bridge gaps in
collaboration. We are encouraged to see that the Council has recognized this by implementing the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Youth Engagement Strategy and setting up partnerships that involve the Arctic Youth Network in both the Sustainable Development Working Group’s Arctic Youth Wellness Network and the Gender Equality in the Arctic Youth Advisory Board.

It’s exciting to see Russia’s chairship include a wide variety of partners in its programming, including the Federal Agency of Youth Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, the Ministry of the Russian Far East and Arctic, the new project office of International Youth Cooperation in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, regional authorities, the Northern Forum and more.

Increased networking opportunities and the chance to build a trusting dialogue with governments are two of the key outcomes that youth hope will result from their engagement with the Arctic Council during the Russian chairship.

NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES

The diversity of the organizing partners is a also good indicator of the networking prospects available to participating
youth. As an example, the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia are coordinating Model Arctic Council Russia 2022. It will be held in Arkhangelsk, with organizing committee members from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations University and Arctic Club, the Northern (Arctic) Federal University (known as NArFU) and the University of the Arctic. This kind of collaboration has the potential to create valuable connections between officials and young professionals, which could make it easier for other youth to engage in high-level discussions on important topics.

BUILDING TRUST AND UNDERSTANDING

Finally, we can look at opportunities for youth to engage in dialogues with their governments outside the scope of formal
events, such by raising awareness about climate change and sustainability issues, climate strikes and environmental
demonstrations. This can be a sensitive topic, and requires building trust between parties,but the benefits of open and constructive dialogue make it an invaluable asset to both governments and youth. It can promote increased understanding and
better problem solving.

Youth engagement is a work in progress and a learning process for everyone involved. But we believe that by continuing along this constructive trajectory together, we will have greater success in solving Arctic challenges.

UPCOMING ARCTIC COUNCIL EVENTS FOR YOUTH

There are numerous and diverse events and projects on the horizon to that have the potential to boost youth participation and engagement in Arctic issues. These include:

  • The Arctic Youth Leaders Forum
  • The Eurasia Global Forum
  • The second Northern Youth Forum
  • The Arctic Council–Northern Forum Interaction Model
  • Model Arctic Council Russia 2022
  • The Startup Forum (by the Northern Youth Forum)
  • The Arctic Youth Entrepreneurship Webinar Series
  • The Arctic Biennale of Young Art
  • The International Festival of Indigenous Youth of the Arctic
  • The Indigenous Youth Leaders Forum
  • The International Scientific Conference for Students

There will also be events related to topics like volunteering, youth entrepreneurship, creative industries, best practices in international and inter-ethnic communications and sustainable development, science and education, Indigenous languages and culture, and traditional outdoor activities and sports.

***

ARSENII KIRGIZOVBARSKII is a graduate student and deputy chair of the Arctic Student Research Club at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) in Russia.

PÉTUR HALLDÓRSSON is a member of the Arctic Youth Network and a biologist with a postgraduate diploma in public administration from the University of Iceland.