10 April 2017

Discussing the Arctic this summer: conference and workshop

One result of Mistra’s programme initiatives is to raise Sweden’s profile in Arctic research. A major international conference on the Arctic, at Umeå University, is planned for this summer. Another planned event on Arctic-related issues is a workshop for young leaders in Rovaniemi, Finland. Both events are taking place with support from Mistra.

In a public announcement, the Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development programme has sought youthful delegates to attend a workshop on the Arctic for tomorrow’s leaders in the region. The purpose of getting together is to enhance the ability, among those individuals who may become the next generation of global leaders, to understand and act on political challenges associated with global security — challenges to which environmental changes may give rise.

Mistra researcher Annika E. Nilsson has initiated the workshop as part of her Mistra Fellowship at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

‘Present and future leaders face high demands on their capacity to understand the surrounding world in both global and local terms. At the same time, climate change is creating new challenges to meet citizens’ demands for well-functioning societies. All this is taking place at the point of intersection with international conflicts,’ she says.

The workshop will bring together a small group of people aged 20–35 with relevant jobs and high-flying ambitions. They will take on the specific task of using current changes in the Arctic as a starting point for defining possible developments in global security and policy over the next 20–30 years. They will also explore their own potential roles in tackling these issues.

‘At the workshop, we’ll provide knowledge of what’s going on in the Arctic. But above all we’re going to offer a platform for young leaders to discuss what security means in the world they encounter, and their own role in this new setting,’ Nilsson says.

The workshop will take place in Rovaniemi, Finland, on 30–31 August 2017. The host will be the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland. Support for the workshop is forthcoming not only from Mistra but also from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland and ‘Arctic Governance and the Question of Fit in a Globalized World’, a programme funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas.        

First-ever major Arctic conference in Sweden

A few months before the workshop, from 8 to 12 June, a major international conference is to be held (by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association, IASSA) at Umeå University: the Ninth International Congress on Arctic Social Sciences, ICASS IX. This is the most important international conference in Arctic social sciences and humanities research, held every three years. It will be the first time a Swedish university has hosted the event.

Arcum, the Arctic Centre at Umeå University, started as an offshoot of Mistra’s programme initiatives and has worked its way into a central position in international Arctic research. Preparations for the ICASS arrangement have been under way since 2014.

Professor Peter Sköld, Director of Arcum and Programme Director of Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development (a position he shares with Carina Keskitalo):

‘It’s imperative for Umeå University to assume a large share of responsibility for ensuring that research with a beneficial bearing on the Arctic region is under way. The challenges of global warming and climate change relate to the whole world and the actions our societies take depend on a stable knowledge foundation that only research can offer.’

The main theme of the conference is ‘People and Place’. The arrangers expect some 700 researchers from all over the world to attend, and more than 960 academic paper abstracts have been submitted.

‘Interest among the researchers is very keen, since the Conference offers them opportunities to find out about the latest cutting-edge research and to expand their academic networks,’ Peter Sköld says.

The situation for the indigenous peoples living in the Arctic is particularly pressing. On the spot in Umeå will be researchers, students, representatives of government agencies and organisations, indigenous peoples’ representatives and business people.

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