What do the Sustainable Development Goals mean from an Arctic point of view? How can we translate them into Arctic economy, policies and language? The Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit Conference seeks answers to these questions, in novel ways.
The Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit Conference is the place to be for those who are dealing with the Arctic in Finland and internationally. The event is the culmination of Finland’s first year as the Arctic Council chair and it is the main Arctic event when Finland celebrates its first hundred years as an independent country. Most of all, the conference seeks relevance through the content.
“This is the third one in the series of biannual Arctic conferences in Rovaniemi. Previously the name was In the Spirit of the Rovaniemi Process. We still remember that heritage. The name Rovaniemi symbolizes the beginning of international Arctic cooperation with the Rovaniemi Process in the early 90’s”, says Markku Heikkilä of the Arctic Centre who heads the conference organization.
The main theme of the conference are the UN Sustainable Development Goals seen from an Arctic perspective. Even if the Agenda 2030 does not spell out the word ‘Arctic’, taking action to combat climate change and its impacts or conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources all have a direct connection with the Arctic regions.
The Conference program includes a variety of thematic discussions, all related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Arctic. In the beginning of the Conference, the connection is clearly stated. During the second day, the panelists go through themes such as land use models, Arctic identities, culturally sustainable education and indigenous peoples in the media.
“We want to bring together researchers, politicians and officials who can actually make a difference in Arctic affairs. We try to get the participants to interact, and then start acting.”
Interest in all things Arctic is growing all over the world, and Finnish Chairmanship in the Arctic Council has increased demand for Arctic information in Finland, so the Conference is responding to a real need.
“Can we really make a difference? I sincerely hope so. We have discussed the program and the side events in detail with the Finnish Arctic Council chair, and Finland wants to get the most out of this to benefit the Arctic and the UN sustainable development goals”, Markku Heikkilä notes.
“We have tried to prepare a conference package that gives food for thought and fresh ideas for all those dealing with these matters. In the end, each participant creates hers or his own experience. As we can host an audience of only hundreds and not thousands, we can also give space for personal interactions, networking and individual encounters”, Heikkilä says.
In addition to the official conference program there are several side events ranging from Relate North 2017 Art and Design seminar to Polar Law Symposium and an Arctic Café on tourism. International Youth Forum will bring the message from young people to the conference. Field trips include an excursion into Finnish forest, a tour in Finnish Arctic Expo and a visit to the world’s northernmost daily newspaper. The Santa Claus will also be around. The conference takes place during the polar night, so lucky participants may see the dance of the Northern lights.