The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stress-test for resilience across the Arctic, particularly for the health and wellbeing of Northerners. The results of this test have been uneven – for example the Arctic’s remoteness has been a benefit in some areas, but it has hindered readiness and response in others. Around the region we’ve heard stories of both resilience and vulnerability, but throughout it all the unique strengths of the North show through.

This session will focus on what we’ve learned so far and how resilience can best be supported going forward. We will explore how the pandemic has demonstrated the strength and resilience of some communities, discuss some of the ways that Indigenous and western knowledge systems have interacted in the face of crisis, and describe some longstanding vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic. The session will feature videos-from-the-field, a panel of experts and knowledge holders, and Q&A from the audience.

To watch the full session recording visit the SDWG YouTube page. 



  • Opening Remarks – Joel Clement, Senior Fellow, Harvard Arctic Initiative
  • Welcome – Stefan Skjaldarson, Chair, Sustainable Development Working Group
  • Moderator – Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Director, Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network
  • Overview of Arctic Council work related to COVID-19 – Jennifer Spence, Executive Secretary for the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group
  • Overview of COVID-19 Cases in the Arctic – Andrey Petrov, Associate Professor of Geography, ARCTICenter Director and Academic Director of GeoTREE Center at the University of Northern Iowa
  • Panel 1: Strength and Resilience of Arctic Communities During Pandemic
  • Field Interview Video, Panel Discussion, Audience Q&A
  • Panel 2: Risks and Vulnerabilities of Arctic Communities During Pandemic
  • Field Interview Video, Panel Discussion, Audience Q&A
  • Final Video Compilation - Hope and the Path Forward
  • Closing Remarks – Joel Clement


Panelist and Speaker Biographies

Arja Rautio, MD, PhD, ERT (Eurotox), VP Research University of the Arctic, Professor in Arctic Research, Thule Institute and Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland. Her research interests are on population studies and climate change, Indigenous health and wellbeing, research ethics and One Health, which all are studied in her on-going projects under EU and Arctic Council.   Dr Rautio is working as a national key expert in the Human Health groups of the AMAP and SDWG in the Arctic Council. She is a board member of International Union of Circumpolar Health and Chair of Nordic Society of Circumpolar Health.

Christina Henriksen – The President of the Saami Council is from Girkonjárga/Kirkenes, where the Norwegian side of Sápmi borders Finland and the Russian Federation. She represents the Norwegian Saami Association (Norgga Sámiid Riikkasearvi) in the Council and served as a Member of the Sámi Parliament (Norwegian side) for one period (2013-2017). Ms Henriksen’s academic background comprises political, social and religious science, Russian history and French and North Sámi languages. She has professional experience from the Barents Euro-Arctic Cooperation, including cooperation with indigenous partners and organizations in the north and project cooperation with Russia, as well as from EU relations in Brussels. She is also an educated teacher. Ms Henriksen has been in the leadership of Sámi organizations for 20 years, she has held positions in various boards and committees, and was the Director of the Board for the Riddu Riđđu Festival (2015-2019).

Dr. Gary Ferguson, Faculty and Director of Outreach & Engagement at Washington State University’s Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH), Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.  He is a member of the SDWG Arctic Human Health Expert Group (AHHEG)  on behalf of Aleut International Association.  Formally trained as a Naturopathic Physician, he has a passion for promoting healthy communities with a population health approach. He is Aleut/Unangax, originally from the Shumagin Islands community of Sand Point, Alaska.

Dr. Ferguson’s past positions include providing clinical services to his home region at Eastern Aleutian Tribes, serving at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium as Wellness & Prevention Director and Senior Director of Community Health Services and as Chief Executive Officer at the Rural Alaska Community Action Program.  His volunteer work includes serving as Chair/Board Director for the American Indian Cancer Foundation, Board Director for the Aleut Corporation, Commissioner on the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals, Board Director for the Alaska Addiction Professionals Association, and Committee Member on University of Alaska’s MPH Advisory Committee. 

Gert Mulvad MD, GP, PhD h.c.: Greenland Center for Health Research, Ilisimatusarfik, University of Greenland; Member of Greenland Research Council; Chair of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Greenland board of Nutrition; Doctor PhD honoris causa 2015, Ilisimatusarfik, University of Greenland.

Gert Mulvad is a family physician at the Centre for Primary Health Care in Nuuk, Greenland. He has been working in Nuuk since 1986. His research fields are Traditional Food Risk/Benefit and Family Health. He serves on many committees involved in health care delivery, research and education in Greenland. Internationally he is active in AMAP Human Health working group, Committee for Inuit Circumpolar Health, Chair of the Arctic Health and well-being network under the University of the Arctic. 

Grigory Ledkov: President, Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North; Grigory Ledkov, Nenets, was born on March 26, 1969, in Naryan-Mar, Nenets Autonomous Region. Mr. Ledkov holds a degree in cultural studies from the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia and a law degree from St. Petersburg State University.

In September 2020, Grigory Ledkov became a member of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament. Prior to that, he had served as a member of State Duma, and a Deputy Chairman of its Committee on Nationalities.

Since March 2013, Grigory Ledkov has been President of the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON). RAIPON aims to protect the interests of Indigenous peoples, tackle social and economic problems, address environmental issues, promote cultural development and education, as well as support traditional indigenous livelihoods and lifestyles.
Mr Ledkov is married and has four children.

Dr. N. Stuart Harris, Founder and Chief of the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Wilderness Medicine, and the Director of the MGH Wilderness Medicine Fellowship. He is a full-time attending physician in the MGH Emergency Department and an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He graduated from the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency in 2003. As a medical/Covid expert, Stuart assisted the Covid response in Maniilaq, Alaska. Stuart leads regular Arctic clinical/ educational/ field work in Siberia (Pleistocene Park), with colleagues at the Woodwell Climate Research Institute, in Alaska Native communities in far northwestern Alaska (Maniilaq), Denali National Park, and NOLS.  Stuart was named as faculty to Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Arctic Initiative to provide healthcare policy expertise.

Andrey Petrov: Associate Professor of Geography, ARCTICenter Director and Academic Director of GeoTREE Center at the University of Northern Iowa. Dr. Petrov leads the “Tracking the Spatiotemporal Dynamics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Arctic (COVITA)” project. Petrov is an economic and social geographer who specializes in Arctic social and economic systems, regional development, with an emphasis on the social geography of Indigenous populations. His current research concerns sustainable development, spatial organization, and restructuring of peripheral economies, as well as dynamics of social-ecological systems. Dr. Petrov leads the Research Coordination Networks in Arctic Sustainability (Arctic-FROST) and Arctic Coastal Resilience (Arctic-COAST). He has published on issues pertaining to socio-economic crisis, development, and demographic dynamics of Arctic populations.

Jennifer Spence: Jennifer Spence is the Executive Secretary for the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group. She holds a PhD in Public Policy with an interest in Arctic and international governance, institutional effectiveness and innovative policy processes. Jennifer is also an Adjunct Research Professor with Carleton University’s Northern Studies Program.  She lives in Ottawa, Canada with husband and two teenage daughters.

Significant work has been happening across the circumpolar Arctic as communities have responded to COVID-19. Below are a few examples of work that has been done which will be featured in this session: 

Arctic Council SAO Briefing Document: 

To inform initial discussions regarding the coronavirus pandemic in the Arctic at the Senior Arctic Officials’ executive meeting (SAOX) on 24-25 June 2020, a briefing document was prepared. It draws together available information – to date (June 2020) – about the impact of Covid-19 and the actions taken to respond in the Arctic region. The document draws from a wide spectrum of sources, reflecting the complex and intricate nature of how Covid-19 affects Arctic peoples and communities, including national and subnational statistical databases and tools, peer-reviewed articles, policy statements, technical guidelines, field surveys, and local observations from Arctic communities.

The full document and accompanying video can be found here.

Arctic COVID 19

This project focuses on the development and deployment of a real-time web-based COVID-19 data hub managed by an interdisciplinary team of experts in data science, geoinformatics, epidemiology and geography. The team is collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on the spatial and temporal dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Arctic. 

To access the datasets and data-visualization tools visit

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has complied an array of resources for Alaskans with information about COVID-19, how to take action to protect yourself, and updates on COVID-19 rates in the state, all available here. 

Interview With Minnie Gray, Chair of ICC’s Circumpolar Inuit Health Steering Committee (CIHSC) and Executive Director of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) on COVID-19

In this episode of unikkaat / unipkaat ungipaghat / nallunairutet Circumpolar Waves recorded in early June 2020, Minnie Grey, Chair of ICC’s Circumpolar Inuit Health Steering Committee (CIHSC) and Executive Director of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) based in northern Quebec,  talks about how the Nunavik region has been managing the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, and the role of the CIHSC in addressing Inuit health issues at the international level. 

Listen to the episode here.