Arctic Builds Resilience to Climate-Related Challenges

| Fall 2020

Arctic Resilience Forum Tackles Climate Impacts and How to Build Resilience Together

Resilience means the capacity of communities and systems to recover and restore themselves from various kinds of crises and disturbances. Primarily because of climate change, the Arctic region is changing rapidly, and the speed of ongoing change makes adaptation extremely challenging. Governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, researchers, and businesses must work together to build resilience to the social-ecological changes that are underway.

The Arctic Initiative has been busy this year exploring the topic of Arctic Resilience, and in October helped launch the Arctic Resilience Forum - an international online forum scheduled over a 10-week period and continuing at the time of this writing in early December. It is hosted by the Arctic Initiative and its collaborators at the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and co-organized by the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) of the Arctic Council. The Forum has sought to actively engage participants in conversations about how to build the resilience of Arctic communities and ecosystems. It offers the opportunity to discuss concrete best practices and experiences from the Arctic Council and the broader community of circumpolar experts and knowledge holders.

The two goals of the Arctic Resilience Forum are, first, to improve understanding of how communities are responding to change in the Arctic– what’s working, what’s missing, what’s next. Secondly, the Forum is building a strong community around the field of resilience – because together we get more done.

Over the course of 10 weeks the sessions will have brought together a community of Arctic leaders: scientists, policymakers, youth leaders, doctors, Indigenous representatives, private sector executives, finance experts, and many more to discuss weekly topics that range from Indigenous Youth Leadership to Food Security, Renewable Energy, Human Health and Pandemics, Broadband Connectivity, Gender, Socio-Ecological Resilience, Financing Resilience, Infrastructure, and Working Together in the Arctic - Indigenous and Western Knowledge Systems. All of the sessions explore ability of Arctic communities to not just bounce BACK from stresses and shocks, but to bounce FORWARD, and to learn from and improve with every challenge. Throughout the series, speakers have highlighted the remarkable adaptive capacity of Arctic communities.

“The most fascinating thing that has been happening week after week is the growing understanding that these issue areas are deeply interconnected.”

— Joel Clement

With more than 800 people registered, and roughly 200 people attending each session, the Arctic Resilience Forum has strengthened cooperation on resilience work and highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the challenges facing the region.  As noted by Joel Clement, Arctic Initiative Senior Fellow who is co-chairing the conference, “The most fascinating thing that has been happening week after week is the growing understanding that these issue areas are deeply interconnected. You can’t talk about health without touching on food security or broadband, innovation without considering gender or youth opportunities, climate solutions without talking about social justice or colonialism. Understanding these dynamics has opened door for intersectional work, which is essential during a time of transformation.”

We’ve been delighted by the overwhelming response to this series and look forward to continuing the conversation about how the lens of resilience is a powerful tool for creating a more sustainable and prosperous Arctic region.

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

What Happens in the Arctic Doesn't Stay in the Arctic." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. (Fall 2020)

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