The Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) met for the second time during the U.S. Chairmanship on 11-12 March 2016 in Barrow, Alaska.

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The SDWG gathered in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States at 71⁰ north latitude, to discuss its ongoing and future projects, as well as to exchange views on its short- and long-term priorities.

Delegates at the meeting faced a busy agenda. First, project leads provided status updates on ongoing SDWG projects that address a wide range of issues such as economic development in the North, reducing suicide in Arctic communities, human health, energy and food security, and more.

The SDWG also endorsed two new projects, one aimed at sustainable food production in the Arctic and a second aimed at improving health in Arctic communities through better water supply and sanitation.

The second day of the meeting was devoted to strategic planning and cooperation with other Working Groups (WGs) on issues that touch several of the Arctic Council’s six WGs. The SDWG decided to initiate a process that will examine ways to strengthen the working group and develop a strategic plan to guide its future work. Delegates also worked to identify those SDWG projects that could contribute usefully to other WGs’ work, or that could benefit materially from input from other WGs.

The SDWG has a unique role in the Arctic Council as it is the only WG that deals solely with the human dimension in the Arctic. The group is usually chaired by the Arctic State that holds the chair of the Arctic Council itself at any given time, and Chairmanships often showcase their own remote Arctic communities as part of SDWG meetings. This gives SDWG delegates insight into the lives and needs of those who call the Arctic their home. Prior to the recent Barrow meeting, SDWG delegates had an opportunity to get acquainted with the city, visit some of its important research and infrastructure facilities, meet local people, and experience the city’s harsh climate. During an informal community listening session, the SDWG Chair introduced the WG and its efforts to community members who, in return, spoke about their lives and expectations.

All eight Arctic States and all six Permanent Participants (PPs) were represented at the meeting, as were three accredited Observer states (Germany, South Korea and the Netherlands) and six Observer organizations (Association of World Reindeer Herders, Circumpolar Conservation Union, IASC, Northern Forum, UArctic, WWF).
The next SDWG meeting is scheduled for 29-30 September 2016 in Unalaska, Alaska.

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Click here to see photographs from the SDWG meeting in Barrow.