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Gunn-Britt Retter is the Head of the Arctic and Environment Unit of the Saami Council – and one of the delegates that has attended most Ministerial meetings. In this interview, Gunn-Britt speaks about the role of Permanent Participants at Ministerial meetings and beyond, reflects on changes she has seen over the years, and her hopes for an equal share of involvement for all Permanent Participants.

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Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials speaks about the preparations for the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, which will conclude the Finnish Chairmanship in May. He also goes into some of the common solutions the Arctic Council has explored during Finland’s two-year term.

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On May 7, Finland will host the 11th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi. Minister-level representatives from the eight Arctic States will convene to review and approve work completed under the two-year Finnish Chairmanship to improve sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

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Around four million people live in the Arctic today, including indigenous peoples, northerners and recent arrivals. While some are hunters and herders living in sparsely populated areas, others could be considered city dwellers. This diverse population is characterized by cultural diversity and minority languages, but also by differing socio-economic conditions. Creating fair educational opportunities across Arctic communities has therefore been a priority during the Finnish Chairmanship.

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There is more to connectivity than mobile phone coverage. Access to broadband for example facilitates e-learning for children and adults in remote communities and enables the development of digital health and social services. The Finnish Chairmanship program speaks of well-functioning communication networks and services as a lifeline for human activities and as a prerequisite for economic development in the Arctic.

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One of the Finnish priority areas that Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, emphasizes as a success, is meteorological cooperation. “Already now we could say that we have achieved a breakthrough when the WMO and national meteorological institutes decided to actively contribute to meteorological cooperation in the Arctic.” In its Chairmanship program, Finland emphasized the need for enhancing both meteorological and oceanographic cooperation across the Arctic States. This would improve public safety, benefit international shipping and air traffic, and enhance Arctic climate science.

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