The Arctic Circle conference, which is the largest international gathering concerning the arctic, took place October 7-9 in Reykjavik, Iceland. ICHR were a part of the program this year.

Keynote speakers included the likes of Ban-Ki-Moon and Nicola Sturgeon as various parties brought their ideas and experiences to the table, for the common goal of protecting the arctic. Over 2000 participants from 50 countries attended the conference this year. Politicians, business representatives, scientists, and indigenous leaders were invited to share their knowledge to benefit the arctic.

Circumpolar health and wellbeing was one major focus of Arctic Circle. Currently, we see disproportionately lower health and life expectancy among northern populations and indigenous peoples. This issue has not gained enough attention, making improving the health of people in the north a fundamental priority for ICHR. Instrumental concerns for making this happen include prioritizing the availability of equitable healthcare, educational opportunities, and cultural practice for indigenous peoples. With these foci in mind we can work towards a happier and healthier north.

The north contains vast untouched lands that contain extensive mineral riches, including oil and gas. Many parties of at the conference shared their business models aiming to develop and extract resources. A major concern of some of these developments is the effect a massive project will have on the arctic. Not only do these projects impact local wildlife and waterways, resources such as oil and gas will inevitably contribute to global fossil fuel emotions. Sea ice melt and extreme weather were two issues repeatedly discussed at Arctic Circle. We need to see a global paradigm shift to get off this one-way track towards the destruction of the arctic we see today. The prospect of small-scale renewable energy is gaining traction as a sustainable way forward for remote northern communities. A global shift to renewable resources will protect the health of northern environments and the people who call them home.

Breakout sessions at Arctic Circle included a series of presentations concerning Fulbright in the arctic. The focus of this session was to meet the challenges of sustainability, human development, and utilization in circumpolar regions. Dr. Susan Chatwood from ICHR shared her experiences working in the north, to put forward a framework for health system performance. This framework aims to increase the health of all northern peoples.