Sustainable Development Working Group

The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) focuses on the human dimensions of the Arctic. It works to protect and enhance the environment, economy, social conditions and health of Indigenous communities and Arctic inhabitants.

Quick facts

Primary Focus:
Advancing sustainable development and improving environmental, economic and social conditions of Indigenous peoples and Arctic communities

Establishment:
1998

Current Chairmanship:
Iceland

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About SDWG

SDWG’s work generally falls into thematic areas identified in its Strategic Framework:

  • Economic assessments: Strengthen analysis and joint monitoring of economic trends and activities in the Arctic, including enhancing sustainable and diverse economic development, investments and policies.
  • Educational opportunities: Develop circumpolar networks and harness innovative technologies to build knowledge and develop skills needed to maintain vibrant communities in a changing region.
  • Heritage and culture of Arctic communities: Deepen global understanding of the region’s peoples, cultures, traditional ways of life, languages and values and promote traditional and local knowledge. Sustain and celebrate Indigenous languages, traditional lifeways and practices. Support the identification and promotion of heritage sites and areas of cultural significance in the Arctic.
  • Human health: Exchange information, assessments and innovations that can support public health systems and health service delivery with emphasis on projects that reduce death and disability from environmental risk factors, suicide and high-burden infectious and chronic diseases.
  • Infrastructure: Provide information to inform responsible and sustainable long-term investments in all forms of Arctic infrastructure while taking into account the present needs of communities as well as the changing environment through independent efforts and in coordination with other subsidiary bodies and task forces.
  • Reduction/elimination of inequalities: Strengthen and promote the adoption of sound policies for the elimination of inequalities based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status at all levels.
  • Science and research for sustainable development: Facilitate good use of the Arctic region’s research institutions and extensive intellectual resources to benefit sustainable development, including through academic exchanges and joint Arctic research.
  • Sustainable business involvement and development: Explore economic development, including in new and emerging sectors, and evaluate its potential benefits, including job creation and promotion of local culture and products.
  • Sustainable energy: Promote responsible and sustainable management, use and development of energy and resources as well as innovative approaches encouraging renewable energy in even the most remote Arctic communities.
  • Transportation links: Promote the development of sustainable transportation infrastructure and traditional corridors that increase the capabilities for efficient movement of people and goods that have implications for Arctic communities.
  • Water and sanitation services: Strengthen the participation of local communities in improving sustainable water, sanitation and waste disposal management with an eye to the unique engineering challenges and environmental risks that the region faces.

SDWG is led by a Chairmanship that rotates between Arctic Council Member States every two years. Iceland holds the current Chairmanship for SDWG. Arctic States and Permanent Participants participate in the work, and Observers are invited to participate at SDWG meetings. A full list of SDWG projects and reports can be found on SDWG’s website.

2019-2021 Work Plan Snapshot

SDWG’s Work Plan was developed in consideration of the 2017 SDWG Strategic Framework. The goal of the Work Plan is to promote initiatives that:

  • Enhance sustainable development and meaningful understanding in the Arctic region
  • Are applicable and valuable for Arctic communities
  • Are long-term in scope
  • Enhance circumpolar collaboration and engagement of Indigenous and Arctic communities

Two expert groups currently operate under SDWG: the Arctic Human Health Expert Group and the Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group.

SDWG meets twice a year to discuss priorities and projects identified in the work plan.

Stefán Skjaldarson
Stefán Skjaldarson
Chair

Executive Secretary
Jennifer Spence
jennifer.spence@sdwg.org
+1-613-878-1759

Featured projects

iStock
Good Practices for impact assessments and engagement
The Good Practices for Environmental Impact Assessment and Meaningful Engagement in the Arctic (Arctic EIA) provides Arctic-specific recommendations for large-scale projects in the vulnerable and chan...
Project pageOverview
Arctic Resilience Action Framework (ARAF)
The ARAF is a framework to advance a coordinated, regional approach to building resilience and adapting to rapid change.
Project pageOverview
Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Toolkit
The project created a comprehensive long-­term energy planning process for socially-­desirable and economically-­feasible energy solutions for communities in the Arctic by developing an Arctic Sustain...
Project pageOverview
Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA)
ARENA seeks to increase human capacity, promote leadership, and deploy traditional and local knowledge through the creation of a knowledge exchange program emphasizing the development, operation, and ...
Project pageOverview
Solid Waste Management in Small Arctic Communities
The basic purpose of a sound solid waste management program is to protect the health of local residents and the environment upon which they depend. Modern technologies and economies-of-scale can allow...
Project pageOverview
Local 2 Global: Circumpolar collaboration for suicide prevention and mental wellness
Local 2 Global aims to facilitate international collaboration and connections between circumpolar communities working to prevent suicide and support the mental wellbeing of all Arctic youth and commun...
Project pageOverview
Arctic Children: Preschool and School Education
The nomadic school project is aimed at the analysis and evaluation of educational practices without interrupting the traditional way of life of Indigenous peoples – children of nomads, providing them ...
Project pageOverview
Photo: Hjalti Hreinsson
Gender Equality in the Arctic
GEA is an international collaborative project focusing on gender equality in the Arctic.
Project pageOverview
Photo: iStock / RyersonClark
One Health
Temperatures in the Arctic have risen at twice the rate compared to other parts of the world, resulting in a multitude of environmental changes that affect the health and wellbeing of millions of huma...
Project pageOverview
Cod drying. Photo: iStock
Blue Bioeconomy in the Arctic Region
The Blue Bioeconomy is based on the sustainable and intelligent use of renewable aquatic natural resources, with a focus on improving utilization and creating higher-value products.
Project pageOverview
Indigenous Youth, Food Knowledge and Arctic Change (EALLU) II
This project aims to maintain and further develop a sustainable and resilient reindeer husbandry in the Arctic in face of climate change and globalisation, working towards a vision of creating a bette...
Project pageOverview
Drone Photography by: Sara Wilde
Project CREATeS
Youth were invited to engage in a dialogue about suicide prevention by telling their own stories, and were supported to make these stories into digital stories, or short films.
Project pageOverview

@sdwg_chair

  • Happy Birthday to 🇨🇦 - a member of the #Arctic Council since its creation in 1996 & home of the @sdwgsecretariat. (Photo: U.S. Department of State/Wikimedia Commons - Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Canada, April 24-25 2015) https://t.co/0SIx7cW58n July 1 10:01 pm

SDWG News

windmills in the Arctic

Round two of the Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy kicks off

The Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA) is a unique knowledge sharing program about isolated power systems integration held in partnership with Canada, Gwich’in...
21 Jul 2020

Covid-19 in the Arctic: A briefing document for Senior Arctic Officials

An insight to the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic on Arctic communities.
16 Jul 2020
Abandoned cemetery in Qoornoq, Greenland - former fishermen village in the Nuuk fjord

Historical Context: Influenza and other epidemic infectious diseases in the Arctic

Pandemics have repeatedly struck the Arctic dating back to medieval times when the Plague reached the northern hemisphere. Smallpox was a great killer, cholera was introd...
16 Jul 2020
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Events

October
01 Oct-02 Oct 2020
SAO Marine Mechanism (SMM) meeting (TBC) Reykjavik, Iceland
26 Oct-27 Oct 2020
SDWG meeting Online / Egilsstaðir, Iceland
28 Oct 2020
SAO Executive Meeting (TBC) Egilsstaðir, Iceland
29 Oct-30 Oct 2020
SAO Plenary Meeting (TBC) Egilsstaðir, Iceland

2021

February
03 Feb-04 Feb 2021
SDWG meeting Reykjanesbær, Iceland
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