The Arctic is home to almost four million people today – Indigenous Peoples, more recent arrivals, hunters and herders living on the land and city dwellers. Roughly 10 percent of the inhabitants are Indigenous and many of their peoples distinct to the Arctic. They continue their traditional activities in the context of an ever-changing world. Yet, as the Arctic environment changes, so do livelihoods, cultures, traditions, languages and identities of Indigenous Peoples and other communities.
Changes in the Arctic affect inhabitants in various ways. Arctic communities are already facing challenges that result from the impacts of climate change, demonstrating the need for action to strengthen resilience and facilitate adaptation. At the same time, the Arctic offers potential for sustainable economic development that both brings benefits to local communities and offers ground for innovation transcending the region.
To cater for the differing needs of Arctic inhabitants, the human dimension of the Arctic Council’s work covers a wide array of areas, from mental and physical health and well-being, to sustainable development, local engagement, education, youth and gender equality. Arctic Peoples are represented in the Council by the Permanent Participants, and their work is supported by the Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat.
Indigenous Peoples have lived in the Arctic for centuries. They have learned to adapt to a changing environment over time, and thus hold a fundamental knowledge base of the lands and waters of their homelands. The Arctic Council and its Working Groups acknowledge that the inclusion of traditional knowledge and local knowledge is vital for exploring solutions to emerging issues in the Arctic, and to provide the best available knowledge as a basis for decision-making. The active participation of the Permanent Participants is one of the key features of the Arctic Council.
The Council works to improve the resilience, and well-being of all Arctic inhabitants with a particular focus on Indigenous People. Some health concerns are magnified in the Arctic, such as elevated rates of suicide, especially among young people; and heightened exposure to environmental contaminants.
"Arctic youth is not just the future but also the present."
Indigenous youth leaders coined this slogan when they gathered for the first Arctic Leaders’ Youth Summit in Rovaniemi, Finland. They called for a more active involvement in the issues that affect them – now and in the future.
The Arctic Council encourages the sustainable development of low-emission Arctic economies to build vibrant and healthy Arctic communities for present and future generations.