While the eight circumpolar states—Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States—are comparatively prosperous and resource-rich countries, the concept of capacity building is finding currency in the context of the Arctic regions of some of these countries. In some situations in the Arctic, the development challenges are analogous to challenges in developing countries.
Changing lifestyles and the shift away from traditional hunting, trapping, fishing, and herding livelihoods have stimulated the need for capacity building as a means to cope with cultural and economic flux. As industrial and resource extraction economies have intruded into Arctic regions, subsistence economies have transitioned to wage economies. Self-government processes in Arctic Canada also generate a need to develop capacity to assume additional responsibilities at the local level. This requires education and training along with skills development to participate in economies in transition.
Increasingly however, the challenges facing Arctic peoples are not ones that have entirely local solutions or responses. Arctic climate change, for example, which appears to be leading to ecosystem impacts, is expected to accelerate the decline of traditional harvesting pursuits while creating new pressures for adaptation. Similarly, the influx of a range of pollutants, often from non-Arctic sources, through airborne and water transport mechanisms, impact local, traditional foods with consequences for human and ecosystem health. Capacity building is conceived as a means to adapt and respond to such challenges, as well as many others.
However, any suggestion that capacity building is a one-way street directed at Arctic indigenous peoples and residents should be discouraged. Many Arctic cultures maintained sustainable livelihoods well into the 20th century. Their norms and values, and traditional and local knowledge associated with living close to the land, can inform the transition to sustainable development sought in many non-Arctic communities. As Arctic peoples increase their engagement with national and international economic, social, and political systems through improved communications, participation, and influence, capacity building could occur in more southerly latitudes, as the lessons and practices of the Arctic become better known.
The Arctic has produced some unique organizations and fora at national, regional, and international levels that realize tangible results from capacity-building initiatives. Among these is the Arctic Council, a highlevel forum devoted to facilitating cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States with the involvement of the Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues. Although the Arctic Council's mandate excludes matters of military security, other areas of concern include issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The Council comprises the eight Arctic States aforementioned, and also includes six international Arctic organizations of indigenous peoples as Permanent Participants. The Council created the category of Permanent Participation to provide for active participation and full consultation with the Arctic indigenous representatives within the Arctic Council.
The Council defines and outlines the concept of capacity building in a wide range of publications and declarations including the Iqaluit (1998), Barrow (2000), and Inari (2002) Declarations, the Terms of Reference for the Sustainable Development Program, and the Sustainable Development Framework Document. For example, the Sustainable Development Framework Document adopted by the Council in October 2000 states that:
Capacity building is, similarly, a necessary element for achievement of Sustainable Development and must be taken into consideration in the projects developed under the [Sustainable Development] Program. The Program should, therefore, aim to increase capacity at all levels of society.
Capacity building is also a significant, ongoing dimension of activities in the environmental Working Groups under the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council as an organization is itself a new component of social capital. The programs and activities under the Council increase the capacity of circumpolar individuals, organizations, and institutions to achieve sustainable development and environmental protection. In addition, the Arctic Council and its working groups have made contributions to the development of human and social capital in the Arctic by supporting initiatives such as the University of the Arctic, and by contributions of member states to programs and projects adopted at ministerial meetings of the Arctic Council, working groups have been conducting programs for several years that will continue to enhance capacity-building efforts in the Arctic. In this regard, the successes and lessons learned will be the subject of a Canada-led report being prepared for the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting scheduled for 2004.
See also Arctic Council; Sustainable Development; University of the Arctic
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