Opening of the UArctic Congress: sustainable development and co-operation safeguard the future of Arctic regions

Opening speeches delivered at the University of the Arctic UArctic Congress on 4 September reiterated sustainable development and extensive co-operation as a means of eliminating threats posed by climate change to Arctic regions. The Congress was attended in Oulu by over 450 participants from all over the world.

Co-operation in dealing with the measures and challenges concerning the Arctic are more important than ever, emphasised Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in his speech. According to Sipilä, climate change is a fact and the need to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is imperative.

One way to strengthen sustainable development in the Arctic is, according to Sipilä, to offer proper educational opportunities to its inhabitants. Now holding the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Finland has formed an international network of educational experts for Arctic co-operation. The University of the Arctic (UArctic) is, according to Sipilä, plays a key role in this regard.

Sipilä also stated that digitalisation creates new opportunities to enhance co-operation in the Arctic. He considers digitalisation to be particularly useful in the establishment of 'smart cities' and improvement of health services in sparsely populated areas Finland is a technological leader, which is capable of promoting sustainable development through digitalisation and the use of artificial intelligence in the Arctic.

A keynote speaker at the opening of the Congress, Prince Albert of Monaco stated that he saw the UArctic Congress as being a key opportunity for discussing the uniqueness and problems of the Arctic as well as for exchanging knowledge and information on these. According to Prince Albert, better information will provide more effective means of tackling the crises threatening the Arctic and acting in sustainable ways.

Prince Albert felt that major changes in attitudes and how they are dealt with will be needed in order to save the Arctic. "These threats don't just affect the people and nature of the Arctic. People all over the world should be made aware and understand that their own well-being depends on the Arctic."

According to Prince Albert, co-operation is an important way to promote sustainable development in the North, which is a major challenge for the international community. In his view, the University of the Arctic is a key example of how such an extensive network can strengthen the connections between people.

The University of the Arctic network is comprised of 200 members, which are Northern universities, other educational institutions and research institutes in different countries.

The University of Oulu is one of the largest Northern members of the University of the Arctic. The Thule Institute, which operates in co-operation with it, co-ordinates the thematic research networks of the University of the Arctic. University of Oulu research professor Arja Rautio serves as the Vice President of Research for the University of the Arctic.

According to Rector Jouko Niinimäki, the University of Oulu is committed to safeguarding sustainable development and good living conditions in the North. The University of Oulu conducts research related to a wide range of issues affecting the Arctic. Research areas include sustainable mining and manufacturing technologies, technologies for use in extreme conditions, long-distance data traffic, Arctic logistics, environmental change, health issues, and changes in the Sami language and culture.

"Creating good living conditions in the Arctic is crucial. The Arctic is not merely a source of raw materials, a thoroughfare for transport or a tourist destination. It is home to millions of people, who cannot simply be forced to move to big cities or to the south," says Niinimäki.The UArctic Congress and its extensive programme of events will continue in Oulu until Thursday, 6 September and then move to Helsinki for the closing day (7 September). The event was organised by the Universities of Oulu and Helsinki.

Saalasti Hall on the Linnanmaa Campus was filled with congress guests from all over the world.

Prince Albert II enjoyed a beautiful day at the Oulujoki river on Tuesday. Behind him stands Jouko Niinimäki, Rector of the University of Oulu.

In the press conference of the congress, UArctic President Lars Kullerud (on the right) gave Prince Albert a cookbook that contains traditional recipes from Arctic areas.


Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's speech in its entirety (in English)

UArctic Congress

University of the Arctic


Main photo: The UArctic Congress was kicked off with speeches delivered by Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä and Prince Albert of Monaco. Jouko Niinimäki, Rector of the University of Oulu, served as host.

Photos: Juha Sarkkinen


Last updated: 6.9.2018