BODO, Norway – Finding ways to improve education and address social issues are among the most urgent matters throughout the Arctic, but they are discussed only rarely at Arctic meetings.
“Human capital is the most pressing issue in the Arctic. Communities across Greenland, and even across the Arctic, share many of these traits,” said Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, who represents Greenland in the Folketing, or Danish parliament. Chemnitz Larsen recently gave a passionate lecture on the topic at the High North Dialogue conference in Bodo, Norway.
Chemnitz Larsen argued that social issues, in particular those related to children, are often lost in the grandiose statements made at numerous Arctic conferences.
“This is an issue not often discussed at conferences. We tend to talk more about the ‘grand’ things, like defense and international relationships,” she said. “But this also involves peoples, especially the people of the Arctic.”
Instead, she argued, Arctic nations should focus on the issues facing the people who live in the region. Otherwise, we will end up as observers to what is happening rather than engaging and deciding the course of the development.
Chemnitz Larsen has previously worked on children’s issues and human rights as a spokeswoman for children in Greenland. She said education is often neglected in circumpolar debates. Yet, we cannot talk about education without addressing social issues.
“We know that one-third of all children have social problems at home, which, in turn, makes it difficult to get an education,” she said. “We need to talk about this relationship.”
Chemnitz Larsen was born in Nuuk, Greenland, and has been a member of Greenland’s parliament since 2014. In June 2015 she became a member of the Danish parliament for the Inuit Ataqatigiit political party, representing one of Greenland’s two seats. Prior to joining the parliament of Greenland, she worked with Transparency International, a nongovernmental organization fighting corruption globally, on human rights and children’s rights issues.
Although social and educational issues are a pressing matter throughout the Arctic, they tend to be dealt with on a national or regional level within the various Arctic countries. Yet, Chemnitz Larsen argues, there is room to do more work across the Arctic region in ways that tackle the social issues common to northern peoples. Ways that enable the inhabitants of the Arctic region to take control of their own societies – and thus lives – could be given a more prominent role in future Arctic discussions.
“I think it is very important to talk about strengthening the human capital of the Arctic, the people of the Arctic, as one of the most important resources we have,” she said.
A version of this article first appeared at High North News. It has been reprinted here with permission.