At the time of UArctic’s creation, the Circumpolar North was abuzz with the dream that academic collaboration at institutional, faculty and student levels would have a strong role to play in ensuring peace and stability in the Arctic.
UArctic has grown from a handful of enthusiasts believing in the cause to a strong and global network of organizations with direct influence on the institutions’ as well as the nations’ Arctic policies. The fact that the Arctic Council chose education as one of its four priorities during its Finnish chairmanship – the first time in its history – and implemented the activities with UArctic demonstrates this fact.
Clearly UArctic is about collaboration on all levels, but what kind of change has the collaboration made in these two decades? With nearly twenty years of implementing UArctic programs, we use this issue of Shared Voices to more closely explore our impact from a number of perspectives. One clear impact of this collaboration is that our members and activities endorse the values of circumpolarity, promoting northern voices in the globalizing world, reflecting common values and interests across all eight Arctic states and among all northern peoples and cultures; inclusiveness, promoting cultural diversity, language plurality and gender equality while highlighting the partnership between the region’s indigenous peoples and other northerners; and reciprocity, promoting respectful relationships in education, science, research and policy based on equality and trust between northerners and other partners. These values are evident throughout the articles in this magazine, without us having asked the authors to specifically refer to them. I believe this to be our real impact: we are doing things together, with shared voices.
Today, thousands of students have gone from one North to another for studies through our north2north exchange program. The numbers may not be huge, but the impact on the individuals as well as on the institutions and communities has been massive. There is an awareness of the Circumpolar North and an evolving identity that was not there twenty years ago. And where are the north2north students from twenty years ago? They are today’s leaders.
Looking at the globe from the top and viewing the circumpolar region as an area of its own circling the Arctic Ocean is now commonplace, but it was not so when UArctic was established. This change in perception is important as we evaluate impact. It is not only about peace, security and economic sustainability – it is also about who you identify with.