The Arctic Council and Gender Equality – A Milestone Report on Gender Equality in the Arctic Published

By: Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network Director and Hjalti Ómar Ágústsson, Gender Equality in the Arctic Project, Phase III, Project Manager

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On 21 May 2021, a milestone Pan-Arctic Report: Gender Equality in the Arctic has been published and is available online as a PDF (Figure 1). The report was published in tandem with the Arctic Council (AC) Ministerial Meeting held in Reykjavík 19–20 May. Gender equality has been one of Iceland´s priorities during its AC Chairmanship 2019–2021, under the theme People and Communities, and the report is a product of the Icelandic chairmanship. The report is a part of an international collaborative project under the AC Sustainable Development Group (SDWG) on Gender Equality in the Arctic (GEA) dating back to 2013. Lead and co-leads include: Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the United States, the Saami Council, the Aleut International Association and a host of other partners. Initiated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Iceland, in collaboration with the Directorate for Equality in Iceland and the Stefansson Arctic Institute, the project has been led by the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network (IACN) under the leadership of its director Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, and the GEA Team in Akureyri, Iceland.

Figure 1. The Pan-Arctic Report: Gender Equality in the Arctic.Figure 1. The Pan-Arctic Report: Gender Equality in the Arctic.

From the beginning, the purpose and objective of the GEA project has been to raise visibility and understanding of the importance of gender issues in the Arctic, to identify priorities and concrete strategies for increased diversity and gender balance in policy and decision-making processes, and to provide information to facilitate sustainable policy making for the future. More information on GEA project can be found on the project website.

Figure 2. Photo Collage of some of the authors and contributors of the Pan-Arctic Report: Gender Equality in the Arctic. Image courtesy of the Gender Equality in the Arctic project.Figure 2. Photo Collage of some of the authors and contributors of the Pan-Arctic Report: Gender Equality in the Arctic. Image courtesy of the Gender Equality in the Arctic project.

The report was developed by 10 lead authors and approximately 80 contributing authors, from over 15 states, including all Arctic States (Figure 2). (See: Pan-Arctic Report Acknowledgements). In the spirit of the GEA project, a vital component of developing the report was the engagement process and significant efforts were made to ensure inclusion and transparency during the process by actively soliciting feedback from peers and interested parties. A special emphasis was on the partnership with AC Permanent Participants and other Indigenous representatives, both through project partners, the Editorial Committee, the Youth Advisory Group, the SDWG Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group, and through contributions to chapters from Indigenous experts, including from the Saami Council, the Aleut International Association, and the Arctic Athabascan Council, as well as the Paktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.

Indeed, the key lessons learned in the collaborative process was that for meaningful youth and Indigenous participation, they must be involved from the incipient stages of projects and funding for their participation must be built into proposals. Another important lesson learned was that adequate time must be available for the compilation of extensive work like the report, which suffered a bit from a very narrow window for completion, in addition to COVID-19 effects.

The report provides an overview of gender-related issues in the Arctic presented in six thematic chapters:

  • Law & Governance (chapter 1) examines formal obligations regarding gender equality in the public governance of the Arctic region, as expressed in political and legal documents, including special consideration of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Security (chapter 2) examines the impacts of inequalities in the Arctic through a security lens and identifies trends in insecurity.
  • Gender and Environment (chapter 3) provides an overview of the gendered dimensions of issues connected to the broadly understood environment of the Arctic region, including climate, oceans, land, biodiversity, natural resources, and waste and pollution.
  • Migration and Mobility (chapter 4) discusses how migration and mobility in the Arctic are constructed through gender and why an understanding of migration and mobility requires a gendered approach.
  • Indigeneity, Gender, Violence, and Reconciliation (chapter 5) seeks to take a step towards mapping the complex relations amongst violence; gender; the social, economic, political, and legal systems; human health and well-being; culture; and identities.
  • Empowerment and Fate Control (chapter 6) seeks to identify concrete strategies for political, economic, and civic gender empowerment in order to facilitate sustainable policy making for the Arctic.

Key findings include the need for mainstreaming and gender-based analysis as necessary strategies for promoting and ensuring gender equality, including in social and economic development, and the need for better gender, sex, and ethnically disaggregated data. Consistent and comparable data is the very foundation for understanding realities and inequalities across regions, countries, sectors, genders, and peoples. It is crucial for meaningful research and providing policy makers and decision makers with the knowledge and capacity to develop well-informed policies. The highlights are relevant for multiple audiences, including Arctic states, the AC and its working groups, policy makers, private industry, the research community, and the public.

For further information and biographical statements of lead authors and contributing authors of the Pan-Arctic Report on Gender Equality in the Arctic, please see here


About the Authors

Embla Eir OddsdottirEmbla Eir Oddsdottir is the Director of the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network (IACN) and the Polar Law Institute in Akureyri, Iceland. Embla represents Iceland in the Arctic Council, Sustainable Development Working Group´s Social, Economic, and Cultural Expert Group (SECEG) and is project lead of the SDWG project Gender Equality in the Arctic, an Arctic Council Icelandic Chairmanship project 2019–2021. Embla is a member of the European Polar Board, a Council Member of the International Arctic Social Association (IASSA), and Chair of the Icelandic Joint Committee of Arctic Affairs. Embla represented Iceland in the Arctic Science Ministerial III (ASMIII) Science Advisory Board, co-organized by Iceland and Japan in 2021. Embla has experience in research, project management, and international and multi-stakeholder collaboration on policy relevant issues in the Arctic. Embla's educational background is interdisciplinary, and includes socio-economic development, anthropology, cultural geography, international relations, international law, and Indigenous studies. Embla holds a MSc in law, anthropology, and society from the London School of Economics with undergraduate studies on socioeconomic development at the University of Akureyri and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Northern British Columbia in Canada. Additionally, Embla has completed Diploma level courses in Polar Law at the University of Akureyri.


Hjalti Ómar ÁgústssonHjalti Ómar Ágústsson is the project manager for the Gender Equality in the Arctic Project, Phase III and a Special Advisor at the Directorate for Equality in Iceland. He has an ML degree in law and a diploma in Polar Law from the University of Akureyri. Hjalti has been working on human rights issues since graduation in 2014 through teaching, as project manager and board member for Aflið – Counseling Centre for Sexual and Domestic abuse Survivors in Akureyri, and as a Child Protective Services Committee member before joining the Gender Equality in the Arctic Project and the Directorate for Equality.