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Headlines Published on 25 April 2007

SOCIAL SCIENCES
Title Researchers examine what states can do for Arctic residents

A sure-fire way for people to survive in northern Polar Regions is to migrate and resettle, and local conditions typically affect the decisions and directions they take. But their survival does not hinge solely on the conditions they face. External factors, like changes in state policies, affect their movements and concentration; these play havoc with the social fabric of these societies. The European Science Foundation (ESF), is tackling this issue with the EUROCORES BOREAS Collaborative Research project 'Moved by the State: Perspectives on Relocation and Resettlement in the Circumpolar North’ (MOVE), launched in November 2006.

About 2 million people of the circumpolar Arctic live in northern European countries and the European Russian North. © Matt+
About 2 million people of the circumpolar Arctic live in northern European countries and the European Russian North.
For Professor Yvon Csonka, Head of MOVE, it is not so much the locals that are actually determining where people live in the north, or whether they live there at all, as much as it is the state. "About half of the approximately four million people of the circumpolar Arctic live in northern European countries and the European Russian North," the professor said.

Environmental and societal changes, including exploitation of natural resources, pollution to and from the South, and changes in vegetation and fauna, are affecting the lives of those people, he explained.

The de-nomadisation and forced relocations carried out in the last 60 years targeted better housing and welfare, as well are education and health care, said the University of Greenland's professor. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, the initiatives were implemented via 'Social engineering' and state paternalism, which only heightened social problems.

Consequently, the survival of the northern societies can be guaranteed if the states anticipate future scenarios for the development of northern Europe, and if they develop the capacity to adapt to the consequences of impending relocations, he said.

Made up of anthropologists, demographers, historians and community-based researchers from Greenland, Finland, Russia, Canada and the US, the multi-disciplinary team will investigate the state-induced resettlements, from the Second World War to the present time, and their consequences. Their research will assess community sustainability, social fabric and sense of belonging.

The team will, over a four-year period, conduct research in Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska and the regions of the Russian Far North (Chukotka, Magadan, Yamal). The project's findings will prove instrumental in ongoing talks between "states and communities about relocation in the face of increasing social and climatic change," Prof Csonka said, adding that the outcome of MOVE could mitigate the negative social consequences of future relocations. "The knowledge gained from MOVE will also help in finding solutions for how northern experiences of resettlement contribute to our general understanding of similar phenomena worldwide," he stressed.







More information:

  • European Science Foundation
  • EUROCORES BOREAS
  • The human dimension: coming out of the shadows







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