Without doubt, the highlight of UArctic activities in 2018 was our largest and most successful meeting ever – UArctic Congress 2018 – hosted by the University of Oulu and University of Helsinki. The event attracted over 600 participants from 30 countries, a range of high-level keynote plenaries, and nearly 50 science sessions with over 250 presenters. Organized every other year in the chair country of the Arctic Council, the UArctic Congress brings together key UArctic meetings and a full science conference into a single event, along with a variety of side events, and an engaging social and cultural program.
The Congress was organized by the two host institutions together with the University of Lapland, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Sámi Education Institute, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE), Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, City of Oulu, and Business Oulu.
UArctic Congress 2018 was an integral part of Finland's Arctic Council chairmanship program, highlighting the themes of Environmental Protection, Connectivity, Meteorological Cooperation, and Education, as well as the goals of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, supporting gender equality, and the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The UArctic Congress 2020 will take place in Reykjavík, Iceland, October 6–8, 2020, hosted by our Icelandic member institutions and once again in partnership with the Arctic Council chairmanship. Additionally, the Congress 2020 will be organized alongside the Arctic Circle Assembly.
Our cooperation with the Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council extended beyond the Congress, as UArctic was a partner in the Education priority of the chairmanship program. The UArctic Thematic Network on Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity in Education was the main point of contact for this partnership, leading the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) project Teacher Education for Diversity and Equality in the Arctic. The activities of this network and UArctic’s commitment to improving the basis of education across the circumpolar region were highlighted during the SDWG meetings.
A record number of 20 new members joined UArctic at the Council meeting during Congress, bringing our total membership over 200 for the first time. The new members are the Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research and Learning, Coast Mountain College, Higher School of Innovation Management, Kamchatka State Technical University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Nipissing University, Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Sámi High School and Reindeer Husbandry School, St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television, Tomsk Polytechnic University, University of Lethbridge, University of New England, Kings Bay AS, Wilson Center – Polar Initiative, as well as the non-Arctic members Harbin Engineering University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Leeds Beckett University, Italian Society for International Organization, and Scott Polar Research Institute.
The Council also welcomed five new Thematic Networks to UArctic, bringing the total number of networks to 47. The new UArctic Thematic Networks are Circumpolar Archives, Folklore and Ethnography (CAFE), hosted by the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom; Renewable Energy, hosted by the University of Saskatchewan, Canada; Smart Societies in the High North (SmartNorth), hosted by the High North Center, Nord University, Norway; Arctic Indigenous Skills, hosted by the Sámi Education Institute, Finland; and Arctic Plastic Pollution, hosted by GRID-Arendal, Norway.
As UArctic continues to see tremendous growth both in the number of members, and in the scope and variety of activities, we are undertaking a number of steps in our strategic organizational development to ensure we continue to provide good value to our members, and deliver high-level educational and research cooperation outputs that serve the needs of the Circumpolar North. These development activities include a review and renewal of UArctic's legal status, ensuring continued transparency and good governance. In parallel, UArctic's leadership and administration have invested in our capacity to attract philanthropic giving in order to create a sustainable basis for our continued growth. These developments, which began in earnest in 2018, will continue throughout the next months culminating with a new Strategic Plan 2030, setting out the organization's goals for the next decade.