Research Directors Report 2014

August 2014

This past year has been an extremely busy one for the ReSDA research network. We have moved forward in our objective to bringing about a better understanding of what is needed to ensure Arctic communities get more benefits from resource development and that negative impacts are adequately dealt with. Much of the existing research that we and others have done until now show that this is not an easy task. Resource development continues to cause problems for northern communities and benefits often are overshadowed by these problems. At the same time, ReSDA researchers have started to uncover new options that communities may be able to use to increase these benefits. Our task for the next four years is work with our community partners, continue to gather research on these options, and share this research with communities so they can make more informed decision on whether they want resource development in their region to go ahead or not.

Knowledge sharing as a focus

The question of involving community partners in research and sharing knowledge is one that is central to ReSDA’s objectives. This is not easy in a project that extends across the circumpolar north. The region is made up of many communities and it is often extremely difficult to keep in touch with all of them. Given our limited resources we have tried to emphasize the Canadian North in the first part of our research but even this is not an easy task. This is one of the reasons we decided to organize our third annual workshop around the idea of knowledge sharing. The event was extremely successful (despite the Iqaluit airport being closed the first day of the workshop due to weather) and we were able to hear thoughts on knowledge sharing from people such as former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Patricia Cochran, Inuit film maker Zacharias Kunuk, and researcher Frank Tester of UBC. We are currently in the process of using the workshop to help us develop a “tool box” for both communities and researchers on the best ways to share knowledge on resource development in the Arctic. In addition to the workshop, knowledge sharing was one of the objectives of meetings over the past year in a number of communities including, Whitehorse, Inuvik, and Iqaluit.

Sharing knowledge is the primary objective of another project that has moved forward in 2013. The ReSDA Atlas of resource development received funding from Yukon College in order to develop a proto-type in partnership with SDC Software of Whitehorse. The proto-type received its first public showing at the recent ICASS meetings at the University of Northern British Columbia and we are currently in the process of developing a funding proposal for CanNor in order to further develop the Atlas.

The ICASS meetings were an opportunity to show case some of ReSDA’s work and we hosted sessions on the community monitoring of social and economic change and on research dealing with resource development. In partnership with our American “sister” network, Arctic FROST, ReSDA hosted a plenary panel on the question of whether extractive industries could be used to make Arctic communities sustainable. In addition to ReSDA’s own Lee Huskey, we were able to hear for one of the founders of the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), Pavel Sulyandziga; Gunn-Britt Retter of the Saami Council; and Alona Yefimenko of the Arctic Council’s Indigenous Peoples Secretariat.

Research moves ahead

This past year marked the start of a number of research subprojects. In our last newsletter we listed a number of key priority research questions identified by our gap analyses. Most of these questions now have projects started that will attempt to provide answers. More details on these projects are contained elsewhere in this newsletter.

We have four year left in our current funding and, with your help, we will be able to provide Arctic communities with a series of options regarding resource development that will help them decide whether these developments are in their best interests.