The message from this session has been that the messenger is as important as the message. We’ve been asked to consider how researchers should consider better partnerships with indigenous groups living in the Arctic, and by proxy, relationships with local people everywhere. Building trust is not only important for developing effective policy, it impacts all areas of science where there is a link between people, environment, and the research. We’ve discussed several ideas about the importance of building trust, but an interesting outcome has been the recognition that meaningful partnerships with indigenous groups, or for that matter, local communities, can be a vehicle for real policy change at national and international levels.
In Canada, regional land claim agreements have implications for international law. Art 16 of the Yukon Agreement places a duty on government to consult and engage with First Nations over issues such as land use, fisheries and water including discussions over international treaties. This can filter up into organisations such as the Arctic Council and lead to broader debates and support for indigenous self-determination. This would certainly be a welcome counter balance to the current discourse on energy development and mineral exploitation, though I recognise that the two are inextricably linked.
Being in involved in policy change is a difficult position for many researchers, and this may be, at least under the surface, why many in science avoid meaningful partnerships with communities or stakeholders. Policy change can lead to conflict with government, although, it can also lead to meaningful reform that builds sustainable development. Whether from the natural or social sciences, it is important to consider how we can deepen our relationship with communities and stakeholders in our research. Not only will it benefit the research itself, it means that recommendations may actually make a difference.