Within the context of this article we find it useful to apply Carol Bacchi’s approach of political deconstruction which is “What’s the problem represented to be?” [9
]. Bacchi suggests that each presentation of a problem as a problem already implies certain interpretation of the phenomenon. So the analysis should include—what assumptions underlie this representation, what effects are produced by this representation and what is left unproblematic in it?
The literature search shows a growing, but still small, interest in linking climate change, gender, and health in Arctic research. This is also mirrored in a recent report “Arctic Policies and Strategies—Analysis, Synthesis and Trends”, analysis of the policies, strategies, and declarations of the relevant Arctic stakeholders including also new and/or emerging trends of Arctic governance and based on a coding of the text of 56 policy documents (in 1996–2019) show the same result [10
]. Gender analysis is rarely described in the texts and gender equality rarely mentioned. In the texts from one of the countries it is not found at all while mentioned for Greenland in the Danish documents. The perspective is mostly found in Swedish documents and publications [11
The Russian example illustrates how sex-divided statistics is an important dimension of demographic registers and plays a significant role for understanding which demographic characteristics of the people residing in the Arctic along with ethnicity, age, education background, family status, etc., are important for decision-makers in order to formulate policies addressing concrete target groups. Just like any quantitative statistics sex-disaggregated data is an important variable to be monitored in the population registers.
Within the context of the CLINF research project with the word sex we refer to biological differences between persons registered as women and men. Sex characterizes demographic biological attributes that are ascribed to humans at birth. By gender, however, we understand socially constructed behavior patterns, norms, and values that women and men learn during their upbringing, education, and socialization and then interiorize as part of their social character. What is important for us in the project is that gender relations are social, constructed, and include asymmetries not only between women and men but also within the two sexes depending on ideological, historical, cultural, religious, ethnic, and economic background and consequently might vary from society to society and can change under the circumstances [13
Gender statistics is not equal to sex-divided statistics and implies qualitative analysis of social institutions and relations impact on the health situation of women and men in the Arctic, on their vulnerabilities and opportunities in order to better understand what decision-makers are to do in order to achieve sustainable development. Sex-disaggregated data as it has already been mentioned above is important for developing gender analysis and gender-sensitive policies which are tools needed to tackle different impacts of climate change on peoples’ lives. During the last 25 years, several international bodies and conferences have signed documents stating that the gender perspective should be integrated into policy and other documents concerning activities where humans are involved on an international, national, regional, and local level [16
]. Women’s key role in ensuring sustainable development was highlighted in the Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development’s report Our Common Future as did United Nations Conferences like the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002. The UN Women was established in 2010 and in 2007 WHO adopted a resolution on the integration of gender analysis and action into the work of WHO at all levels.
Development of Health among Arctic People—An Increased Need of Adequate Data
As in many parts of the world, several health aspects have been improved in the Arctic. Increase in the life expectancy and decrease in infant mortality, as well as reduction in mortality from infectious diseases all count as improved health. The risks of new infectious and zoonotic diseases have increased in the Arctic due to climate warming ([17
]. At the same time, there are an increase in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity [3
]. Due to rapid social change, dietary transitions, decreased physical activities, and exposure to new environmental hazards in the Arctic, these negative increases happen in particular in traditional societies. In this context, the Sami people differ from other circumpolar Indigenous groups—with a risk pattern of uncommunicable diseases similar to the one of the majority population of the Nordic countries [21
It has also been shown that Sami, with a more deviant lifestyle compared to the majority population, i.e., reindeer herding Sami, have a more deviant health pattern compared to the majority population than non-reindeer herding Sami [21
Humans are exposed to many environmental factors with a potential impact on their health. Income, education, social status, genetics, and access to social safety networks and welfare, are facts that which all influence individual health. Combined with personal lifestyle choices, coping capacity, and access to good primary health care, the impact of exposure to environmental contaminants may seem small. However, a number of studies document that exposure to contaminants such as mercury and PCBs can have adverse effects on women of childbearing age, fetuses, and small children (AMAP, 2009; 2015). According to AMAP reports, environmental exposure is usually an exposure not only to a single substance, but to a mixture of chemicals in the environment. The trends of most “traditional” contaminants have decreasing levels in blood samples of pregnant women; however, new ones, which may have endocrine disruptive effects, have been found in the Arctic populations [26
A gender analysis of the situation in general is that men of the non-European Arctic are mostly Indigenous and rural who either engage into existing economic activities (natural resources extraction, timber industry, and reindeer herding) which implies a non-sedentary way of living and commuting between work place and community settlement or they stay unemployed [27
]. Volunteered or forced unemployment in remote settlements leads to the situation of higher alcohol consumption rates and higher suicide rates, especially among men of Indigenous background. The non-sedentary way of living for employed men means that they are living in closer contact with wildlife. “Traditional” food preparation quite often avoids heat treatment. That is why the information on zoonotic diseases and toxic chemicals and other contaminants, which are immune-suppressive, is important as both animals and humans in the Arctic areas become more vulnerable to the novel diseases. In this context men in the Arctic turn to be more vulnerable with respect to their health in comparison to women with the sedentary way of living. Men and women in rural Arctic consume local fish, game, berries, and mushrooms as part of their diet. This makes zoonotic diseases a very real threat to Arctic residents in the situation of northward influx to the Arctic of new wildlife and insect species [3
] as well as contaminants both locally produced and long-range transmitted.
While reports point women of childbearing age and small children as risk groups in need of protection from contaminants accumulated in traditional food, these reports also inform that it is men who in most Indigenous societies predominantly consume traditional food and become exposed to higher health risks especially at later stages of life. Combined with other factors food security more and more becomes men’s issue in rural Arctic communities. Most of the information they get is from the news, so the next question is why and how media representations of climate and environment change are produced, negotiated, and disseminated [28
]. This brings the issue of adequate data and information dissemination among the Arctic residents including other gender aspects than biological sex. The Russian case study shows that there is a clear need for more studies and data, gender-divided data included on the Arctic in general and the Russian Arctic in particular. Women and men should be informed and supported differently due to their different lifestyles, responsibilities, and access to information.
In the Arctic Council gender equality is an on-going project in the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), and during the Finnish Chairmanship period in 2002 gender equality was for the first time integrated into the Arctic Council chairmanship program, and 2017–2019 it has been focused as a crosscutting theme [29
]. Gender equality was one of the themes in the Second University of the Arctic Congress in Oulu and Helsinki September 2018. Further, during the Icelandic period, it was one of the leading themes. However, there is a need to have more thorough discussion on gender equality in the Arctic Council in all its activities and actions, and also in its six working groups, not only SDWG and its subgroups, the Arctic Human Health Expert Group (AHHEG) and the Social, Economic, and Cultural Expert Group (SECEG). There is lack of gender specific data and gender mainstreaming processes in the Arctic Council activities. Every country makes its own decisions on the focus areas for two years, and mainstreaming gender equality as one project needs funding to be as a research project. Limitations of the study are the low number of respondents, but villages in northern Russia do not have many inhabitants and the participation rate was high.