“Preparing for this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly has been a gratifying and at times a stressful and tense process,” says Ásdís Ólafsdóttir, CEO of this world´s largest annual gathering on Arctic issues which will take place in Reykjavík, Iceland on October 14th – 17th. “Last year like everyone else we were online. This year looked at times like that would happen again and while online works, the thousands of people who have attended the Arctic Circle know, it is the unique setup where we all come together and talk to one another with our different arctic agendas, knowledge, and backgrounds that makes the magic. That is the foundation for the Arctic Circle’s success and we are excited for the coming weeks. The 2021 Assembly will almost be business as usual,” says Ásdís.
A gathering on all things important to and for the Arctic
Iceland’s former president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, founder and chairman of the Arctic Circle, originally formed the idea in 2013 to create a global platform on Arctic issues, designed as what he described a medieval square. A gathering where people came together to discuss important matters and everyone, regardless of their status in society or agenda, background or nationality, had equal opportunity to voice their opinions and questions. And, convinced that the Arctic required a platform on the scale of the World Economic Forum in Davos, he took the concept further. “A platform for leaders of countries, scientific institutions, business companies, environmental organizations, indigenous communities, and others to come together. A platform that was significant enough in scale and strong enough in substance for any major leader in any of these areas to justify showing up,” said Mr. Grimson in an interview in JONAA, Journal of the North Atlantic & Arctic, about the Arctic Circle concept. Adding, “The new structure should be more open and more democratic, allowing people to come and present their case without losing any sovereignty or control over their agenda or their presentations.”
His vision came true and for the past years, some 3000+ participants from 70 countries have attended the Arctic Circle each year to participate in a program of an average of 300 sessions and some 900 speakers, covering Arctic issues of environment, politics, science, social issues, culture, economics, indigenous rights, human rights, academic issues – and just about anything else that is important to and for the Arctic and its local and global stakeholders.
Permission for 1.500 Participants and Antigen tests on site
The set up for this year’s Arctic Circle has become clear and according to the CEO, decisions of health authorities and government in the past weeks have made everything easier in terms of attendance than the organizers could have hoped for. Like always before the Assembly is held in Harpa, Reykjavik’s music and conference hall.
“We have permission for 1.500 people in the house at any time. Everyone has to show a negative PCR or Rapid Antigen test before entering and there will be a Rapid Antigen test facility set up in the basement of Harpa where people can come to be tested before going upstairs for the Assembly. Testing in Harpa will be free of charge for Assembly attendants,” says Ásdís. “If people already have a negative test which is less than 48 hrs old that will be accepted and it is easy to get those tests in Reykjavik.”
“Once inside the rules are simple. There can be up to 500 people in the same auditorium or closed space, masks are required where a 1-meter distance cannot be kept, but for instance, in sessions where people are sitting down, they will not be required to wear marks, unless they choose to do so themselves,” says Ásdís Ólafsdóttir.
Registration for the Arctic Circle 2021 Assembly is open on www.arcticcircle.org. Ásdís says that because of such short notice for the Assembly to be confirmed, she had worries about attendance. “But once we had put out the news that Arctic Circle 2021 would go ahead and be held “physically” so to speak, registrations quickly began to pour in. The program is coming nicely together with well over 100 sessions already in place and hundreds of speakers confirmed,” says Ásdís. “I truly believe that this quick response reflects how much our Arctic community needs to get together, join hands on different issues and just communicate in person!” says the CEO.