For decades, the language of security in the Arctic has focused on issues of power, resource exploitation and territory. Global climate change is generating greater focus on these issues as it alters the Arctic landscape, allowing for increased transport and greater access to untapped resources, particularly fossil fuels. As these more “traditional” security concerns grow, so too do concerns for the human security of northern individuals and communities. But what does “security” mean to northern peoples?
What is human security? For the purposes of the GAPS project, human security is achieved when individuals and communities have the freedom to identify risks and threats to their well-being and the capacity to determine ways to end, mitigate or adapt to those risks and threats (UNDP, 1994). Well-being can include a range of things, from a healthy community, a healthy environment, economic opportunities, access to country foods, and political stability. It’s up to northern individuals and communities to decide what makes them secure.
Oil and gas activity affects the security of communities in ways beyond sovereignty and military presence. Resource development can bring about risks and opportunities for the well-being of northern peoples. As oil and gas activity intensifies, we need to understand its effects on communities in a comprehensive way, so that we can explore all the factors that contribute to a sense of well-being or human security. The GAPS research project aims to develop a better sense of the human side of security. Through collaboration and communication with communities, we can examine the risks, threats and opportunities that oil and gas activity presents to Arctic peoples.