Access to Health Care in the Arctic: Specific Challenges and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Date & Time: 

Friday, April 17, 2015 - 18:00 to 20:00


New York University, Woolworth Bldg., 15 Barclay St, NYC, USA (11:00 a.m. local time; 6:00 p.m. Finnish time)

On Friday, 17 April 2015, 18:00 (Finnish time) Stefan Kirchner and Susanna Pääkkölä will give a guest lecture in the course “Global Public Health” at New York University (11:00 a.m. local time, Woolworth Bldg.,15 Barclay St, NYC). The course is offered in the framework of the M.S. in Global Affairs by NYU’s Center for Global Affairs by Adjunct Assistant Professor Maya Sabatello; the lecture will be broadcast live from the meeting room in the 3rd floor of the law faculty of the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi where a limited number of seats are available as well.


In the Arctic, harsh living conditions, sparse populations, remoteness and the absence of nearby health-related infrastructure poses particular challenges. In this presentation we will look at the access to health care in the Arctic, with particular emphasis on the perspective of indigenous peoples, dozens of which have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years. In addition to the general challenges faced in the Arctic, language barriers can seriously limit access to health care. This is especially so in remote areas, in places in which education is not easily accessible and in contexts in which communication between patient and health care providers is essential, for example in the field of mental health. Even in countries with generally excellent health care systems, the circumstances faced by the people, indigenous or not, who live in the Arctic can pose severe challenges. In light of the high costs of providing health care and emergency services to remote regions which suffer specific climatic and weather conditions, there is an incentive for states to cut back on investments in health care infrastructure. In this presentation we will show which challenges exist in the Arctic in this context and how international human rights law can be used to define obligations of states and other actors regarding the provision of medical services.


Dr. Stefan Kirchner, MJI, is Associate Professor for Fundamental and Human Rights, with Special Focus on Indigenous Rights, at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland. He is admitted to the bar in Germany where he specializes in human rights and the law of the sea and has been Assistant Professor for the Law of the Sea at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, and a lawyer for International Shipping Law at Germany’s Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency in Hamburg. Until 2015 he served as Co-Chair of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), since April 2015 he is Co-Chair of ASIL’s Law of the Sea Interest Group. Prior to becoming a lawyer he worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for the German Red Cross. He wrote his Master’s thesis on pharmaceutical law and his doctoral thesis on biolaw and human rights. 


Susanna Pääkkölä, MSc, is a visiting research scientist at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland and holds a position as a Doctoral Candidate in Biomedicine at the University of Oulu, Finland. She holds a Master’s degree in Science (Biology, Physiology and Genetics) and currently she works on human thermoregulation.


Last modified: 

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 17:10