From Inspiration to Action, From Action to Institution: Some Early Interventions of Arctic Collaboration in Sustainable Development
The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment: Key Arctic Council Framework for Protecting Arctic Communities and the Marine Environment
Transdisciplinary Dialogue on Board Between Eurasia and America: The 6th International Meeting of the State-Members of the Arctic Council, State-Observers to the Arctic Council and Foreign Scientific Community
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council, which probably became the most important multilateral forum for Arctic policymaking and a most interesting case study for scholars of international relations. For two decades, it has served as a cooperative and constructive forum covering various issues of economic, environmental and human security, explicitly excluding the military security dimension.
Today, 20 years after the founding of the Arctic Council, one has to acknowledge that the international security environment has significantly changed. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and increasing show of force toward its neighbours have destroyed a significant amount of the trust that was carefully built up after the end of the Cold War. This is, unfortunately, also true for Russia’s relations with its Arctic neighbours. Nevertheless, there is still considerable reluctance to touch upon the issue of military security in the High North. For the moment, the Arctic might still just be content with its rather ‘selective security approach’. However, the continuous deterioration of Western-Russian relations calls into question the hope that negative spillover effects will not affect the good regional co-operation too much.
It appears that this has also sound the bell for another round in the ongoing debate among scholars and policymakers over the need for an Arctic forum addressing issues of military security. What strikes one in this debate is that those in support of such a forum seem trapped in a recurring logic of geopolitical games over power and influence, while their opponents (usually arguing from a more regional perspective) seem to follow the line of ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’.
As both sides focus too strongly on rebutting each other’s arguments, they miss out on how both perspectives could actually complement each other, overlooking that they are more or less two sides of the same coin.
An alternative could be to draw from the 40 years of experience of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). At the end of the Cold War, the OSCE’s comprehensive security approach (politico-military, economic and environmental, human security), was able to overcome the military block-to-block-confrontation by increasing mutual transparency and trust as well as by establishing co-operative understanding of European security. This is not to argue for a duplication of the structure or discussions at the OSCE, but for a critical reflection on its comprehensive security approach. From it, at least two important lessons for the discussion over an Arctic security forum can be drawn:
The first one is that stability and good co-operation in multilateral forums is not so much a question of whether the forum has a comprehensive or selective approach to security, but much more a question of the overall political climate.
So far, one of the main arguments of those opposed to an Arctic security forum has been that because the work of the Arctic Council only focuses on non-military issues of mutual interest, the Arctic states have little appetite for spoiling the existing co-operation in the region by discussing controversial issues of military security.
Drawing from the example of e.g. the NATO-Russia Council, they continue their argument by stating that forums dedicated to dealing with military security are usually the first ones that are suspended after a crisis has emerged. Thus they argue that by keeping the Arctic Council free from issues of military security, the regional good co-operation can be preserved and the Council can even serve as a platform for a substantial dialogue to overcome the dividing lines of the crisis.
As appealing as this might sound, it disregards two important things:
First, while one might admit that forums solely focusing on non-military issues seem indeed less prone to paralysis or even suspension, they also rarely serve as a platform for those decision makers primarily involved with the handling or resolution of this crisis. In contrast, organizations with a comprehensive security approach, like the OSCE, bring exactly these people together. In times of crisis, they might indeed seem more paralyzed when looking only at their actual policy output, but they continue to provide a valuable platform for frank and open dialogue, an extremely important component for reducing the risk of dangerous misperceptions and unintended escalation dynamics in crisis.
Second, it would also be wrong to overestimate the impact that co-operation on non-military security can have on tensions in the military security realm (and to be fair, also not vice versa). For example, looking at the outcomes of the last OSCE Ministerial Council meetings, it becomes evident that as soon as military tensions grow too strong, they start to overshadow other policy fields and any (even very close) co-operation in other areas will come under significant stress. Whether or not co-operation prevails will be more a question of whether mutual interest is strong enough (e.g. strong economic interests) or not in the main focus of political attention.
The second and probably most important lesson to be taken from the experiences of the OSCE is that addressing issues of military security does not always have to be a sign of increasing military tensions or weakness, but can just as well be a means to reinforce good and close co-operation between states in times of political and military détente.
Another argument that is regularly articulated by opponents of an Arctic security forum is that there is simply no need to discuss issues of military security in the High North (and will not be for decades to come). One can easily sign up to the argument that, despite contrary reports (in particular by mainstream media), the levels of militarization in the Arctic are still far below that of other regions and that there is also little potential for the outbreak of armed conflict in the harsh Arctic environment.
However, it would also be wrong to conclude that the Arctic is entirely immune to geopolitical spillover effects. Let us take the example of the deterioration of NATO-Russia relations. Over the last years, the intensity of air and submarine patrols in the Arctic has again reached Cold War levels and the frequency and scale of military exercises in the region has increased considerably. While this is part of the generally increasing military tit-for-tat and nothing exceptional for the Arctic, it still seems reasonable that these issues should also be addressed from a regional perspective.
The problem is that those who typically call for an Arctic security forum are often too quick to jump over the question of what specific issues should be on its agenda and that simply duplicating discussions elsewhere, ignoring the specific regional security environment, does not seem to provide significant added-value to the debate. Let us take the example of the increasing amount of air and submarine patrols. While these activities undoubtedly carry a potential risk of military incidents and unintended escalation, it is difficult to discern what makes those in the Arctic different or more dangerous from those in, for example, the Baltic Sea region so that they should be addressed from a regional instead of a supra-regional angle. Thus, it is one thing to meet the increasing military activities in the Arctic with scepticism and to recognize the lack of a dedicated forum to address these issues.
What is, however, more challenging is to identify those issues that are so crucial for regional security that they should not solely be addressed in supra-regional fora which include much more international actors and are often criticised for being paralyzed or suspended when a crisis has emerged. It would, for example, be quite useful, if all Arctic states held regular meetings on how the level of transparency over larger military exercises, military planning and troop deployments to the region could be increased. Such discussions would not only complement those under the auspices of the OSCE, but also help prevent dangerous misinterpretations and by doing so contribute to reinforcing the good level of regional co-operation in the Arctic.
To conclude, instead of mainly focusing on rebutting each other’s arguments – for and against an Arctic security forum – it might be worthwhile to join forces and to explore whether there is the chance for a more co-operative approach to military security in the High North.
As long as spillover effects remain manageable, co-operation in other policy areas continue and the issues discussed are tailored to the regional needs and requirements of the Arctic, an Arctic Forum for Security Co-Operation could be useful for preserving regional co-operation and potentially contribute to restoring generally stressed political and military relations.
Tara Sweeney & Tero Vauraste
The vision of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) is to make the Arctic a favorable place to do business.
Our mission is to facilitate sustainable Arctic economic and business development. The AEC also provides a business perspective to the discussions taking place at the Arctic Council, serving as a link between Arctic governments and the wider circumpolar business community.
Backbone: Our Goals and Five Overarching Themes
Our purpose is to facilitate Arctic business-to-business activities and responsible economic development. The five overarching themes form the backbone of our actions.
The first overarching theme focuses on establishing strong market connections between Arctic states. Working to identify and remove trade obstacles at the circumpolar level is key for AEC membership.
The second overarching theme is promoting stable and predictable regulatory frameworks. We support high standards of regulation, and support a predictable regulatory environment for all Arctic stakeholders where common standards make sense.
The third overarching theme encourages the use of public-private partnerships in infrastructure investments. There are 4 million people living north of the Arctic Circle. The need for infrastructure development is great and the cost is high, if not cost prohibitive for a single sector. Therefore, promoting public-private partnerships as a feasible option for pan-Arctic infrastructure development will go a long way in fostering responsible economic and business development in the North.
The fourth overarching theme focuses on creating closer ties between industry and academia. Exchange of information between academia and the business community will only strengthen the foundation for promotion of responsible economic growth. Industry and the academic world approach issues with a variety of perspectives, and through cooperation both industries can work to make the Arctic a favorable place to do business. Both sectors learn from each other in partnership.
The fifth overarching theme is a focus on traditional knowledge, stewardship and small and medium enterprise development. Traditional and local knowledge is a valuable resource that is a necessary de-risking agent to any Arctic project. Further, through this engagement process, businesses will learn what it means to be a good Arctic steward. As Arctic residents, it is important that we ensure that those interested in doing business in the Arctic are good stewards of our lands and environment. Finally, small and medium enterprise development in the North is important for sustainable growth, especially in our most remote parts of the Arctic.
Rapid Development of the Organization
The rapid development of the AEC demonstrates our Legacy Members’ commitment. 18 months after AEC’s creation, our founding documents were adopted. Thanks to the work done at the first AEC Governance Committee meeting, the 2016 Annual Meeting ratified the organization’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2018, Rules of Procedure as well as Membership Terms and Conditions.
The AEC represents the diverse faces of the Arctic, whether that voice represents a large organization, an indigenous group or small business, each Legacy Member has a vote. Sub-Arctic interests are encouraged to join the AEC and go through the membership process. By creating three different non-voting membership categories, we provide an opportunity for all businesses and organizations to engage in our work no matter their size or origin.
Strategic Plan Sets the Course for the Future
Going forward, the AEC has established a rolling three-year strategic planning process. To ensure continuation, these planning periods extend over the AEC chairmanships. To help coordination and dialogue with the Arctic Council, we have chosen to follow their Chairmanship rotation.
The AEC Strategic Plan (2016-2018) is built on three pillars: organizational, stewardship and economic growth. The Organizational pillar builds a solid foundation for future success. The Stewardship pillar creates a foundation for collaboration and stewardship among Arctic stakeholders and AEC members. The goals under the Economic Growth pillar focus on supporting and creating networks to advocate for responsible development and meaningful economic growth in the Arctic. (The Strategic Plan with detailed goals can be downloaded at www.arcticeconomiccouncil.com).
Definition of Success
To define success, the AEC has set criteria which will be evaluated at the end of 2018. True to the Organizational pillar of our strategic plan, we aim at establishing a fully functioning, efficient organization with sufficient and sustainable funding. Value-add is our goal with meaningful benefits to our members.
The Stewardship pillar, calls for an association with only well-respected, business-oriented ethical organizations. Being good Arctic stewards is important to sustaining the identity of the Arctic region, and we choose to align ourselves with organizations that share those same views.
Promoting meaningful investments in the Arctic is a success criterion based on the Economic Growth pillar of our Strategic Plan. The AEC aims to advocate and support responsible development and the regulation of that development. We will continue to engage with the Arctic Council and provide an Arctic business perspective to their discussions.
Commitment, cooperation and dedication have led us to a stage where we are ready for business. With the establishment of the organizational foundation, Governance Committee and a Secretariat, we are now equipped to strengthen our position as the preferred advisor on business development in the Arctic.
Please stand with the AEC and join us in making the Arctic a favorable place to do business.
Erica M. Dingman
The Arctic Council has earned a noteworthy reputation as an institution that exemplifies the ideals of cooperation and inclusion. As a consensus-based forum, the motions adopted amongst Arctic states with the political participation of indigenous peoples is a testament to the Council’s democratic practices. As an aspect of the present U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship strategy (2015-2017), these ideals were recently extended to promote the development of domestic and cross-border public-private partnerships. Outlined in the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for the Arctic Region (White House, 2014), the purpose is to leverage private investment into the Arctic region to address the shortage of maritime infrastructure, telecommunications, and for development of renewable energy projects. The U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership (White House, 2016a) emphasized the later, calling for the ‘advancement of clean growth’. Shortly thereafter, U.S. and Nordic leaders announced in a Joint Statement (White House, 2016b) a shared commitment for ‘shifting to low carbon economies’ and acceleration of a ‘transition to a clean energy future’ acknowledging the impact of climate change specifically in the Arctic region. Leaders recognize that private sector partnerships are a fundamental requirement to achieve such lofty goals.
Building such public-private partnerships in the Arctic and with Arctic residents, however, will likely meet with a unique set of challenges. Those challenges will arise from a broad mix of issues. The diversity of participants alone – cross-sector, multicultural, different sets of expertise, and at times crossing national boundaries – working toward mutually beneficial outcomes will assuredly encounter impediments along the way. Southerners, a term used on occasion or implied by Arctic residents to differentiate between those who live in the region and those who do not, likely live in different cultural worlds, and a diversity of languages and cognitive processes can implant hurdles in the pathway of a projects success.
Yet if implemented methodically the rewards of development far surpass pure economics. Financial goals, coupled with high environmental imperatives and substantive local stakeholder input that contributes to the livelihoods and wellbeing of those who live in the Arctic are far more likely to result in improved outcomes. Success in the Arctic now requires a depth of sub-national and indigenous participation not articulated with such vigor in decades past. Likewise, trust, relationship building, and willingness for active listening and learning are imperatives for reaching common goals.
The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) represents one notable cross border consortium comprising representatives from ten U.S. and Canada state, provincial or territorial jurisdictions. Public sector representatives from the northern jurisdictions of Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories shape PNWERs Arctic Caucus (n/d, a) which provides a forum for information sharing and collaboration among northern peoples, inclusive of the private sector, to “communicate community interests and to influence policy.” PNWERs objectives do not preclude the extraction of natural resources, but the organizations Energy & Environment Working Group aims to develop net-zero energy building demonstration projects, which includes the Inuvik Northern Sustainable House completed in 2014. During the early planning stages community elders representing both the Gwich’in and the Inuvialuit, and community stakeholders from both the public and private sector were included in the design process to contribute local perspectives. Offered the option of a two-storey, one-and-a-half, or one storey duplex, for example, the latter option best met the cultural and lifestyle needs of community members, and the duplex design contributed to the objective of designing highly energy-efficient housing (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, n/d).
In addition to this example of sustainable housing, Arctic economies are in need of investment: infrastructure is lacking and employment opportunities in short supply. With few deepwater ports along the Arctic coastlines of Canada and U.S. the current desire for additional facilities in both countries aims to accommodate not only commercial shipping but also auxiliary activities adding to the economic growth of surrounding communities. Vastly improved telecommunications systems would create connectivity, a necessity for economic growth in today’s society (Pacific Northwest Economic Region, n/d, b). Increased economic activity based on non-extractive production would support environmental protections, and long-term sustainable employment so needed to help alleviate the unacceptable level of social ills that plague so many Arctic communities today. For example, the rate of suicide among Canadian Inuit, particularly the youth, is eleven times that of other Canadians resulting from a number of factors including poverty and limited opportunities for employment (Inuit Tuttarvingat, n/d). If Arctic residents are to build a healthy sustainable future, from both the economic and environmental perspective, investment into infrastructure is vital for a future aimed at depleting global dependency on extractive resource industry for economic growth.
How that future is determined is still a matter of speculation, although it is readily apparent that an increasing number of people are attempting to understand and shape what that future may be. In recognition of impending change, the Arctic Economic Council was founded during Canada’s most recent chairmanship of the Arctic Council and met for the first time in September 2014. And in January 2016 Guggenheim Partners, a U.S.-Based global investment firm, were the first to endorse the World Economic Forum’s Arctic Investment Protocol, which attempts to create a better framework for international investment based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
From a broader global perspective, indications suggest that a new approach toward development that incorporates economic growth with environmental protections may be on the horizon. Indeed, amongst a growing number of constituents from the investment and business communities it’s a long-term strategy that indicates a global transition, which may mark a major turning point in world history. Yet for such a transition to take place, a wide-ranging group of communities from local indigenous groups to investment firms and governments will need to engage in substantive dialogue that thrives not on the status quo but rather emerges from a foundation of non-traditional thinking. As Scott Minerd (2013), global chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, stated: “it is easy to define the [Arctic’s] future with the vocabulary of the past. But as we chart a course ahead, we must make sure that we learn from the past, rather than mindlessly repeating it.” As with any meaningful transition, however, it will take time to see the fruits of change, if in fact the trend toward sustainable development remains on track.
David (Duke) Snider
Perhaps one of the most newsworthy Arctic shipping related events in 2016 is the Northwest Passage voyage of Crystal Cruise’s MV Crystal Serenity. In the lead up to this momentous voyage, declarations of doom and gloom, warnings of imminent disaster and expectations of a turn for the worse in Arctic shipping seemed to gain the most attention in online blogs and chat rooms and eventually more traditional press outlets. Little was said in support of the voyage…a voyage that has been planned well in advance and executed flawlessly. The Internet misinformation game had taken hold and as each misrepresentation, misquote and error of fact was requoted and rebroadcast on various websites; many who were otherwise unknowing of the reality of the situation came to see the voyage as a threat to the environment, a threat to the cultures of the people of the north, and seemingly just a bad thing all around.
In fact, the voyage was none of those things.
It was not poorly planned, it was not an assault on the environment, it was not a risky venture in dangerous ice-covered seas and it was not an unwanted intrusion on the communities along the route.
Crystal Cruises has set a very high standard for Arctic shipping risk assessment, planning and execution of what many had considered dangerous and risky voyages. The old images of the Arctic as an environment rife with danger is no longer valid. True, tremendous challenges still face those who venture into the Arctic, but the waters of the Arctic have become less onerous and now far from deadly, unless those who venture there do so without adequate preparation.
Not only has much changed in the Arctic in recent years, but much has also changed in how we conduct the business of ships and cargo around the world’s oceans. Safety is paramount; protection of the environment, cargo, ship and personnel, whether crew or passenger, is the standard.
Planning for Crystal Serenity’s voyage began several years before the voyage. From the very first, senior Crystal Cruises operational management consulted knowledgeable Arctic expedition operators and shipping experts on the concept to determine whether or not it was even feasible with the ship that was intended to complete the voyage. The ship selected was the light ice class Crystal Serenity, larger than any previous cruise ship to transit the Northwest Passage. It was determined that a voyage along what is known as the “southern” route, via Amundsen Gulf, Coronation Gulf, Queen Maud Gulf and Peel Sound to Lancaster Sound was possible. Contrary to some comment on the internet, the entire route is well surveyed to modern standards, regularly travelled, and safe for ships the size of Crystal Serenity. In fact, the route is more open, and less navigationally challenging than the Inside Passages of British Columbia and Alaska that see many larger cruise ships ply those waters every summer.
Global climate change has not only enabled this particular voyage, it has contributed to the increased safety of any ships operating in the Arctic. The window of least summer in ice has been slowly increasing in length. Regions previously ice-choked are now more commonly open. The window for Crystal Serenity’s voyage was carefully selected for the period of summer when sea ice would be at its least and the route virtually ice free.
To cover all eventualities, in addition to the experienced bridge team, two highly experienced Ice Navigators were onboard the ship throughout the voyage. Crystal added another level of safety as it engaged the very capable icebreaker RSS Ernest Shackleton to accompany Crystal Serenity. The Shackleton acted as ice as a support ship and ice escort, if required. In many ways, this is a step up from the concept of the “buddy system” routinely used by cruise ships operating in Antarctic waters, ensuring support is always close at hand when two cruise ships operate together.
The Shackleton carried containers brimming with additional survival equipment and rations, helicopters for routine and emergency response, as well as oil pollution response equipment and expedition grade rigid hull inflatable boats. Like the Crystal Serenity, Shackleton also embarked two Ice Navigators. As part of the risk management planning process, the bridge teams of both ships and the specialist Ice Navigators all met well prior to the voyage to run through full mission bridge simulations of the voyage at the marine simulation training centre in St. John’s, Canada. This allowed the teams to iron out any possible wrinkles in the already well-developed passage plan and ensured the teams worked well together. Mass evacuation and search and rescue response exercises were also conducted with representative of United States Coast Guard, Canadian Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Air Force, Crystal Cruises and many other American and Canadian agencies in the spring prior to the voyage.
Throughout the two year planning process, Crystal Cruises worked closely with American, Canadian and Danish (Greenlandic) authorities, agencies and civilian organizations to ensure the voyage was feasible, within all regulations and guidelines and would result in as positive an impact on the environment and communities as possible. Local outreach to each community on the route was paramount. CBC reported during the voyage how artisans and communities along the way encouraged the ship to stop, seeing controlled visits by passengers as a boon to their community. Unlike predictions of unwanted inundations of small Arctic communities by hundreds of passengers at a time, the visit plans were worked out with each community in advance and ensured that numbers ashore were at all time less than 150 and were well controlled.
This voyage will pass in history as the first large cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage. But it should not be covered in negative hype. The Northwest Passage was impassable and dangerous to sailing ships in the 1800s, not to modern, well-equipped and well-crewed vessels today. Challenges certainly still do exist, but diligent planning can eliminate or mitigate any of the risks. Throughout the planning and execution, this voyage was safe. Others that follow, if they take the same care as Crystal Cruises has done, will be as successful.
The Arctic remains a challenge to shipping, due to its remote and ill served geography, its environmental sensitivity and its challenging ice conditions. With in-depth planning, preparation and execution, Arctic voyages can be safely completed. MV Crystal Serenity has proven that.
From Inspiration to Action, From Action to Institution: Some Early Interventions of Arctic Collaboration in Sustainable Development
The need to enhance environmental impact assessment in the Arctic is today more topical than ever before due to manifold plans, strategies and activities for exploitation that have intensively been developed. Rapidly evolving technologies and the warming of the climate raise new opportunities to use Arctic natural resources, maritime and land areas. The Arctic Council’s role to facilitate circumpolar collaboration for ensuring that the ongoing and future development in the Arctic will take place in a sustainable manner is key. Here, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process that is targeted to the Arctic context plays an important role.
This is not, however, the first time that the need for collaboration on environmental impact assessment has been on the Arctic agenda. Let’s look back some twenty-five years ago. We lived in a time when the Soviet Union was in its last years and Mikhail Gorbachev was preparing for his presidency of the Union. In his speech in Murmansk (September 1987) Gorbachev raised the issue that environmental issues are something that all Arctic countries share and that putting efforts together would be beneficial to all. This was a smart step to open difficult political discussions in the circumpolar north with a neutral theme that everyone shared and required collaborative actions to solve.
But at that time, the Soviet Union also had big internal issues to manage before serious action could be taken on environmental issues. Conversely, Finland took the idea forward, and in 1989 the eight Arctic countries joined efforts to protect the Arctic environment. The planning was finalized in 1991, when the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was signed by Ministers of all the Arctic countries.
The AEPS was structured around five programs: Sustainable Development and Utilization (SDU), Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the Conservation of Arctic Fauna and Flora (CAFF), Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPPR), and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME). The AMAP evolved to an extensive and coherent program while others became umbrellas under which several activities took place. SDU was of this kind and here the development of the guidelines for an Arctic EIA took place.
The initiative was launched by Finland’s Minister of the Environment Sirpa Pietikäinen in 1994 and after some intensive negotiations and a workshop later that year, the idea was accepted and the work started in 1995. This was followed by an intensive process which included identification of issues specific for carrying out an EIA in the Arctic, desk studies of EIA guidelines and other protocols in the various Arctic countries and beyond, as well as face to face negotiations and drafting in the form of workshops with EIA experts from all parties of the AEPS. The ongoing work was regularly reported to the political process of the AEPS for approval to ensure its continuation. After acceptance of the “Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the Arctic” at the Senior Arctic Officials’ level, they were finally presented to the Arctic Environment Ministers in 1997. In their declaration in Alta, Norway, the Ministers noted their appreciation in receiving the guidelines and agreed that they should be applied. At this moment, the Arctic Council had been materialized in 1996 (i.e. Ottawa Declaration) and had taken the AEPS to be part of its work – including the guidelines of Arctic EIA.
The Arctic cooperation in the form of the AEPS has been raised as one of the success stories of international environmental collaboration. Its success refers to certain key requirements. Firstly, there was a clear need to build trust between the circumpolar states in a cold war and post-cold war context. Environmental issues are common to all Arctic states and politically neutral (i.e. their character did not stop at national borders). Thus the environmental problem became a common issue for all parties involved in circumpolar affairs.
This was linked to the second element. With the United Nations, countries and regions were globally preparing for the Rio Process, including the Biodiversity Strategy. The process of AEPS was most likely influenced by the Rio process, not the least due to the fact that not only the countries, but in many cases also the experts and civil servants were similar in both processes. Both Rio and AEPS brought indigenous peoples’ groups to the process. In the case of AEPS, it brought them to the table with the Ministers.
Thirdly, the momentum was influenced by a shared intuition of the importance and success of the AEPS in internal assemblies of high officials and Ministers when the AEPS was being discussed and planned. At this point, there was already enough knowledge to convince the Ministers of the upcoming challenges which led to a flow of understanding the need to act. Environmentally disastrous accidents, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, boosted the discussions of the need to combat jointly environmental challenges in the Arctic.
Fourthly and finally, the intentional nature of the AEPS process, and as a so-called soft-law mechanism, has been seen as one of the elements behind its success. Legally binding agreements have been seen as burdensome processes to develop and implement. In addition, violations of such agreements are dealt with on a legal level, while in non-voluntary agreements offenses are dealt with at the political level, seen as a signal of the county’s weak commitment to the issue in question.
Twenty years have now passed since the Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the Arctic were introduced. At the beginning, the use of the guidelines was boosted in several ways. It was made a living document with a web based platform, the ARIA (Arctic Environmental Impact Assessment) which collected Arctic EIAs from the entire circumpolar region, to serve as examples in other parts of the Arctic. It was also tested in area-based training sessions such as those in northwestern Russia. And it was a topic touched upon by the UArctic. Progressively, the guidelines got diluted, and the small booklet was shelved, and its content lost in the web.
Today, there is a need to place the Arctic EIA once again on the agenda. The regulatory frameworks, the practices, the ways to communicate, the institutions, and most importantly, the activities that need to be assessed, are taking new forms. The Arctic EIA therefore has regained its relevance for the Arctic states. The political agenda in the world is again in a shifting situation where Russia is playing a specific role.
Maybe it is time to rethink the words of Gorbachev in 1987 and see, if the circumpolar environmental agenda has once again something to contribute to the otherwise difficult political negotiations between the circumpolar nations.
This year, the Arctic Council celebrates its twentieth anniversary. As its profile as the premier high-level forum for international Arctic cooperation has grown, so too has interest in its affairs. Amongst educators, this interest has stimulated a small but increasing number of Model Arctic Councils (MACs). MACs are experiential learning simulations at which students or pupils, playing the roles of delegates to a cycle of Arctic Council meetings, discuss salient issues facing the region and try to build consensus around solutions.
As a secondary-school educator at Norwich School in the UK, as well as a former policy official with the Government of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic, I take a double interest in this trend. But given the specialised nature of Arctic study, nearly all MACs advertised to date have been pitched to university students rather than to secondary-school pupils. Most notably, the University of the Arctic has developed a biennial MAC to be held at a member university located in the country chairing the Arctic Council, the first of which took place in May 2016 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
However, similar experiential learning simulations have been pitched to secondary-school pupils for decades. Model United Nations (MUN) is the best known, but Model International Court of Justice, European Youth Parliament and others are regular events. My own experience introducing MUN at Norwich School convinced me that MACs can raise awareness and understanding of the Arctic at secondary school just as much as at university. Inspired to share my enthusiasm for the Arctic with pupils, I developed and launched the inaugural Norwich Model Arctic Council (NORMAC) in July 2016 at Norwich School.
NORMAC may be the only secondary-school MAC held in the world today. Indeed, perhaps only one other MAC has ever been held at this level—in October 2010 in Whitehorse, Yukon, convened by the United Nations Association Canada. Pupils participating in NORMAC 2016 declared not only that they enjoyed the role-playing exercise in itself, but also that they valued highly what they learned about the Arctic and its peoples through researching their roles. Encouraged by their uniformly positive feedback, I intend to run NORMAC as an annual event.
Full details about NORMAC are available online.1 I shall focus here instead on some strategic questions raised during conference preparations. NORMAC 2016 was a one-day pilot involving 18 senior pupils from Norwich School, but NORMAC 2017 will be a two-and-a-half day conference open to pupils from other secondary schools in the UK and beyond. Many of these pupils may have participated in MUN, but most probably none in MAC, and few if any will have had previous exposure to the Arctic. Three questions stand out:
- What distinguishes NORMAC from the many MUN conferences or other such simulations that pupils could choose to attend instead?
- What balance should NORMAC strike between insisting on strict realism on the one hand, and making space for a creative learning experience on the other?
- How can pupils’ newfound interest in the Arctic be sustained beyond preparing for and participating in NORMAC itself?
The answer to the first question might seem obvious. Unlike MUN, which is geographically and thematically diffuse, MAC focuses pupils on the Arctic, a unique and compelling part of the world. But the ‘lure of the far North’ can be over-emphasised. The risk here is of running a MAC essentially as a MUN, only situated in the ‘mythical Arctic’—and of missing what makes both the Arctic and the Arctic Council truly distinct.
To mitigate this risk, NORMAC makes much of two special features of the Arctic Council—the category of indigenous Permanent Participant (PP), and the rule of consensus. At MUN, pupils play the roles exclusively of delegates from Member States. At NORMAC, some pupils play the roles of delegates from indigenous PPs—and all pupils are exposed to the Arctic as a homeland, as well as to the critical social and political concepts of indigeneity and indigenous rights. Many pupils today have a strong sense of social justice, and in my experience they are excited by the prospect of learning about indigenous peoples and politics.
Similarly, whereas at MUN pupils require bare majority support for their proposals, at NORMAC pupils must build real consensus in order to influence proceedings. At secondary-school age, this poses a considerable challenge, but it also develops valuable skills. In keeping with Arctic Council rules, consensus technically need only extend to the Arctic States. But even this rule encourages pupils to consider carefully the relationships between Arctic States and their indigenous peoples, and to aim for the Arctic Council ideal of full PP involvement.
Indeed, it would be unrealistic for pupils not to do so—but NORMAC is a learning experience, not a diplomatic scenario analysis. At NORMAC, pupils have the creative licence to propose, discuss and pass resolutions that would not meet the high standard expected at the Arctic Council. NORMAC procedure, a mix of formal parliamentary procedure and typical MUN rules, also deviates from the Arctic Council’s more collegial practice. Nevertheless, it offers pupils the structure they need to discuss complex issues maturely in a large group, and to hope to achieve consensus in a short time.
That said, realism is still an explicit aim of NORMAC. Pupils grapple with up-to-the-minute issues either actually or potentially on the Arctic Council agenda, and they compete for commendations judged partly on how convincingly they played their roles. It is useful in this regard to have at least one Arctic specialist on hand to offer formal or informal ‘briefings’—a sort of expanded ‘Arctic Council Secretariat’ role played by myself and a colleague at NORMAC 2016. Good preparation is also critical, for which I maintain a small ‘research library’ of Arctic-related materials on Norwich School’s online Virtual Learning Environment.
In fact, good preparation creates the foundation for sustained interest in the Arctic. Like MUN, NORMAC requires many weeks of careful research, which pupils would ideally conduct together in the context of a continuing after-school ‘Arctic club’. Although this research may not overlap with the school curriculum except indirectly, pupils at schools in the UK offering an extended project at GCSE- or A-Level have the opportunity to transform their NORMAC preparation into a nationally recognised qualification. In this way, the most enthusiastic pupils can extend their engagement with the Arctic well beyond the conference.
Participating schools could also consider integrating NORMAC preparation with other co-curricular activities, such as visits to universities with Arctic research programmes, or youth campaigns for indigenous rights through clubs such as Amnesty. School trips to the Arctic are also possible—at certain UK schools, trips to Iceland or Norway are already popular. As for NORMAC itself, not only do I intend to run it annually, but also to expand it to other venues, as well as to explore the possibility of NORMAC-related pupil exchanges with Arctic-based secondary schools. But even if in future most pupils attending NORMAC do so only once, it will still have played its part in raising awareness and understanding of the Arctic amongst youth.
Rachel Kohut & Tahnee Prior
Changes to the Arctic’s physical environment—driven by climate change, technological innovation, demographic shifts, and the increased presence of extractive industries—are significantly impacting the region’s social environment. In conjunction, as extractive industries and their associated challenges permeate remote and rural communities in the circumpolar North, the role of women in community adaptation and in shaping change is weakened. Across the Arctic, pressure points arise at a faster rate than regional policies are drafted, and women living in this region often fall between the cracks of a stretched and weakened social safety net. It is this crux of vulnerability in which women get caught.
The Arctic Council recognized the importance of women in developing Arctic communities in its Inari Declaration (2002, p. 2) by encouraging “the integration of gender equality and women...perspectives in all efforts to enhance human living conditions in the Arctic.” A conference that same year, titled “Taking Wing: Gender Equality and Women in the Arctic” (2002), included a focus on economic policy, health, women’s rights, violence against women and the trafficking of women. Twelve years later, in her statement at the conference “Gender Equality in the Arctic: Current Realities, Future Challenges,” (2014, p. 80) former Finnish president Tarja Halonen further highlighted that climate change can hinder the productivity and use of land, which can adversely impact women’s land ownership, inheritance, control and management over natural resources. Conversations relating to “climate change, gender equality, ownership and control rights, and environmental protection” she argued, “must be closely interlinked” (Gender Equality in the Arctic, 2014, p. 80).
Yet integrating a gender dimension into domestic and foreign policy on climate change can be contentious. When Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna drew attention to the gendered dimension of climate change at a 2016 G7 meeting of environment ministers, she witnessed a backlash (Vanderklippe, 2016). The Minister’s comments flagged women’s social and economic vulnerability in both natural resource discussions and climate disasters, and yielded a “swift, and angry” response (Vanderklippe, 2016). In turn, McKenna’s comments noted that the support of women’s rights by the Canadian government must be part and parcel of its federal policies, highlighting that the (gendered) dimension is often lost in climate talks (Vanderklippe, 2016).
Pulling out of the Canadian context, a 2013 Arctic Centre report commissioned by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs sought to understand how international processes and standards, such as Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), interact with self-determination and the rights of indigenous women in the context of climate change. In line with Halonen and McKenna’s statement, the report found that indigenous women globally, including the Arctic, continue to face systemic violations at the intersection of gender, indigeneity, and climate change (Prior et al., 2013).
As an example of how these dimensions intersect, and the delayed government response, we need not look further than the recent Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act (2013) in Canada. Until 2013, matrimonial real property (MRP) for Canadian Aboriginal women living on-reserve fell into what Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada heralded as a “long-standing and unacceptable legislative gap” (2015), as neither the Indian Act, nor provincial or territorial law, provided redress.1 This new legislation is an example of how law can be used by Canadian Aboriginal women to uphold their property rights, which ripples into their ability to participate in natural resource development and climate change discussions.2
Yet, when looking at the intersection of gender, climate change and extractive industries, we should not only approach the geography of the Arctic as fixed. And few subjects so strikingly pull into light this transcendence of borders as does the flux of women moving across Arctic borders for the purpose of sex, particularly to remote resource extraction sites. It may not always grab the attention of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime or other leading agencies and authorities, but it should. Research by Victoria Sweet (2014, p. 1) highlights how an increasing interest in resource extraction, as a result of climate change, and its associated demographic shifts might heighten the risk of trafficking in the region.3To mitigate such risks, she argues that, communities must “remember the historical stories, officials need to understand the risk factors that come with extractive developments in rural areas, and preparations must be made for the next wave of outsiders entering the region” to protect indigenous and non-indigenous women (Sweet, 2014, p. 10).
This begs the question probed in many other spheres: could these issues be resolved if women were more involved in Arctic policy-shaping and decision-making? Studies focusing on Canada show that women only comprise 16 per cent of northern management boards in its three northern territories (Natcher, 2013, p. 219). With such a small percentage, women are often subjected to marginalization, and rendered invisible in decision-making processes (Natcher, 2013, p. 218; Westerman et al., 2005). In Alaska, some view the impact of low oil prices on its economy as an opportunity to tackle the gender wage gap, which is significantly higher relative to the rest of the US (Alaska Economic Trends, 2016, p. 3). Employment is declining in traditionally male-dominated fields, like the extractive industries, while labour market data shows a growth in female-dominated industries, including healthcare and tourism (Alaska Economic Trends, 2016, p. 3). As recommended by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, a focus on expanding training opportunities and increasing wages for these industries will make the state a better place for women to work and live, all while injecting more money into the local economy.4
But is it possible to tie all of this together? Nina Larsson and her work is a great example of the interplay between local narratives, domestic law-making and international standards, and how although domestic efforts have started to scratch the surface of such issues and intersections, much is left to be done on a regional scale to foster transnational responses. In November 2014, she spearheaded the first ever Indigenous Circumpolar Women’s gathering in Yellowknife, where over 80 Indigenous women shared their knowledge and approaches to programs and/or ongoing projects in different corners of the Arctic. In a report on the subject titled “Mind the Gender Gap”, Larsson (2015) further examined how Arctic states approach the inclusion of indigenous women in decision-making roles. Larsson (2015, p. 35) concluded that “Scandinavia’s approach to gender equality translate[s] into the appreciation of different management styles and a gender diverse workforce,” something the Northwest Territories could learn from.
Even though some Arctic states are often heralded as utopia for gender equality, all Arctic states, and policy arenas like the Arctic Council, must ensure that gender is included across Arctic policy and law (Conway, 2016). But where to begin with already marginalized issues in a remote area? How can we connect the Nina Larsson’s, who strive to connect local narratives with transnational research and policy to ignite domestic change?
Join us in helping connect these narratives, won’t you, so we can ensure that the next 20 years of Arctic cooperation and policy-making take into better account half of the Arctic’s population?
Paradoxically, the emergence of Arctic cooperation was assisted, to a large extent, by the fact that the region was a global periphery – albeit a theatre for strategic and geopolitical games between the big powers. The collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to the audacious 1987 speech by Mihail Gorbatshov in Murmansk, whereby he was envisaging a peaceful and environmentally sound Arctic.
Towards the Ottawa Declaration
Finland picked up Gorbatshov’s ideas, to see what could be followed up. Environmental concerns appeared to be the area where common understanding seemed to be wide among Arctic actors. Finland started consultations on operational level with Arctic states, getting Canada as an active partner. The first circumpolar meeting was held in Rovaniemi in 1989, followed by the first intergovernmental Arctic meeting of ministers of the environment of all Arctic states in 1991, also in Rovaniemi, where the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was adopted. This then led the way to the Ottawa Declaration and the establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996.
Although the Arctic Council is lead by the Foreign Ministers, the mandate was from the outset heavily environmental. The Council has six permanent working groups – some founded already before 1996, some after that. Four working groups are directly dealing with environmental issues, and looked after by environmental authorities and experts in the eight Arctic states.
The Ottawa Declaration was not framed to restrict the Council’s activities but in one regard: military security. This footnote in the Declaration reflected the views of the founding fathers of the day – which still stand today.
A unique feature of Arctic cooperation is the role of indigenous peoples. At the beginning they were invited to the meetings as Observers, but that was not acceptable particularly to North American indigenous peoples. They demanded a position on the level of governments, which then was confirmed in the Ottawa Declaration. Permanent Participants, consisting of six indigenous groups, sit in Council meetings together with governmental representatives; only without the right to vote (but then again, has the Council ever voted?)
The First 20 Years
During its first decade, the Council was consolidating its structures and procedures. Then it started to face a new phenomena: the rapidly growing interest by non-Arctic actors. The exceptional development in 2007 with a record area of melting sea ice in the Arctic led to a new focus on both prospects of off-shore hydrocarbon exploitation and opening sea routes in the Arctic Ocean. Since the Arctic Council had become the pre-eminent Arctic discussion forum, this global interest was channeled through increasing applications to observer status in the Council. The applications came from governments as well as scientific and advocacy organizations, including UN specialized agencies.
During the second decade, the biggest political – and also logistical – challenge for the Arctic Council has been the question of observers. While all member states agreed on the need to strengthen the Council, there was no agreement on the observers. For some observers were part of the solution – an essential element in strengthening the Council – while others considered them as part of the problem and wanted to build up the Council first from inside and then deal with observers from a position of power. Simultaneously, the Permanent Participants were cautious on increasing numbers of observers, fearing that to diminish their voice in the Council. There were references to the earlier understanding that the number of observers should not exceed the number of member states and Permanent Participants.
Hence three consecutive Council Chairmanship periods 2007-2013 were working on this issue, first establishing criteria and a detailed manual for observers and then considering applications on the basis of criteria. During the second half of the Swedish Chairmanship period 2012-13 it is not an exaggeration to say that the Council was at a crossroads: either to make the right decision on the observers or being slowly marginalized. The warning signs were already there; the emerging open and inclusive fora such as the Arctic Circle in Reykjavik or the Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø. So in case the Council wanted to remain a closed club, the alternative fora were ready to step in.
However, the Kiruna ministerial meeting in May 2013 was able to find a solution in the right direction, accepting most of the state applications. Decision on organizations was deferred in block. The sticking point was the European Union (EU).
Canada, supported by Russia, was opposing the EU application on the basis of the seal product ban imposed by the EU. Finally, thanks to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s mediating skills, a compromise solution was found, whereby the EU application was considered affirmatively, but final decision was deferred until the seal issue was settled.
During the second Canadian Chairmanship 2013-15, the Ukrainian crisis was overshadowing the Council deliberations to the extent that although the seal problem with Canada was solved, a consensus on the EU application was not found at the ministerial meeting in 2015.
Another challenge to the Council came from emerging cooperation between the Arctic five coastal states. Two ministerial meetings by the Arctic Five (Greenland 2008 and Québec 2010) were opposed by other Council states Finland, Iceland and Sweden, as well as Permanent Participants. Since then no ministerial meetings by the Arctic Five have been held, however working level meetings have been convened on fisheries, aiming at arrangements regulating fishing in the Arctic Ocean.
One of major achievements of the Canadian Chairmanship was the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) in September 2014. The AEC is the child of the Council, but at the same time an independent entity. It still remains to a large extent a work in progress, both internally as well as in its relation to the Council. However, it is significant that the Council, with the establishment of the AEC, acknowledged the importance of taking into account the economic and business considerations in the region. It was a high time, since more and more global companies and financing institutions (not to talk about the World Economic Forum or WEF) are looking at Arctic opportunities.
During its existence, the Council has been changing. The Council and its working groups, task forces and expert groups have produced major assessments on the Arctic. The range of activities has carefully but steadily expanded from environmental agenda to science and research, to maritime issues, and also to legally binding agreements. The two agreements in force on search and rescue, as well as on maritime oil pollution preparedness and response, and those in the pipeline (such as on Arctic scientific cooperation) are not precisely Arctic Council agreements, but agreements between Council member states. However, by them, the growing normative role of the Council is a fact.
Furthermore, steps to strengthen the Council internally have been taken. The Council has now a permanent secretariat and a small administrative budget. Also some operational funds for limited activities have been initiated.
The Way Ahead
A few years ago the Arctic Council was considered to be “the best kept secret success story in the Arctic.” With its communication strategy and action plan the awareness of the Council has been increasing. But with the rapid and largely unpredictable change in the Arctic the question remains: can the Council keep up with the change? How to respond to growing expectations?
There are a number of challenges the Arctic Council is facing:
The Council’s mandate is limited. Environmental, social and scientific issues are covered, but many (such as security, economy and fisheries) are outside. Major changes in this regard are not possible without touching the Council structures and, ultimately, the Ottawa Declaration. And here the Pandora’s Box effect comes to the play. Everyone understands that the Council cannot stay complacent, but the progress is slow by necessity.
The decision-making process is complex. Many scientists and NGO’s criticize the Council of weak response to emerging Arctic issues. If voting is not customary in the Council proceedings, consensus requirement in all decision-making effectively replaces it. It suffices to have one, at any time, to break the consensus. This principle is at the core of the Arctic Council cooperation, so any changes here do not seem to be in the cards.
An exclusive or inclusive forum. There is no common view among Council members on who is the Arctic stakeholder. This is a question about Observers, but it is also increasingly a question concerning participation. The Arctic agreements are so far open to only Council member states. But there are good arguments to include observers and other Arctic stakeholders in joining the agreements. At the same time, a lot can be done to enhance the interaction between member states, indigenous peoples and Observers within the Council proceedings.
The Arctic in a global context. The Arctic is indisputably a regional issue with a global reach. Also in this respect the Council cannot act in a vacuum, but it has to take into account and collaborate with other international and global institutions and actors. Contacts with IMO – and its Polar Code – are steps into the right direction.
From soft-law discussion forum to a treaty-based organization? There are those who prefer the Council to stay a decision-shaper rather than a decision-maker, and those to whom a new institution is an impediment. Accordingly, there is no consensus on making the Arctic Council an international organization. But at the same time, the Council by its very activities is moving to that direction. Whether – or when – the Council would become a legal entity, is an open question; but a question which warrants careful consideration.
To introduce and carry out changes in the Arctic Council requires long and persistent work. The U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship (2015-2017) has realized just that, and consequently sought continuity with many issues from the next Chairmanship.
Finland takes the lead in the Council in May 2017 as Chair for the second time. The Finnish record augurs well for the Chairmanship.
One year ago, for the Arctic Yearbook 2015, I wrote a commentary entitled “The Arctic Council Permanent Participants: Capacity & Support – Past, Present, & Future.” In that piece I looked at the history of the Permanent Participants (PPs) and the discussion that has taken place since the founding of the Arctic Council (AC) in the Ottawa Declaration on how best to support the work of the PPs. That every Ministerial Declaration since Ottawa has mentioned PP capacity and support is testimony to the value that the PPs bring to the work of the AC and to the problem of how best to support these small organizations that are faced with an ever increasing workload as the AC grows in responsibility and importance.
One year ago I also wrote about a process that the PPs have initiated to address how to increase capacity and contribute to more of the work of the AC. This process, to establish a PP funding mechanism, has achieved considerable progress in both vision and technical detail, and the remainder of this piece will summarize what has transpired in the last year.
To date efforts to establish the fund have included a variety of activities. There has been the development of a body of literature both from the PPs themselves and from independent bodies, to better understand the needs of the PPs and the value they bring to the AC. This work has been ongoing throughout the history of the AC, and some of it was documented in my earlier commentary. More recently a business plan which identified mechanisms and a path forward for both the short and long term has been developed, and funding from the Arctic Funders Collaborative and other non-governmental funding sources has been secured to develop and implement a marketing, fundraising, and fund governance development process. The development of the business plan has led to the establishment of the following elements for the fund:
- Sweden has been identified as the best domicile for the funding mechanism because of favorable trade and tax arrangements which will allow contributions to be received from funders and distributed to the PPs;
- The fund will be established as an endowment with a fundraising goal of 30,000,000 USD to insure that the PPs will receive annual distributions that are meaningful, consistent, and sustainable; and
- Bylaws, rules of procedure, and policies that will provide a necessary buffer between the funding and the AC, while at the same time ensuring transparency, accountability, and the use of established best practices for fund management.
The establishment of an endowment will allow funds to be distributed so that the principle remains untouched and endowment earnings can be distributed equally to the six PPs, less inflation proofing and administration. Administration of the Fund will follow best practice and insure legal acceptance, management, and distribution of funds while making sure that local and international laws are recognized and obeyed.
The goals and objectives of the PPs for their participation in the AC are varied, and include things like protecting the interests of their communities, facilitating the robust inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in the work of the AC, actively partnering in projects so that communities are involved in work that is intended to serve them, promoting cross-border cooperation among Indigenous Peoples, and supporting local initiatives so that they can receive attention within the AC.
Accomplishing these goals means traveling to meetings and being physically present in the AC, and also doing outreach about AC work to their constituencies, but more and more it also requires access to specialized expertise in a variety of areas as well as administrative and operational support. In order to make PP contributions reflect the needs of the communities, the PPs must be able to attract local experts and coordinate between Indigenous organizations within their regions, and also with the other PPs. In addition, the long term viability of PP organizations requires that they be able to attract the next generation of Indigenous leaders. In working toward these objectives, the PPs bring a very high level of value to the AC, improving the outputs and deliverables, and making the AC unique among intergovernmental fora. Now more than ever, with ever increasing attention turning towards the Arctic and the work of the AC growing, the PPs need a sustainable, predictable, and consistent funding mechanism to support their work.
In the Saami language Álgu means “beginning”, and so with the recently named Álgu Fund the Permanent Participants hope to foster a new beginning in which they can more fully benefit from and contribute to the work of the Arctic Council.
With the planned inauguration of the fund in the fall of 2016, what better opportunity than the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council to take a giant step towards overcoming the hurdle of support and capacity for the Permanent Participants so that the next twenty years are marked by an even more robust collaboration with the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic.
After more than three years of work, on July 8, 2016 in Ottawa, a Task Force under the Arctic Council reached ad referendum agreement on a new legally-binding agreement among the eight Arctic States that will help reduce obstacles to scientific cooperation in the Arctic. This is an important milestone for the Council, in part because fostering science is one of the most important practical objectives of the Council and this agreement is a major step forward for the Arctic States in that respect. But it is also quite significant because it is the third legally-binding agreement achieved under Arctic Council auspices. The signing of the agreement by each of the foreign ministers of the Arctic States will be one of the key events associated with the next Arctic Council Ministerial meeting.
The Arctic Council is a high level forum established among Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States in 1996 to focus on environmental protection and sustainable development. As the importance of the Arctic in international policy and diplomacy has grown over the past twenty years, the Council has taken on new challenges. The prior legally-binding instruments negotiated under the Council were the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (2011) and the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (2009). The latest one, related to science cooperation, will take the Council another step in the direction of being more than a body that facilitates discussion and towards involvement in establishment of legal norms and activities of a regulatory character.
The ad referendum Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation was reached based on discussions and negotiations at nine meetings of the Task Force on Scientific Cooperation (SCTF) involving the participation of the eight Arctic States and the indigenous groups known in the Council as Permanent Participants, as well as a number of States and organizations that are permanent observers to the Council.
The Arctic Council Ministers established the Task Force on Scientific Cooperation (SCTF) at the Kiruna Ministerial in 2013. They asked the Task Force to “work towards an arrangement on improved scientific research cooperation among the eight Arctic States.” The Ministers in 2015 in Iqaluit decided to extend the Task Force mandate, including to work towards a legally-binding agreement. The Task Force was co-chaired at the end by the United States and the Russian Federation, and earlier on Sweden was a co-chair as well. The first meeting was held in Stockholm, which was followed by meetings in Helsinki, Reykjavik, Tromsø, Oslo, Copenhagen, Reykjavik again, Arlington, Virginia, and finally Ottawa.
The aim of the agreement is to enhance cooperation in scientific activities in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency in the development of scientific knowledge about the Arctic. It will facilitate access by scientists of the eight States to Arctic areas that each State has identified for purposes of the agreement, including entry and exit of persons, equipment and materials; access to research infrastructure and facilities; and access to research areas. It covers terrestrial, coastal, atmospheric and marine areas, as well as Arctic Ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction. It calls specifically for facilitation of processing of marine scientific research applications under the Law of the Sea Convention, as well as scientific activities that require airborne scientific data collection and that are subject to implementing agreements pertaining to those activities.
The agreement calls for the Parties to promote education, career development and training opportunities for early career scientists to foster future generations of Arctic researchers. The agreement contains provisions regarding the use of traditional and local knowledge that were sought by indigenous groups that are Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council. The agreement supports enhancing and facilitating cooperation on Arctic science with non-Parties and assists the scientists of non-Parties (including Arctic Council Observer States) by providing benefits under the agreement when they work as partners with Arctic State scientists. The agreement also addresses intellectual property rights.
The agreement calls for designation of competent authorities within each Party to act as points of contact. The Depositary Government will be the Kingdom of Denmark.
At this time, the agreement is undergoing final domestic review within the eight Arctic States, with the goal of signature and entry into force at the U.S.-hosted Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in May, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996 allowed not only the 8 Arctic countries but also many countries situated southward, as well as international organizations, to combine efforts in the coordination of international and external economic relations in the Arctic region, which is of exceptional significance in shaping the global climate and has huge reserves of natural resources, primarily hydrocarbons.
Over the course of twenty years, the Arctic Council has provided a quite clear platform for discussing the issues related to the countries’ interests. New areas of testing cooperation, approaches and methods of joint work has appeared, and working groups on specific themes, interesting to all stakeholders, have been formed.
At the same time, the Arctic Council still doesn’t have a clear-cut answer to the possibility of engaging sub-regional partners to their full potential; all its activity has been aimed at the development and enhancement of inter-state cooperation. This article discusses the importance of involving sub-regional governments in global international cooperation in the Arctic.
Establishing the Arctic Council
The 1990s were marked by a rapid development of international cooperation across the globe, but it was the Arctic region where the burst of a movement to each other was witnessed the most. Within a short amount of time there appeared a whole range of international organizations with different priorities and aims, and it was obvious that the establishment of an inter-state agency, coordinating the activities of all countries interested in dealing with the issues of development and use of the Arctic resources, was on the horizon. Generally, that was what happened.
In 1996, the eight countries with territory in the Arctic Circle announced the establishment of the Arctic Council, being a forum for discussing all issues requiring cooperative decision making, in order to avoid a chaotic and spontaneous approach, primarily with regards to the use of the Arctic’s rich natural resources. The Agreement on Protection of the Arctic Environment in Rovaniemi (Finland) in 1991 laid the foundation for the Arctic countries’ unity.
From the very beginning the Arctic Council set up states’ meaningful joint work on solving global issues; at present, the working groups are implementing a significant number of projects; and the Arctic Economic Council has been established. All decisions made by the Arctic Council have direct relevance to the life of all people living beyond the Arctic Circle. Yet, the heads of the sub-national governments barely have access to the work of the Arctic Council, which results in a certain gap in the decision-making system, taking into account all trends in the global Arctic. Some regional leaders are joined within the framework of the Northern Forum (NF), that has an Observer status at the Arctic Council; they have an opportunity for indirect participation in the work of the inter-state agency in the Arctic, without a right to a direct involvement in the decision-making process, which is a major deficiency, taking into account that all of the Arctic Council’s projects are implemented in the territories governed by regional administrations.
We must give credit where it is due to the far-sightedness of some regional leaders who foresaw a significant thaw in relations between the USA and USSR, and prepared a foundation for a quick interaction of the regions in the new conditions. Almost straight after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, 11 regions of Russia, USA, Canada, Japan, China, Mongolia and Finland established the NF under the initiative of the Governor of Alaska (USA) Walter Hickel. The International Arctic Science Committee appeared a year earlier. Later on, other international organizations were appearing in sequence, the most significant of them being the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, the University of the Arctic, and the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.
The NF obtained an Observer status at the Arctic Council right from the very start and took active part in its events (Ministerial Meetings, Senior Arctic Officials Meetings (SAOs), working group meetings) and some projects. Interestingly, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council has not formalized its presence in the Arctic Council. Probably, the Council decided to focus on cooperation within North Europe, participating in the activity of the Arctic Council within national delegations.
Therefore, the question is raised: is active participation of regional governments and administrations in the work of the Arctic Council possible, and if so, what are the available forms and mechanisms for that, and which ones can be developed?
Regional Governments in Arctic Politics
Basically, the NF can ensure the presence of regional leaders at the meetings of the Senior Arctic Officials, but the current Observer participants quota doesn’t allow all members of the NF to be simultaneously involved in these events. At that, even when present at the meetings, regional leaders cannot give their point of view or make a proposal, as long as the Arctic Council’s bylaws do not provide for the Observers’ right to speak at the forum’s meetings. The same was true for the Working Groups’ meetings, but since 2014, under the proposal of the NF, brief comments from Observers have been allowed at the Sustainable Development Working Group meetings.
At the same time, in 2013, while holding its extended session in Yakutsk (Sakha Republic, Russia), the Working Group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) agreed to not only include in the agenda the presentations of the hosting region’s local experts, but also to arrange extra meetings with young specialists and speak on local television, which allowed the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) to be fully and actively involved in the meeting and make efficient proposals. I am confident that such an event was beneficial to all stakeholders. Should this practice continue, the involvement of regional potential in the activity of the Arctic Council’s working groups would become tangible.
Generally, the participation of regional experts in the Arctic Council’s project activity is not restricted. Provided they can speak English and have relevant qualifications, the experts can be included in different project groups through national delegations, Permanent Participants or international Observer organizations. This is quite a constructive means of cooperation with the Arctic Council, securing the involvement of the regions with a sound scientific and technical potential, but almost inaccessible for the Arctic regions where the number of such experts is limited.
Whereas the regions can participate at the expert level by some means, the participation of leaders and regional governments in the decision-making process in the global Arctic cooperation remains doubtful. Obviously, the participants of the NF can make certain joint decisions, taken into account at elaborating the plans and programs of the regions’ socio-economic development. The regions are actively involved in the development of the Arctic territories in the law-making environment of their countries, and their opinion can be taken into account at developing the countries’ positions when constructing the dialogue within the Arctic Council. At the same time, it would be much more useful and effective to ensure direct participation of regional leaders in the work of the Arctic Council.
Together with the indigenous peoples of the North, the Arctic Council qualifies settlers, hunters and reindeer herders, rural populations and citizens as the Arctic population. Thus, many Arctic governors sometimes wonder why Arctic indigenous organizations have a Permanent Participant status at the Arctic Council, whereas regional governments/administrations do not have those, although the leaders and governments/administrations are the ones who are more responsible for the development of the Arctic territories, and, therefore, it seems logic enough for their voice to be always present at the Arctic Council.
In my opinion, the best form of regional involvement in the decision-making processes within the Arctic Council is the involvement through an international organization joining most of the world’s Arctic regions.
The NF is the only interregional organization of the Arctic and the North aimed at such unification; the organization has survived through a period of decline and is now on rise, gradually increasing the number of its members. Four Russian regions joined the NF in 2015: Krasnoyarsk Krai, Primorsky Krai, Magadan Oblast and Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Two key regions – Alaska (USA) and Lapland (Finland) have returned to the NF in 2016. In the foreseeable future there is certain confidence in the inclusion of Scandinavian and a number of Russian regions. There is certain difficulty with Canadian territories’ making a decision on joining the NF, but the organization’s strengthening both in terms of its quantity and quality may tilt in favor of the NF. Although Canadian regions have begun to form their Northern regional council, without other regions of the Circumpolar Arctic it may not claim to voice their interests.
Thus, the NF may become a true partner of the Arctic Council, being a regional wing of the Arctic’s major inter-state agency. Most probably, for the NF, there is no point in seeking a Permanent Participant status at the Arctic Council. It would make the most sense to give it a partner status based on either an agreement between the Arctic Council and the NF or introduction of a new concept of “partner” in the Arctic Council’s structure, and giving this status to the NF on the basis of the Ministerial Meeting’s resolution. Certainly, this issue requires discussion and is given in this article as an idea.
In any case, considering the issue of enlarging the quota for the NF’s participants in the SAO and Ministerial Meetings will allow the regions to gradually enhance their input in the Arctic Council’s activity, bring its decisions to a wider range of the population, and effectively use all available resources. Organizing the meetings of the NF Governors within the Arctic Council events, where their recommendations will be presented to the inter-state forum, can become one of the compelling forms of cooperation.
The introduction of regional input to the Arctic Council or signing of an agreement between the interstate and interregional organizations will allow us to streamline the structure and hierarchy in Arctic cooperation and take into account the interests of all stakeholders.
The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment: Key Arctic Council Framework for Protecting Arctic Communities and the Marine Environment
Lawson W. Brigham
The Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) released in April 2009 is a key assessment and policy document whose recommendations were negotiated by the eight Arctic states. The 17 AMSA recommendations represent a framework for how the Arctic states will pursue protection strategies and marine safety issues in response to increasing Arctic marine use. It is important to note at the outset of this brief review that the entire AMSA effort can be viewed in three ways: as an historic baseline or snapshot of Arctic marine activity early in the 21st century; as a strategic guide for the Arctic states, the Permanent Participants, and a host of Arctic and non-Arctic actors and stakeholders; and, as a policy document of the Arctic Council since the report and recommendations were approved by consensus of the Arctic states.
As of November 2016 and the publishing of this Yearbook, AMSA remains highly relevant and the AMSA recommendations continue to be implemented by the Arctic states primarily through the work of the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group, and international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The genesis of AMSA came from the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), likely the most influential study in the history of the Arctic, and the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP), both released at the 2004 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Reykjavik. ACIA included ten key findings, one of which is related directly to the potential for increasing Arctic marine use: ‘reduced sea ice is very likely to increase marine transport and access to resources.’ The AMSP, developed by PAME and endorsed by the Council, included 29 strategic actions including calling for the conduct of a comprehensive assessment of Arctic shipping. Thus, there are significant linkages of AMSA with earlier work of the Arctic Council, a critical continuity and foundation to move forward a new, interdisciplinary study. Canada, Finland, and the United States stepped up to the challenge as ‘lead countries’ within PAME to coordinate the new assessment; all recognized from the outset that the 8 Arctic states (their technical maritime experts in PAME and other Council working groups), the Permanent Participants, the Council observers, and the global maritime industry would have to make many contributions for the assessment to be comprehensive and successful.
More than 200 marine experts contributed to AMSA and the AMSA team conducted 13 major workshops on such diverse topics as scenarios of the future, marine infrastructure, marine insurance, environmental impacts, indigenous use, and more. It was also important that the assessment keep within the mandates of the Arctic Council on environmental protection and sustainable development and focus its efforts on marine safety and environmental protection measures.
One of the initial challenges for the AMSA team was to build a circumpolar database of Arctic commercial marine use, something that the team believed had never before been attempted. Prior to conducting such a survey, the AMSA team and the PAME country representatives had to come to grips with what is meant by the term ‘Arctic shipping.’ Since AMSA was focused on a holistic approach to impacts, ‘Arctic shipping’ was defined broadly to include all commercial marine operations; some government vessel operations such as icebreaking, marine research and surveying would be included, but strictly naval operations would not be part of the survey. Included in the survey would be an array of ship and vessel types including: fishing vessels, tankers, bulk carriers, icebreakers, general cargo ships, survey/research vessels, offshore support ships, ferries, ferries, tug-barge combinations, container ships, and more.
The electronic survey instrument for AMSA was directed to the Senior Arctic Officials so that the data response would in essence be the official data of the Arctic states, by whatever means that data was gathered by each country. Each of the Arctic states would submit their shipping and marine operations data for their respective Arctic region that they define (not an Arctic definition designated by AMSA or the Council). The survey and GIS-based traffic maps developed by Canada revealed some 6000 vessels operating in the Arctic marine environment in a given year with 4 primary vessel activities: community resupply, fishing vessels, bulk carrier transport, and marine tourism. The traffic maps also showed the seasonal nature of Arctic marine traffic with a concentration of ships in a short navigation season in July, August and September. Any future data marine traffic data collection (an AMSA data update) should be conducted by the Arctic states together where each nation provides its official data (regardless as to how it is collected) to a team under PAME within the Arctic Council.
Central to any Arctic Council activity or study is the engagement of the Permanent Participants. In this regard AMSA held 14 town hall meetings in Arctic communities in Canada, Iceland, Norway and the United States. This was a critical outreach by the AMSA team to local citizens so that they could share their concerns about increasing marine traffic and their perspectives on the importance of Arctic marine waters to their way of life. Some residents recognized the potential economic benefits of increased marine activity while also expressing concern for oil spills and the disruption of traditional hunting. Social, cultural and environmental impacts were widely discussed as was the importance of early engagement with local communities where new marine projects were envisioned. Importantly, there was significant Permanent Participant engagement at all of the AMSA key workshops and the PAME meetings where AMSA was briefed during 2004-09. Human dimension findings are summarized in a chapter of the AMSA report and human security issues are addressed throughout the report and in the final recommendations. One key finding was the need for a circumpolar survey of Arctic indigenous marine use, particularly when ecosystems-based management and marine spatial planning tools are to be applied in Arctic marine areas.
One of the challenges facing the AMSA effort was how to deal with the complexity of the global shipping enterprise and its relationship with a new, more accessible Arctic Ocean. A scenarios-based approach was used to identify the key drivers and uncertainties of Arctic marine navigation out to 2050 and create a set of plausible futures. The AMSA scenarios workshop participants identified 120 driving forces or factors that can influence the levels of future Arctic marine activity. Select drivers included: global oil prices; world trade patterns; legal stability and overall governance; IMO agreements for Arctic ships; new natural resource discoveries; an Arctic marine disaster; Arctic transit fees; the seasonality of Arctic marine operations; climate change severity; role of the marine insurance industry; and. more. Two selected factors – resources and trade, and governance – became the anchors as axes of uncertainty for a scenarios matrix used to frame the development of plausible futures (narratives or stories of 1500-2000 words). The scenarios work highlighted that future Arctic navigation is closely linked to global commodities prices and Arctic natural resource development. The continued retreat of Arctic sea ice was assumed to provide greater marine access and potentially longer seasons of navigation; however global economics and links to Arctic natural resources are considered primary drivers.
The AMSA scenarios effort facilitated new and unconstrained thinking, and assisted in the education of the Arctic Council regarding Arctic marine operations and shipping issues. While the AMSA workshops identified the main drivers of future Arctic navigation, it also highlighted the linkages of the maritime Arctic to the global economic system.
Three critical topics required in depth AMSA review: the legal and governance framework; environmental concerns and impacts; and the lack of Arctic marine infrastructure. Not surprisingly, since the region is one of earth’s oceans, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) is the legal framework for the regulation of marine operations and shipping according to maritime zones of jurisdiction. An international team of maritime legal scholars led by Canada’s Dalhousie University detailed the rights of the Arctic Ocean coastal states as well as the national standards for regulating ship-source pollution in the Arctic. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was identified as the appropriate and competent UN body to address issues related to Arctic maritime security, safety and environmental protection. Noted in AMSA was the IMO’s (then current) voluntary guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters; there were no specific mandatory rules for Arctic ships that were different than safety and marine environmental protection conventions for ships sailing the global oceans.
An AMSA science team tackled the broad issues related to environmental impacts of current and future Arctic marine activity. The team found that the most significant threat to the Arctic marine environment is the release of oil from accidental or illegal discharge. Other key and select impacts addressed included: alien species introduction from ballast water, cargo and hull fouling; ship strikes and potential noise impacts on marine mammals; regional impacts of black carbon; impacts on natural chokepoints and migration corridors; impacts of Arctic ship emissions; and, the impacts of plausible lengthening of the Arctic marine navigation season. In a final chapter in the AMSA report, the lack of Arctic marine infrastructure in most of the Arctic (except for the coasts of Iceland, northern Norway and northwest Russia) was highlighted. The lack of a safety net that marine infrastructure provides is a significant and grave concern for the Arctic states. Such a huge deficit in the mostly remote and harsh Arctic environment makes risk analyses of Arctic marine operations very difficult to evaluate. Huge investments are required in elements of infrastructure such as hydrography and charting, environmental observing, communications, ports, and more to ensure safe navigation. AMSA suggested that new public-private partnerships will be necessary to reduce this infrastructure deficit so that safety and emergency response can be greatly enhanced. The Arctic marine infrastructure challenge remains today as a vexing and strategic needs issue seven years after the release of the AMSA report.
The integration and final phase of AMSA took place at an Integration Workshop in Cornwall, Canada in October 2008. It proved to be one of AMSA’s most important and complex meetings. AMSA’s 17 recommendations were shaped at this venue and three inter-related themes emerged for communicating these outcomes: Enhancing Marine Safety; Protecting Arctic People and the Environment; and, Building the Arctic Marine Infrastructure. It was at this AMSA workshop that the infrastructure deficit gained status as one of the greatest concerns and most significant outcomes of AMSA. Once the final draft report and recommendations were passed to PAME, a lengthy negotiation process began from late October 2008 to March 2009. The lasting strength of AMSA is that consensus was reached among the Arctic states regarding the AMSA recommendations and the final report. The Arctic Ministers in Tromsø in April 2009 approved AMSA and PAME was requested there to begin a process of implementation of the AMSA recommendations with status reports due back to the Ministers during future Arctic Council Ministerial meetings. AMSA Implementation Status Reports have been approved during the last three Ministerial meetings in Nuuk (April 2011), Kiruna (May 2013), and Iqaluit (April 2015), and a fourth report is due at the May 2017 Ministerial in Fairbanks. Alaska.
The Arctic Ministers and Senior Arctic Officials have signaled a commitment to carrying out implementation of AMSA’s diverse recommendations, a clear example of using AMSA as a policy document where the body of approved recommendations represent strategic directions for protection of Arctic people and the marine environment. The Arctic SAR Agreement, the Arctic Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Agreement, progress at IMO on a mandatory IMO Polar Code (to go into force 1 January 2017), greater linkage of the Arctic states on Arctic issues within international organizations (for example, IMO, IHO, and WMO), and greater engagement with Arctic communities (among others) are key accomplishments that stem from the AMSA effort. AMSA remains a cornerstone Arctic state and Arctic Council framework and strategic guide to meeting the many challenges of safe Arctic marine use in the 21st century.
In 2011, Ministers of the Arctic States met in Nuuk for the biennial Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting. Among the most prominent outcomes from the Nuuk meeting was the newly-minted “Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic.” Ministers also decided to “strengthen the capacity of the Arctic Council […] by establishing a standing Arctic Council Secretariat” in Tromsø, Norway.
The Arctic Council Secretariat was to be operational at the beginning of the Canadian Chairmanship, which would arrive in spring 2013. The first director of the Secretariat was chosen in November 2012, and I feel both fortunate and humbled to have been selected for this role.
In January 2013, on the margins of the Arctic Frontiers conference, the host country agreement for the Secretariat was signed by Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. The standing Secretariat then began operations on 1 June 2013 after recruitment of the first staff members.
The Secretariat was instructed to support the Arctic Council’s work by providing “institutional memory, operational efficiency, [and] enhanced communication and outreach,” as well as supporting the Council in other ways big and small. It offers administrative and organizational support, manages the Arctic Council’s website and social media accounts, houses the secretariat for two of the Council’s six Working Groups (ACAP and EPPR), and assists with Russian-English translation and interpretation for many Arctic Council initiatives.
Host Country Agreement signing ceremony, Arctic Council Secretariat, Tromsø, Norway 22 January 2013. Source: Arctic Council, Arctic Council Photo Archives.
In its first three years of operation, the Secretariat and its international staff have taken on many new challenges. In addition to its day-to-day efforts supporting the work of the Council’s Task Forces, Working Groups, and Senior Arctic Officials, the Council has undertaken such ambitious initiatives as:
- archiving of the Council’s historic documents stretching back to the establishment of the Arctic Council,
- creating a public, open access archive that links Arctic Council reports and documents to library databases worldwide,
- establishing a tracking tool that provides an overview and status report for the Arctic Council’s current initiatives,
- centralizing and streamlining the Council’s interactions with Observers, and
- expanding the Council’s communications channels, materials and activities, including providing updates on the Arctic Council’s work to external bodies and visiting delegations.
In many of these initiatives, the Council’s staff has been “learning by doing,” and has profited greatly from the guidance of the Canadian and U.S. Chairmanships. The Arctic Council is certainly a unique entity, and the Secretariat has been charting new territory in much of what it has done.
Presently, the Secretariat has 13 staff members from seven of the eight Arctic States. Most recently, the Secretariat has welcomed new team members to Tromsø in the form of the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat, which relocated from Copenhagen in early 2016. This important move allows both entities to profit from, and share in, the other’s experience, knowledge, and resources.
The Secretariat has undoubtedly helped the Arctic Council to deal with growing tasks and challenges in the Arctic. With twenty years under its belt, the Arctic Council is taking stock of where it stands and where it could go. Looking to the future, I can see only a bright horizon for the Secretariat as it continues to help the Arctic Council in its work. The experienced and dedicated staff in Tromsø continuously strives to find ways to expand and improve the services that it provides, and to meet the demands of the Arctic Council’s ongoing growth and development.
The foundation for the Arctic Council Secretariat was laid at the Nuuk Ministerial Meeting in 2011. This was also the first Ministerial attended by the U.S. Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton, at that time), so it is fitting to reflect during the U.S. Chairmanship on how far the Secretariat has come, and how it might continue to grow in its efforts to serve the Arctic Council.
Interest in Arctic issues, development activities and climate change has been growing in the past few years. This has been easy to notice also at the regional and local level in different agendas. The work of the Arctic Council has been active between Arctic countries, having also a strong emphasis on indigenous people’s affairs.
You might ask the question why the role of regions and cities has been so weak, even though operational implementation of programs and strategies always is made on these levels in practice. Regions and cities have a lot to offer for Arctic cooperation. I have my own experiences from working in the State Office of Lapland, Regional Council of Lapland and City of Rovaniemi in Finland.
The city of Rovaniemi is crossed by the Arctic Circle, so that most of its surface area is above it. Today it is a dynamic, growing city by population and business. The number of inhabitants is about 62,000. Rovaniemi is the fifth largest Arctic city. The science and applied science universities of Lapland are major educational institutes with almost 10,000 students. The city is also home to units of the main national research institutes of natural resources. These form a strong base for research and development activities in many issues related to know-how of Arctic conditions. So it is not only the location on the Arctic Circle that gives it the status of Finland’s Arctic Capital City.
Rovaniemi is most probably best known globally from the trademark of the Official Hometown of Santa Claus. Nowadays Rovaniemi is often highly ranked as one of the top winter tourism destinations worldwide. We have been steadily growing to become an attractive international tourism destination with large scale of services throughout the year. Most of the tourist overnights come from abroad (57%).
During the last quarter of the century, the agenda of the city has been strongly focused on Arctic development and the ongoing work to enhance it. The city of Rovaniemi feels an obligation to be an active partner in Arctic development. Today’s existing Arctic cooperation under the Arctic Council started in Rovaniemi in 1991 with the signing of the Arctic Environment Protection Strategy.
The commencement of the cooperation - the Rovaniemi Process - led to the establishment of Arctic Council in 1996 in Ottawa. To continue the tradition, we arrange every second year an Arctic conference in the Spirit of Rovaniemi Process. The next one will take place in November 2017, when Finland will be chairing the Arctic Council and celebrating 100 years of independence.
The Arctic Center research institute was opened in Rovaniemi in 1992. It plays a major role in Arctic through a global network of researchers. There have been projects to develop the Arctic Center as one of the leading hubs of the European Union’s (EU) Arctic information centers. Different faculties of the University of Lapland are also working strongly in the field of Arctic know-how. The University also hosts the Secretariat of the University of the Arctic (UArctic) which covers a wide network of educational and research units worldwide.
Through its location, Rovaniemi is a good natural laboratory for the development of cold climate know-how and products. Mainly for tourism purposes, winter ice and snow hotel/bar constructions are attractive and practical service solutions for visitors.
In Rovaniemi, we also have four sites serving different types of commercial products testing. The majority of clients are car manufacturers or tire, snow scooter and all-terrain vehicle producers.
With the cleanest and freshest air quality, the area offers good and aromatic wild natural products such as berries, herbs, mushrooms, fish and reindeer meat. Arctic business is a growing and, with the goal of supporting this development, the Lapland Chamber of Commerce arranges the annual Arctic Business Forum in Rovaniemi.
The other official trademark of Rovaniemi is Arctic Design Capital. Since 2009 the city of Rovaniemi and University of Lapland have organized an annual Arctic Design Week. The week has grown to an important international event with participants from 32 countries. Arctic Design is a natural step for Rovaniemi due to the presence of the faculty of Art and Design in the university. It is not just about industrial design but also service design and city planning. Arctic Design is a new and exciting concept that can play an important international role in the future among Arctic cities.
Rovaniemi is a member of the World Winter Cities Association of Mayors (WWCAM) and through this network shares experiences between winter cities in order to create better living conditions for residents. In WWCAM, Rovaniemi is leading the sub-committee of Arctic Design. Winter cities have made reports lately how they have been taking into account the goals to reduce emissions and energy consumption. Also there are processes going on to enhance the circular economy and resilience of the cities.
Finland will chair the Arctic Council in less than two years’ time starting from spring 2017. During that period there will be many important meetings in Rovaniemi and other municipalities of Lapland. Following the example of Alaska we have established the Lapland Arctic Council Host Committee to promote and inform about different kinds of competencies and services available in our region and city. Hopefully these activities around different meetings will also be a stimulus for practical cooperation between cities.
The Arctic Council has many important Observer states both from Europe and Asia. The City of Rovaniemi and Regional Council of Lapland have good operative cooperation with sister organizations in some of these countries. These structures could be used partly in issues important for the Arctic Council. The role of the EU is important for Arctic cooperation and it should be strengthened. In Northern Europe we have had good practices for cooperation between regions and cities during the past 20 years. Mostly this has been implemented within the structures of the EU’s Interreg- and Tacis- programs. Numerous projects have corresponded nicely with priorities of the Arctic Council. Strong emphasis has been put on environmentally and socially sustainable projects. One good example is the international North Calotte Academy which has been running for 25 years as a tradition to gather together students, researches and decision makers to discuss common interests in the European North.
Arctic regions are vulnerable, vast and rich in natural resources. Climate change will have many impacts on nature, culture, business and logistics. It is in the utmost interest for regions and cities on how all of this will be realized in their territory. In Lapland, for decades we have planned multiple, sustainable uses of land between different interests of business. In our case, the challenge has been to fit together interests of nature preservation, Sami culture, tourism, forestry, reindeer husbandry, agriculture, mining and logistics. In this planning we have lots of competence to share with other regions.
The northernmost area of Lapland forms also the home area for Sami people and culture. This area is inhabited by about 4000 indigenous peoples. Indigenous issues are governed by the Finnish Sami Parliament and the municipalities in question. We do have of course Sami people also outside of this area. For example in Rovaniemi we have about 500 of them and the city provides services in Sami language.
I have described possibilities to enhance Arctic cooperation on regional and local levels from the point of view of the Lapland region and city of Rovaniemi. I know that other Arctic regions and cities have similar kinds of competencies that could be shared through Arctic cooperation.
Cities have developed great products, functional solutions and sustainable processes in relation to different business sectors, public and private services, energy production and consumption. All this know-how should be better shared among Arctic societies.
Why has this competence and know–how on Arctic issues of regions and cities not been used more seriously? There are no suitable structures in the Arctic Council where this need could be realized. Also national delegations or working groups have not included enough sub-national actors.
Somehow we should change this situation.
It might also be useful to consider the establishment of a working group of Arctic Cities to the structures of the Arctic Council. This would bind together national level common strategies with regional and local operative programs and actions.
Let’s keep in touch!
Tour of Canadian North Highlights Richness, Diversity, and Challenges
Bruce A. Heyman
When Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama met at the White House on March 10 and in Ottawa on June 29, they emphasized our two countries’ shared commitment to leadership in the Arctic. An important aspect of my role as U.S. Ambassador is to understand the realities and aspirations of people across Canada. I was honored to accept the invitation of Global Affairs Canada to take part in the department’s 2016 Northern Tour. For nine days, across 12,000 kilometers, our group of 20 ambassadors gained a deeper understanding of this region, an experience that will in turn help us shape our governments’ approaches to Arctic cooperation. For me, it was indeed the opportunity of a lifetime and a highlight of my time in Canada!
The theme of the 2015-2017 U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is “One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities.” The Northern Tour broadened our knowledge of the social, economic, and governance issues that confront the people of the North: infrastructure, economy, climate change, education, social factors, and more. Community leaders spoke candidly about their greatest concerns. They told us that the suicide rate among Arctic communities is 110 per 100,000, almost eight times the national average. High school dropout rates top 84 percent in some communities. As the outside world encroaches, social structures are feeling the strain. In Kuujjuaq, Quebec, community leaders said just two generations ago, people traveled by dogsled and kayak, but now “kids are on snowmobiles and electronic devices.” In essence, Inuit find themselves between two worlds.
We saw and heard clear evidence that the Arctic is on the front line of climate change. On Baffin Island, Inuit leaders shared first-hand local knowledge supporting scientific reports that populations of caribou, a staple of the local diet, have plummeted. Researchers cite multiple factors leading to the decline, such as rising temperatures that affect foraging and availability of food. Some communities, like Inuvik, report that temperatures have increased two degrees Celsius in the past 50 years, leading to flooding and the resultant displacement of families in coastal communities. The widespread and constant use of polluting diesel power generators highlighted the importance of Arctic Council partners’ commitment to finding energy innovations that will meet residents’ needs and protect health and ecosystems.
Despite the challenges, community members expressed hope for the future and a spirit of resilience. In Cambridge Bay, we learned that the local government provides a small business assistance program, helping with resume writing and interviewing skills. In Inuvik, residents transformed a defunct hockey rink into a community greenhouse where the community can grow vegetables. In Rankin Inlet, local business loans made three Tim Hortons franchises possible. As Yukon College in Whitehorse pursues its goal to become a university – the first in any Canadian territory – it will be a welcome partner in the circle of universities that offer access and insights to indigenous communities in North America.
President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau said in their March 10, 2016, joint statement that “Canada and the U.S. will continue to respect and promote the rights of Indigenous peoples in all climate change decision making . . . We commit to defining new approaches and exchanging best practices to strengthen the resilience of Arctic communities and continuing to support the well-being of Arctic residents, in particular respecting the rights and territory of Indigenous peoples.” The statement adds: “With partners, we will develop and share a plan and timeline for deploying innovative renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel and advance community climate change adaptation . . . We also commit to greater action to address the serious challenges of mental wellness, education, Indigenous language, and skill development, particularly among Indigenous youth.”
My travel in the North underscored the contribution the Arctic Council can make to bring together nations and peoples in a spirit of common purpose. We are working toward goals that will have real and positive impacts on life in the North and will support healthy, prosperous, and sustainable Arctic communities. The Arctic is full of promise and hope, and as an Arctic nation, the United States will continue to work with our neighbors and partners to support those aspirations.
Transdisciplinary Dialogue on Board Between Eurasia and America: The 6th International Meeting of the State-Members of the Arctic Council, State-Observers to the Arctic Council and Foreign Scientific Community
The 6th International Meeting of the State-Members of the Arctic Council, State-Observers to the AC and Foreign Scientific Community took place on 29 August – 2 September 2016 on board the Russian icebreaker 50 Years of Victory (50 Let Pobedy) from the Bering Sea to the Eastern Siberian Sea through the Bering Strait. The meeting was organized by the Russian Security Council and hosted by Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council, and Russian Hero Artur Chilingarov. The meeting was very international, accommodating official representatives of all the Arctic Member states and four Asian Observer states of the Arctic Council (i.e. China, India, Singapore and South Korea) as well as several ambassadors, a few deputies and several other officials. We academics from the Arctic states and those Asian countries consisted of the Foreign Scientific Community of the meeting. In addition, the business community was represented by two Russian companies, Rosneft and Atomflot.
The first session of the meeting on board was dedicated to political, economic and cultural cooperation, as well as security, of the Arctic. This session accommodated a few academic presentations, including mine, and several presentations by representatives of the Arctic states. The second session, devoted to legal, economic, technologic and logistics aspects of Arctic maritime transport, included several Russian experts presenting and sharing their information and expertise on the fields, which is significant. There was also a demonstration on the Bering Sea of how the ice-class tanker, Navigator Albanov is able to operate in Arctic seas in problematic situations, particularly in conditions of an oil spill. The last session, with less presentations, was on scientific cooperation, ecological security and tourism in the Arctic.
The sessions consisted of several short presentations and reports, after the organizers managed to shorten the time of each presentation down to 10 minutes. The participation of the meeting was based on the idea of ‘transdisciplinarity’ by representatives from the major stakeholders – politics, business and academia. This is the main precondition for the interplay between science and politics, and business. The aim was partly achieved, since there was much new information, the dialogue was interdisciplinary, and there was also time allocated to comments and questions. Interestingly, the setting – state representatives were sitting around a separate table in the middle of the room – as well as the procedure were like in the official meetings of the Arctic Council and its working groups.
I introduced the theme of the 1st session, and was also asked to moderate two parts of it including 13 presentations by several state representatives. In my presentation, I analyzed the current political situation of the Arctic, and concentrated on how we have managed to maintain the high geopolitical stability of the Arctic, in spite of the fact that there are regional conflicts and wars in other parts of the world, where also Arctic states are parties. Since the stability is not inevitable, but manmade, my aim was on the one hand to point out that the Arctic states, including Russia and the U.S., have consciously been keeping the Arctic, and Arctic issues, out of crises and by that way maintained the region’s high stability, and this is never passive but needs actors and their political will. On the other hand, I asked how to go further, as well as how to deepen international and interregional cooperation, in order to make a peaceful change.
The state representatives agreed on the most important issue, that the high geopolitical stability of the Arctic should be maintained, and they emphasized its strategic importance. I didn’t, however, manage to encourage the representatives to go beyond the current situation and brainstorm new ideas how to create new measures for confidence-building, make Arctic structures more resilient with flexible rules, and rethink security premises and paradigms. No wonder, since this is not easy but a challenging, as well as sensitive, issue, with some thinking that the current situation is not ripe for that kind of brainstorming or rethinking.
Politically the meeting was a success, since this was the first time since the beginning of the Ukrainian war and the Russian annexation of Crimea that all the Arctic states were officially represented in these meetings in Russia. Academically it was a real field trip, particularly for a political scientist, due to the fact that the interplay between science and politics was not only said to be important, but also implemented. Further, it was a rather unique experience, since everything happened on board the nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory between Anadyr and Pevek in the Chukotka Autonomous District, the Russian Far East.
An impressive finding of the gathering was the high level expertise of Russian experts, and how carefully they described and follow the rules of UNCLOS. Maybe those of us in other Arctic states should slowly start to acknowledge this, and that Russia maintains a special expertise on the Arctic Ocean, northern sea routes and maritime safety. Actually, this is not surprising, when taking into consideration for how long the Russians have been constantly present in these cold waters and done research in the Arctic, starting from the ice-stations by Admiral Papanin.
Also, the demonstration of the tanker, as well as the search and rescue exercises as a part of the program of the meetings in 2014 in Naryan-Mar and the Pechora Sea, and in 2015 in Archangelsk, gave valuable information on the state of maritime safety in Russia and by Russian officials. Maritime safety – or as it was put on the chimney of the tanker “SCF (Security comes first)” – is much the priority in international Arctic cooperation, hence the Arctic is all about the Arctic Ocean. This brings me to think how unwise were the earlier decisions by other Arctic states not to send experts on the field(s) of search and rescue to the previous years’ meetings in 2014 and in 2015 (see my commentary in the Arctic Yearbook 2015). Even if the seven Arctic states, due to political reasons, do not want to send high-level representatives to these meetings, they could do much better, act more boldly, and send their experts there to observe these exercises.
I’m not naïve to be able to take into consideration that this was a political decision (according to the sanction by the U.S. and the EU), and that in politics boycotts used to happen every now and then. I, however, think that if maritime safety, which is a good example of a functional field, is so fundamental, as the Arctic states and Observer countries are saying, then they should be willing and able to go beyond political tension and narrow-minded national interests, and cooperate at the expert-level; particularly when there is the legally-binding SAR agreement, which all the Arctic states have signed and are committed to. This is also a confidence-building-measure to share information and knowledge between the Arctic states and their officials, as well as others who are in charge of maritime safety. There is no a danger of being misused, or hijacked, by Russia or anybody else, even if Arctic states would send their experts to observe these exercises, as we could see in this very international meeting where Ambassadors and other state representatives were present.
The conventional wisdom, which is wise, it to keep some important issues, fields and areas – for example, nuclear arms control, pollution, climate change, research, space – out of fundamental disagreement and separate them from the larger conflictual relations between parties. This is to minimize damage, not put all the eggs into the same basket, and make sure that we will not put the humankind at stake. This wisdom, also called ‘Arctic exceptionalism’, has already been used in the Arctic, as mentioned earlier, and also the EU’s policies go accordingly, by keeping Arctic cooperation as a ‘protected’ area out of political crises.
Finally, the interesting discussions and the agreement on the importance of Arctic exceptionalism was made possible and encouraged by the good atmosphere of the meeting. This is in a way ironic, when taking into consideration the image and perception of the Russian Security Council in the West. It is not unusual that in the meetings of the Arctic Council and its Working Groups there is a nice atmosphere, but that the same happens in the gatherings organized by the Russian Security Council is less known internationally. This was partly because the 2016 meeting took place on board the strongest icebreaker in the world – she is very impressive, as I experienced already in October 2013, when we brought the Olympic flame to the North Pole – but mostly this was due to common interests. Although, texts construct geopolitics and popularized geopolitics is more than written text, as we have seen in several illustrations of the Arctic by international media, I do not want to speculate how this could be interpreted. More importantly this is much the core of international politics and diplomacy, that we need confidence and trust between parties, even if we will not agree on everything. This can be promoted and enhanced by confidence-building, and correspondingly, it requires a good atmosphere. In the case of the Arctic this is supported by the fact that Arctic cooperation with its scientific, environmental and political achievements, as well as due to the global interests towards the Arctic region, has been beneficial for all the Arctic states, as well as indigenous peoples and other inhabitants of the region.
All in all, this international gathering on board was exciting and fruitful in all respects, and therefore its reporting might interest those who are closely following Arctic politics and cooperation.
Anniversaries provide an opportunity to take stock of where we are, and to consider where we hope to go. The U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council has taken this opportunity to heart in considering the 20th Anniversary of the Council’s founding, on September 19.
The first twenty years of the Arctic Council have seen remarkable change. The Council has grown – in stature, in ambition and in effectiveness. An increasing number of non-Arctic States, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, have sought and obtained accredited observer status. The Council has established a permanent secretariat and strengthened its internal operations.
The issues confronting the Arctic Council have also grown – in number and significance – in reflection of the dramatic changes in the region. The warming Arctic climate in particular commands unprecedented attention, as governments, Arctic residents and civil society strive to understand and address the potentially profound consequences of climate change for the Arctic and the planet as a whole.
As the United States assumed the Chairmanship of the Council, we also recognized that climate change was not the only topic demanding attention. We created a Chairmanship theme (“One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Responsibilities”) to address the impacts of climate change as well as to promote Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship, and to improve economic and living conditions.
At the mid-point of our two-year Chairmanship, we have a better sense of what the Arctic Council has accomplished, and what remains to be done. To mention just a few initiatives:
- The Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer network (CLEO) took a major step forward with the launch of the “LEO reporter” app, enhancing the ability of indigenous communities to share their observations of weather and environmental anomalies.
- The “One Health” initiative completed a survey of some 450 participants in 14 countries, believed to be the largest ever survey of One Health awareness and practices at a regional level.
- The Council developed a set of guidelines for the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems in the Arctic, the first time such guidelines have been developed for any geographic region.
- In follow-up to the Agreement on Cooperation on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response entering into force, which strengthened international cooperation in the event of an oil spill in the Arctic, the Arctic States have begun to implement the agreement through joint exercises.
Looking ahead, the Arctic States expect to conclude a legally binding agreement to enhance scientific cooperation in the Arctic, to be signed by Arctic Ministers at the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Work also continues on a broad range of other initiatives including:
- increasing local capacity for managing renewable resource microgrids;
- tracking and mitigating black carbon and methane emissions;
- assessing circumpolar telecommunications capacity;
- evaluating the effectiveness of suicide interventions;
- improving sewage treatment and local water delivery;
- producing high-resolution digital elevation models of the Arctic;
- building a network of Arctic marine protected areas;
- broadening cooperation on Arctic Ocean issues; and
- much more.
We have also strengthened the Council itself in a variety of ways. The Council adopted Communications and Outreach Guidelines, updated its Communications Strategy, and worked to raise Arctic awareness in the United States and other countries. We have made it easier to access Arctic Council documents and have improved the Arctic Council website. Perhaps most importantly, we have taken steps to improve Arctic Council cohesiveness, including in the ways the Council interacts with other international bodies.
I am particularly pleased with the work of the Council in relation to its many observers. We have found new ways to engage with observers. We have created an application form for those who seek observer status, as well as a new template for use by observers when submitting their regular reports. Finally, we will soon complete the first-ever review of observer participation.
The Council is also already looking beyond the U.S. Chairmanship. We are considering the development of a long-term Strategic Plan and are seeking to make Arctic Council financing more secure and predictable. We are considering whether the work of the Council should become more systematic and cross-cutting, including with respect to climate change and sustainable development. The United States and Finland have also begun the critical process of ensuring a smooth transition in chairmanships.
The United States has had the great honor of chairing Arctic Council for the second time. At the twenty year mark, this has been a dynamic and important period. We will do our best to finish with as much momentum as when our chairmanship began, and look forward to continuing to serve the Council as an active, constructive member in the future.
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