Unnur Bra Konradsdóttir & Egill Thor Nielsson
The global Arctic has arrived. At the Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Sweden last year it was decided to welcome new observer states, so from now on China, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, together with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, are in concert with the United States, Russia and other Arctic countries in a constructive dialogue on the future of the Arctic.
The Arctic has, in economic and political terms, truly become a new frontier. Its development will increasingly have implications internationally with regard to globalization, economic progress, environmental protection, energy exploration and international security. This year alone, the historic transformation of the Arctic is discussed at conferences focused exclusively on Arctic affairs in locations as diverse as Prince George, Washington D.C., Reykjavík, Brussels, Murmansk, Shanghai and Seoul.
Marc-André Dubois & Clive Tesar
Over the past 5 years, the Arctic Council has done a commendable job of increasingly developing implementation plans and follow-up mechanisms for its recommendations and decisions. This has been an incremental process. Landmark reports such as the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) fell a little flat because, despite thorough research and scholarship, the recommendations that flowed from such assessments went largely undone and unremarked. By 2009 the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment was implemented through the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) plan that has been monitored, with implementation reports in 2011 and 2013.
The flaw in implementation of recommendations flowing from Arctic Council reports is that the only entities that truly take on the recommendations from Arctic Council working groups are…Arctic Council working groups. What these working groups can do is limited. They can develop further research, they can convene symposiums, and they can make recommendations. They cannot compel the activities that would make the biggest difference: implementation at a national and international level. We are not suggesting that should change. The Arctic Council is unlikely to ever have the authority to compel member states to undertake activities on a national level. However, as the recommendations are decided by a process of negotiation by those member states together with permanent participants, we believe it is not too much to ask that those same states decide how they will implement recommendations, and account for the implementation of the recommendations.
The 2014 issue of the Arctic Yearbook focuses on human capital in the North, and thus, on local capacities and human development. This resonates well with a number of assessment projects currently carried out in the region. By the end of 2014, the Arctic Human Development Report II is scheduled to be published. Within the Arctic Council, projects such as the large scale Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic assessment or smaller activities dedicated for example to gender equality, take up a number of issues crucial for human capital in the North.
The “Strategic Assessment of Development of the Arctic” report – published in September 2014 – fits well to this increased attention to the human dimension. It is these human-centred aspects of the assessment that are here highlighted. The readers of this year’s Arctic Yearbook may find the “Strategic Assessment” chapters dedicated to mining, land use activities and socio-cultural changes particularly interesting.
Anja Jeffrey, Adam Fiser, & Stefan Fournier
The Canadian North has become a focal point for debates about our national sovereignty, security, and economic prosperity. But far more than a frontier for resource development and border disputes, the North is a homeland for many Aboriginal peoples. Across three coasts, it encompasses a diversity of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities. While there is growing national interest in transforming the North through economic development, science, and high technology, many Northerners continue to pursue traditional lifestyles alongside the wage economy. This blending of traditional and modern is both a source of conflicts, and a driver of some remarkable innovations. Our work has sought to understand how Northerners best cope with and capitalize on their opportunities and challenges. What we have found is that one of the most important conditions for a prosperous North is the presence of healthy and resilient communities. Resilient, healthy communities are capable of addressing local level goals and needs, and are vital to our nation’s sovereignty, security, and economic prosperity.
This vision of a secure, prosperous, and resilient North is one that emphasizes an active policy role for capable Northern communities. We believe that Northern communities are much more than endpoints for service delivery and policy programming. At their best, they are sources of personal and collective resilience – places where local community governments, businesses, and civil society, are actively engaged in supporting their members' well-being, and in steering the major projects that are realizing Canada’s Northern economic potential. It is this kind of community presence that bolsters our Arctic sovereignty.
When the Northwest Territories achieved devolution of lands and resources from Ottawa in April, it was a historic moment in Canada’s political evolution. But a key test of devolution’s nation-building potential will be how well it supports real aboriginal-government partnership. On that score, there is cause for concern.
On the first day of April, the citizens of Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) collectively took control over the land beneath their feet for the first time in their nearly 150-year history. Previously, federal ministers in Ottawa had the final say on land use and resource development there. Now territorial ministers in Yellowknife do. No less important, the NWT now shares with Ottawa the considerable royalties yielded by its natural wealth—oil, diamonds, rare earths, tungsten, base metals and more.
‘Feeding My Family’ Organizers
Three years ago, communities across Nunavut joined together to speak out against the shockingly high food prices in the north, protesting in front of local grocery stores. This was the first time such actions had been organized in the remote, fly-in communities of Canada’s northernmost territory; Feeding My Family (FMF) is the movement that grew out of these protests. The Facebook site quickly grew to over 20,000 members, and FMF has provided a forum for Nunavummiut to come together to share personal struggles and expose the impacts of hunger in the north. Members have been posting photos of the exorbitant food costs in the north, showing prices as high as $28 for a head of cabbage and $99 for a whole fish.
Nunavut is the home of the Inuit, and its small population has survived from hunting, fishing, and gathering. Traditional practices are strong and hunting for sustenance remains an important part of life, but a legacy of colonization (such as the permanent settlements and residential schools) is that Inuit cannot eat as their ancestors did. Many hunters cannot afford the cost of hunting equipment, and country foods harvested from the land must now be supplemented with store-bought foods. There are many statistics on hunger in Nunavut, including estimates that 70% of households are food insecure. But beyond statistics, FMF aims to bring out the voices behind these numbers, serving as a space for Nunavummiut to speak out about how hunger is affecting their families. One member posted, “…saw three kids eating at the dump. [I] told them not to eat at the dump that there going to get sick. [O]ne kid said… price too high mom can’t really buy good food too much. Told the kids hop on my honda we’re going my place I will cook something for you to eat proper food not outdated food from the dump… my heart broke to pieces when I saw them eating at the dump...”.