Lawson W. Brigham

The U.S. Department of State, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, hosted an improbable international Arctic conference in Anchorage, Alaska on 31 August 2015. That President Obama spoke at this conference, conducted a signature tour of Alaska, and became the first sitting U.S. President to visit above the Arctic Circle in Alaska made it an historic trip that emphasized the importance of the Arctic to America and the globe. It was very clear from the outset that the conference, together with the entire visit of the American leader to Alaska, was a political event organized to highlight the President’s climate change agenda in preparation for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21 (to be held 30 November to 11 December 2015 in Paris).

Rep. Rick Larsen

Interest in the Arctic is heating up around the world. As the region’s ice melts and it becomes more accessible to shipping traffic, Arctic nations like Russia and Canada are continuing to invest in infrastructure and research. Countries without Arctic borders, including China and Japan, also are expressing their interest in the region. China, for example, is currently building its second icebreaker.

It is clear that other countries are moving forward in the High North. But the U.S. is not keeping pace. Even as the U.S. took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in April 2015, we do not have the infrastructure that is necessary to live up to our responsibilities as an Arctic nation. President Obama’s GLACIER conference in August 2015 is a sign that attention to the Arctic is growing, but that attention must come with investment to be effective.

Rep. Bob Herron

The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC) was legislatively created in April 2012 and its first meeting was March 23, 2013. The AAPC was comprised of 26 Commissioners, including 10 Legislators and 16 subject matter experts from throughout the state; and co-chaired by Senator Lesil McGuire and Representative Bob Herron. The AAPC was tasked with creating an actionable Arctic policy for Alaska – to produce a policy for Alaska’s Arctic that reflects the values of Alaskans and provides a suite of options to capitalize on the opportunities and safeguard against risks.

The AAPC emphasized public engagement, convening meetings in seven locations around the state over the course of two years and receiving testimony from local residents in each location. Alaskans from all walks of life positively influenced the AAPC’s Final Report and Implementation Plan released January 30, 2015 (www.akarctic.com).

Andrea Charron

In 1996, Canada was the first of eight Member States to chair a newly-founded Arctic Council. From May 2013 to April 2015, Canada again resumed the chair (headed by the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister for the Arctic Council) and set “development for the people of the North” as the overall theme of its two years. To achieve this goal, Canada called for responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities with subthemes under each of these three goals.1 Unique to Canada was the call to create an Arctic Economic Council (AEC)2 – a subgoal of responsible resource development. On the one hand, the focus Canada had directed on the people of the North is laudable and perfectly in keeping with the mandate of the Council. On the other hand, the creation of the AEC has been divisive. How should we evaluate this agenda? Did Canada’s Chairmanship break new ground or was it just caretaking?

Lassi Heininen

The V [Fifth] International Meeting of Representatives of the States-Members of the Arctic Council, States-Observers and Foreign Scientific Community took place on September 15-16, 2015 in Archangelsk, Russia. The meeting was specially devoted to preparedness and safety in the Arctic, sustainable development and indigenous peoples. It consisted of two parts, the demonstration of rescue exercises by the EMERCOM Arctic Emergency Centre in Arkhangelsk, and the international conference “Ensuring Safety and Sustainable Development in the Arctic Region, Preservation the Ecosystems and Traditional Way of Life of the Indigenous Peoples in the North”.

The high-level meeting was organized under the auspices of the Russian Federation Security Council in cooperation with the Northern (Arctic) Federal University, NArFU in Archangelsk. NArFU invited members of small international delegations from the Arctic states and the Arctic Council observer countries, as it did last year, when this annual meeting took place in Naryan-Nar, and the Varandei Oil Terminal in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

Hon. Currie Dixon

As the Arctic and its variety of governance institutions and intergovernmental forums have gained significant international attention, sub-national governments in the circumpolar north have begun to play an increasingly important role on the international stage. While high level foreign policy and international relations continue to be in the realm of national governments, sub-nationals like provinces, territories, states, autonomous regions, First Nations and Aboriginal governments are participating and interacting in many new ways. While this involvement is a welcome step forward, enhanced roles for sub-national governments should come with some greater scrutiny and analysis of their respective positions and policies. Such a review will elucidate why and how sub-national governments conduct themselves outside of their own borders and may reveal observations not only about how these governments are viewed by others, but how they view themselves.

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