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).
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.
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.
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.
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.