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Arctic Yearbook 2012
). Rather, transnational entities are defined by cultural cohesion and/or organized around shared
concerns. Agnew (2005) insists that the nation-state model, emphasizing the “geographical
expression of authority” (Agnew, 2005: 437) is, as a result, becoming increasingly inadequate in
understanding sovereignty. The nation-state model does not provide the appropriate frame to
analyze transnational movements such as environmental or indigenous movements. Rather,
territoriality, Agnew argues, is only
type of spatiality “or way in which space is constituted socially
and mobilized politically” (Agnew, 2005: 442). In other words, while the state may indeed exercise a
centralized power, there are many types of “diffuse power” (Agnew, 2005: 4) that exert varying
degrees of influence in world affairs. The Arctic is a perfect example of how centralized powers and
“diffuse” power (international organizations) are interacting to create a new type of international
The Arctic Council is the first entity to involve nation-state and non-nation-state actors in decision
shaping and policy making at the international level. The eight Arctic nation-states serve as members
on the Council along with six Arctic indigenous organizations, or Permanent Participants. The
Council is unique in being the only international fora where indigenous peoples are involved in a
significant way.
In fact, the Permanent Participant category was created to ensure the indigenous
voice on the Council. The Permanent Participants include the Saami Council, ICC, Russian
Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), Aleut International Association,
Gwich’in Council International, and Arctic Athabaskan Council. All of the Permanent Participants,
except RAIPON, represent indigenous peoples from two or more nation-states.
There is no
question that these transnational entities exercise significant influence in international affairs. Their
effectiveness is evident in the fact that three of the Permanent Participants were present at the
founding of the Arctic Council and assisted in the development of the organizational structure of the
Council and its mandate. The Rovaniemi Meeting in 1989 (the first meeting of the eight Arctic
nations) included the ICC, Saami Council, and the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the
and the Far East of the Russian Federation (now RAIPON). Rovaniemi was an
historic moment not only because it was the first major international accomplishment since the Cold
War, but important for this discussion, it was the first time in history Arctic indigenous peoples
participated in the preparation of an international declaration. Further illustrating the influential role
of the Permanent Participants on the Arctic Council is the fact that the three other organizations –
the Aleut, Gwich’in and Athabaskan – were formed
to have a seat on the Council. Each
group understood participation as a way to defend their rights and interests at the international level.