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Arctic Yearbook 2012
25 Years of Arctic Environmental Agency: Changing Issues and Power Relations
the region mostly in terms of its global importance, in order to be heard by distant capitals in North
America and Europe:
We attach special attention to the cooperation of the Northern countries in
environmental protection (…) the Soviet Union proposes drawing up jointly an
integrated comprehensive plan for protection of the natural environment of the North.
But he spoke also to the inhabitants of the region, as he was situated in Murmansk, the biggest city in
the Arctic, which was and still is a nuclear hotspot; he spoke to the indigenous peoples of the
Russian federation:
Questions bearing on the interests of the indigenous population of the North, the study
of its ethnic distinctions and the development of cultural ties between Northern peoples
require special attention.
Gorbachev also envisioned environmental protection and peace as compatible with development,
stating that demilitarization and cooperation would help open sea routes to commerce and “make
the Arctic habitable for the benefit of national economies”.
The strategy for institutionalizing his overall intentions was sketched out, including the creation of
the Arctic Council: “we propose holding in 1988 a conference of sub-Arctic states on coordinating
research in the Arctic. The conference could consider the possibility of setting up a joint Arctic
Research Council” (Gorbachev, 1987).
The Arctic of the 1990s: Inter-governmental and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations
We have pointed out previously that the 1990s were a time of building elements of global
environmental governance related to UNCED. At the level of the Arctic, the emergence of strong
intergovernmental scientific and political processes, including the establishment of the Arctic
Council, occurred.
As of the mid-1990s, the Arctic started to affirm its own identities and voices, asserting claims for
sustainable development from within. It was a time when Arctic states started to collaborate and
when Arctic indigenous peoples became active in environmental policy making. The interconnection
between environmental protection issues and socio-economic development called for a sustainable
development approach, which was subsequently promoted by the Arctic Council. This approach was
entirely in line with the Rio 1992 Conference on Environment and Development. As a
contemporaneous process to the Pre- and Post–Rio processes, the same importance of participation
and sustainable development found at Rio was elucidated in the Rovaniemi Declaration (1991).