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Arctic Yearbook 2012
25 Years of Arctic Environmental Agency: Changing Issues and Power Relations
A coalition of indigenous peoples, among their own organizations and with various civil society
organizations within the Arctic and beyond, is key for contributing to the further building of an
Arctic region cultural identity and for their empowerment in relation both to the eight Arctic states,
and globally. Indigenous peoples’ organizations are also a force in buffering state interests as well as
economic interests by taking a perspective which draws on alternative values, lifestyles and
institutions. Their know-how, which builds on long term socio-ecosystemic interactions, opens
perspectives of alternative modes of organizing and adapting livelihoods in the context of
environmental changes, as well as inspires non-indigenous social movements (Kassam, 2009).
Conclusion: Looking Ahead to Transforming Institutions
This paper is not about the state of the Arctic environment. Rather, it is about the state of Arctic
institutions and actors. In our assessment, we have identified a series of recent institutional trends
that we think are promising for the future of the Arctic environment.
In the first phase, we identified a series of environmental pollution issues. These issues have not
been abandoned, but are now considered within a more systemic and dynamic approach, which
allows, to some extent, to work around uncertainties while attempting to commit states to decide in
favor of preventive, mitigative or adaptive actions. For instance, long-range pollutants and heavy
metals pollution concerns continue to mobilize scientists, as shown by the latest AMAP report on
Arctic pollution with its focus on the bioaccumulation of organic forms of mercury further triggered
by climate warming (AMAP, 2011). The trend is now to adopt a systemic perspective on
environmental issues with a combined attention to mitigation and adaptation, and thus to stop
emissions at the source while managing impacts and supporting adaptation. For instance, on mercury
pollution, the Arctic Council has considered the development of a legally binding instrument to
reduce global mercury use and releases, and to find practical ways to protect peoples and ecosystems
from the impacts of increasing mercury concentrations by adjusting their practices, including diets.
This work can be done by working across scientific disciplines and by actively involving local and
indigenous communities.
There is also a trend to strengthen Arctic governance at the regional level. Indeed, growing mobility,
networking and cooperation across the Arctic – not only by indigenous peoples – confirms an
evolution towards some sort of enhanced Arctic awareness. As an example, one may take the Calotte
Academy’s or the Northern Research Forum’s efforts to build an “Arctic knowledge base”, involving