Paradoxically, the emergence of Arctic cooperation was assisted, to a large extent, by the fact that the region was a global periphery – albeit a theatre for strategic and geopolitical games between the big powers. The collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to the audacious 1987 speech by Mihail Gorbatshov in Murmansk, whereby he was envisaging a peaceful and environmentally sound Arctic.
Towards the Ottawa Declaration
Finland picked up Gorbatshov’s ideas, to see what could be followed up. Environmental concerns appeared to be the area where common understanding seemed to be wide among Arctic actors. Finland started consultations on operational level with Arctic states, getting Canada as an active partner. The first circumpolar meeting was held in Rovaniemi in 1989, followed by the first intergovernmental Arctic meeting of ministers of the environment of all Arctic states in 1991, also in Rovaniemi, where the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was adopted. This then led the way to the Ottawa Declaration and the establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996.
Although the Arctic Council is lead by the Foreign Ministers, the mandate was from the outset heavily environmental. The Council has six permanent working groups – some founded already before 1996, some after that. Four working groups are directly dealing with environmental issues, and looked after by environmental authorities and experts in the eight Arctic states.
Anniversaries provide an opportunity to take stock of where we are, and to consider where we hope to go. The U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council has taken this opportunity to heart in considering the 20th Anniversary of the Council’s founding, on September 19.
The first twenty years of the Arctic Council have seen remarkable change. The Council has grown – in stature, in ambition and in effectiveness. An increasing number of non-Arctic States, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, have sought and obtained accredited observer status. The Council has established a permanent secretariat and strengthened its internal operations.
The issues confronting the Arctic Council have also grown – in number and significance – in reflection of the dramatic changes in the region. The warming Arctic climate in particular commands unprecedented attention, as governments, Arctic residents and civil society strive to understand and address the potentially profound consequences of climate change for the Arctic and the planet as a whole.
In 2011, Ministers of the Arctic States met in Nuuk for the biennial Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting. Among the most prominent outcomes from the Nuuk meeting was the newly-minted “Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic.” Ministers also decided to “strengthen the capacity of the Arctic Council […] by establishing a standing Arctic Council Secretariat” in Tromsø, Norway.
The Arctic Council Secretariat was to be operational at the beginning of the Canadian Chairmanship, which would arrive in spring 2013. The first director of the Secretariat was chosen in November 2012, and I feel both fortunate and humbled to have been selected for this role.
In January 2013, on the margins of the Arctic Frontiers conference, the host country agreement for the Secretariat was signed by Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. The standing Secretariat then began operations on 1 June 2013 after recruitment of the first staff members.
Tara Sweeney & Tero Vauraste
The vision of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) is to make the Arctic a favorable place to do business.
Our mission is to facilitate sustainable Arctic economic and business development. The AEC also provides a business perspective to the discussions taking place at the Arctic Council, serving as a link between Arctic governments and the wider circumpolar business community.
Backbone: Our Goals and Five Overarching Themes
Our purpose is to facilitate Arctic business-to-business activities and responsible economic development. The five overarching themes form the backbone of our actions.
The first overarching theme focuses on establishing strong market connections between Arctic states. Working to identify and remove trade obstacles at the circumpolar level is key for AEC membership.
This year, the Arctic Council celebrates its twentieth anniversary. As its profile as the premier high-level forum for international Arctic cooperation has grown, so too has interest in its affairs. Amongst educators, this interest has stimulated a small but increasing number of Model Arctic Councils (MACs). MACs are experiential learning simulations at which students or pupils, playing the roles of delegates to a cycle of Arctic Council meetings, discuss salient issues facing the region and try to build consensus around solutions.
As a secondary-school educator at Norwich School in the UK, as well as a former policy official with the Government of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic, I take a double interest in this trend. But given the specialised nature of Arctic study, nearly all MACs advertised to date have been pitched to university students rather than to secondary-school pupils. Most notably, the University of the Arctic has developed a biennial MAC to be held at a member university located in the country chairing the Arctic Council, the first of which took place in May 2016 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment: Key Arctic Council Framework for Protecting Arctic Communities and the Marine Environment
Lawson W. Brigham
The Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) released in April 2009 is a key assessment and policy document whose recommendations were negotiated by the eight Arctic states. The 17 AMSA recommendations represent a framework for how the Arctic states will pursue protection strategies and marine safety issues in response to increasing Arctic marine use. It is important to note at the outset of this brief review that the entire AMSA effort can be viewed in three ways: as an historic baseline or snapshot of Arctic marine activity early in the 21st century; as a strategic guide for the Arctic states, the Permanent Participants, and a host of Arctic and non-Arctic actors and stakeholders; and, as a policy document of the Arctic Council since the report and recommendations were approved by consensus of the Arctic states.
As of November 2016 and the publishing of this Yearbook, AMSA remains highly relevant and the AMSA recommendations continue to be implemented by the Arctic states primarily through the work of the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group, and international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO).