Finding a new way to fund the full participation of northernindigenous groups with Permanent Participant status at the ArcticCouncil in all of the organizations working groups and activitiesshould be a top priority when Canada takes the chair of theinfluential inter-governmental organization next year. The recommendation is one of 19 offered today by one of Canadasforemost initiatives on Arctic issues the Munk-Gordon ArcticSecurity Program to the Canadian government as it prepares to chairthe Arctic Council in 2013. The proposals flow from a two day meeting in Toronto last Januaryinvolving more than 100 stakeholders from 15 countries includingnorthern indigenous leaders and six foreign ambassadors. Canada should show leadership in promoting the robust participationof northerners, regional and territorial governments, andespecially indigenous representatives, says Tony Penikett, SpecialAdvisor to the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program. |
To bolster indigenous participation, Canada should leadnegotiations for a new funding mechanism to support the research,travel and other expenses that would enable Permanent Participantsto fully engage in all the workings of the Arctic Council,including its working groups. Full members of the Arctic Council are Canada, Russia, the UnitedStates, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark (Greenland)the eight countries with Arctic territory. Six northern Indigenous groups the Inuit Circumpolar Council,Arctic Athabaska Council, Gwichin Council International, SamiCouncil, Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North(RAIPON) and Aleut International Association wield strong influenceas Permanent Participants. The Arctic Council is the onlyinternational organization that gives Indigenous peoples a formalplace at the table. Unfortunately, a lack of funding for travel and research resourceshas limited the effectiveness of the Permanent Participants inCouncil proceedings and working groups.
Says Thomas S. Axworthy, President and CEO of the Walter and DuncanGordon Foundation: When created in 1996 the Arctic Council brokenew ground in international governance by officially recognizingthe status of Arctic indigenous peoples through the creation ofPermanent Participants. But the effectiveness of this innovationhas been hampered by uncertain funding of the PermanentParticipants who require resources to participate fully in the workof the council, especially the more technical working groups. The January conference recognized that, more than ever, it iscritical that voices of those who actually live in the north beheard by decision-makers.
Therefore to achieve the full value ofthe indigenous break through made at the creation of the council itis now necessary to develop a robust funding mechanism to enhanceindigenous participation. Similarly, the expertise of northernstate, territorial and regional governments should be more fullyutilized by the Arctic Council." The paper, "Canada as an Arctic Power: Preparing for the Canadian Chairmanshipof the Arctic Council," recommends that Canada encourage recognition of the special rolefor regional, state, and territorial governments in Arcticgovernance and particularly in the Arctic Council. Many of theoriginal parties to the organizations creation advocated an activerole for sub-national governments, which is an idea the Councilshould return to, says Mr. Axworthy. Authors of the paper note the northern region has become thetheatre for dramatic environmental, economic and political change..
Media headlines trumpet the opening of new Arctic sea routesand a rush to resource riches. The 16-year-old Arctic Council is the most active intergovernmentalforum on regional issues today and has been affirmed by keynorthern nations as the principal venue for discussion of Arcticissues. May 2011s Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and MaritimeSearch and Rescue the first legally binding agreement negotiatedwithin the Councils auspices and the participation of U.S.Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the Arctic Council MinisterialMeeting in Nuuk, Greenland the first ever by a U.S. Secretary ofState has increased the organizations clout.
Six non-Arctic nations sit in as Observers today: the UnitedKingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands, joinedby nine intergovernmental and inter-Parliamentary organisations,and 11 NGOs. With interest growing in the rapidly-changing Arctic, severalnon-Arctic nations seek Observer status. The paper recommends thatany would-be Observer nations first be required to publicly declare[their] respect for the sovereignty of Arctic states and the rightsof Arctic indigenous peoples. Non-Arctic states interested in observer status include China,India, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the European Unionand individual European nations such as Italy.
The recommended condition that observers must declare respect forthe sovereignty of the Arctic states and the rights of the Arcticindigenous peoples would affect the European Unions considerationas an Observer, due to their stance on indigenous peoples huntingand selling their products on the international market. Other recommendations to the Canadian government regarding theArctic Council include: New Arctic fisheries Noting that the ice caps recent retreat is creating access to new,largely unregulated fishing grounds with potentially devastatingimpacts on Arctic marine life and indigenous peoples who rely onthe sea, the papers authors call for an assessment of competinginterests and existing conflict resolution mechanisms. They underlined the recent call by 2,000 scientists for amoratorium on Arctic high seas fishing to allow time for researchof catch limits and development of an integrated internationalArctic fisheries management plan. While the United States andDenmark have adopted this policy, Norway, Russia and Canada haveyet to do so and the scientists are especially concerned thatcountries such as China may soon send its fishers into theseunregulated waters.
Says the paper: Should anybody read the term commercial fisheriesmoratorium to include whaling, Munk-Gordon Arctic Security ProgramPolicy Analyst Ryan Dean observes that Norway, Iceland, and othersmay object. If the Arctic Council chooses to involve itself inthese issues, it will likely focus on assessments and science. A less ice-bound Arctic will inevitably open opportunities fornatural resource exploration and exploitation. Various non-Arcticstates have already expressed eagerness to exploit these naturalresources.
Outside interests will lobby both Arctic Council memberstates and Permanent Participants, who as the Arctics long-timestewards work to protect sensitive habitats while balancing theirrights and interests with the claims of the non-Arctic states. Emergency management The paper says the need for continued work on an effectiveinternational cooperation agreement on air and sea search andrescue was underlined by two fatal air accidents in Northern Canadaand a deadly fire on board a Norwegian cruise ship. An unprecedented agreement in this field was signed last year inGreenland and will be followed shortly by another on maritime oilspill preparedness and response. The agreement represents the first binding instrument negotiatedunder the auspices of the Arctic Council, the paper notes, andalthough not everybody sees binding instruments as a positive step,others welcome the evolution of the Council from a primarilyadvisory body to a treaty-negotiating forum.
Says Mr. Axworthy: This is a defining moment for Canada to showthat it is a leader in the Arctic region, but it must prepare todayfor its chairmanship if it wants to be taken seriously as an Arcticpower. This Arctic Council chairmanship is a chance for Canada toshow that it is an Arctic leader beyond its military capabilities,but also in Arctic governance and diplomacy.
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