Canada as an Arctic Power
The Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program is pleased to release Canada as an Arctic Power: Preparing for the Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a report including 19 recommendations for the Canadian government to consider as it prepares for its Arctic Council chairmanship from 2013 to 2015.
The report flows from the January 2012 conference, THE ARCTIC COUNCIL: ITS PLACE IN THE FUTURE OF ARCTIC GOVERNANCE, involving more than 100 stakeholders from 15 countries – including northern indigenous leaders and six foreign ambassadors.
Highlighted in the recommendations is the need to find a new way to fund the full participation of northern indigenous groups with Permanent Participant status at the Arctic Council in all of the organization’s working groups and activities.
Full members of the Arctic Council are Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark (Greenland) – the eight countries with Arctic territory. Six northern indigenous groups – the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Arctic Athabaska Council, Gwich’in Council International, Sami Council, Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) and Aleut International Association – sit on the Council as Permanent Participants. The Arctic Council is the only international organization that gives indigenous peoples a formal place at the table.
Unfortunately, a lack of funding for travel and research resources has limited the effectiveness of the Permanent Participants in Council proceedings and working groups.
Says Thomas S. Axworthy, President and CEO of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation: “When created in 1996, the Arctic Council broke new ground in international governance by officially recognizing the status of Arctic indigenous peoples through the creation of Permanent Participants. But the effectiveness of this innovation has been hampered by uncertain funding of the Permanent Participants who require resources to participate fully in the work of the Council, especially the more technical working groups.
“The January conference recognized that, more than ever, it is critical that voices of those who actually live in the North be heard by decision-makers. Therefore to achieve the full value of the indigenous breakthrough made at the creation of the Council it is now necessary to develop a robust funding mechanism to enhance indigenous participation. Similarly, the expertise of northern state, territorial and regional governments should be more fully utilized by the Arctic Council.”
The recommendations outlined in Canada as an Arctic Power also cover issues such as emergency management, Arctic fisheries, and whether to award Observer status to non-Arctic countries.
Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program Manager Sara French says she believes the Arctic Council has already taken steps to distinguish itself as an exemplary body of international cooperation, and that Canada is in a strong position to continue steering the Council down this path.
“These are proposals to strengthen the Arctic Council in general and we urge Canada to give them priority during its chairmanship,” says French. “As well, Canada should address a variety of domestic issues – notably improving search and rescue infrastructure – in order to fully participate in and take advantage of the Arctic Council’s work.”
As a companion to Canada as an Arctic Power, the Arctic Security Program, along with the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, has also released The Arctic Council: Its place in the future of Arctic governance. This book is a collection of papers delivered at the January conference, and provides the academic basis from which the above recommendations flow.
Preparing for the Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council
The Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program recommends that Canada:
- Propose a new funding mechanism to enable Permanent Participants to fully participate in all of the working groups of the Arctic Council.
- Support the Permanent Participants in co-operation with the Arctic Council member states to jointly review the role of the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) following the creation of the Permanent Secretariat of the Arctic Council in Tromsø, Norway.
- Propose that any candidate for Arctic Council Observer status must publicly declare its respect for the sovereignty of Arctic states and the rights of Arctic indigenous peoples.
- Explore the possibility of joint North American initiatives for the back-to-back chairs of the Arctic Council, particularly where Canada and the United States have similar agendas.
- Encourage the Arctic Council to recognize the special role for regional, state, and territorial governments in Arctic governance and particularly in the Arctic Council.
- Work with Arctic Council states to commission baseline studies of Arctic fisheries management issues that would include tabulations of all species, competing interests, and existing mechanisms for conflict resolution, including a moratorium on fisheries in the high seas.
- Promote the continued involvement of youth in working group and Permanent Participant projects.
- Declare that any new education, health, or youth program offered by the Arctic Council should proceed only on the basis of multi-year funding commitments.
- Make the necessary strategic investments in Canadian Arctic air and marine infrastructure to enable Canada to effectively implement the Arctic Council negotiated accord on search and rescue.
- Work to continue the evolution of the Arctic Council from a decision-shaping body into a negotiating forum for new binding agreements.
- Propose that the Arctic Council encourage the creation of military forums as confidence-building initiatives and visible example of Arctic co-operation.
- Urgently work towards the completion of the Oil Spill Preparedness and Response instrument.
- Fund the Canadian Polar Commission to a level equivalent to counterpart institutions in other Arctic states.
- Appoint a new Arctic Ambassador as its Senior Arctic Official before retaking the Arctic Council Chair.
- Lead discussions among the Arctic Eight to ease the visa restrictions for researchers and delegates of the Arctic Council.
- Propose that the Arctic Council adopt a communications strategy based on raising awareness of its goals and programs both to audiences in the Arctic region and the wider world.
- Encourage the Arctic Council Secretariat to create plain-language summaries of its studies and activities so that the information is accessible to interested citizens.
- Encourage the Arctic Council Secretariat to work with the International Polar Year to create a database that would include a compilation of all projects carried out in the different working groups, as well as under the auspices of the Permanent Participants.
- Spearhead an initiative in the Arctic Council to encourage the International Maritime Organization to adopt a mandatory code without further delay.