Arctic forum highlights northern policy questions

Marmian Grimes

Forty international experts on the Arctic met in Washington, D.C. last week to tackle a broad swath of policy questions facing the circumpolar North.

Their recommendations—on environment protections related to shipping and oil and gas development, health and social issues faced by indigenous populations, security cooperation by arctic nations and strengthening governance arrangements—will be finalized in May. The group also agreed that because international cooperation is the norm for arctic nations, the region’s leaders are more able to address these issues.

The University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy hosted the forum, “Euro-Atlantic Action Plan for Cooperation and Enhanced Arctic Security,” held Feb. 11-12, 2013. The University of the Arctic, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Dartmouth College developed the IACP to provide a policy forum for the international community to discuss important issues facing arctic communities.

“This forum, our sixth since 2008, identified critical issues related to arctic governance and environmental security throughout the North, and crafted actionable recommendations to address the challenges ahead,” said Mike Sfraga, IACP co-director and UAF vice chancellor.

Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich opened the forum and provided an overview of the many challenges and opportunities facing arctic and Alaskaa communities. Murkowski noted the importance of forum such as the IACP – and challenged participants to help her in communicating the importance of the North to Alaska, the nation and the rest of the world. Begich used the meeting to announce a package of legislation addressing arctic issues that he will be proposing to Congress. Both senators emphasized the strategic importance of the Arctic and Alaska to U.S. international interests.

Representatives from all eight Arctic Council member states, Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden and the U.S., attended the forum, as did other council officials, the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, representatives from international energy and shipping companies, the director of polar programs at the National Science Foundation, U.S. State Department officials and members of the Coast Guard and military security from several nations.