The Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials held their first meeting under Canada’s Arctic Council chairmanship in Whitehorse, Yukon, on October 21 to 23, 2013.
The Arctic Council is the premier intergovernmental forum for Arctic issues, bringing together representatives of the eight Arctic states and six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations.
The theme for Canada’s chairmanship is “Development for the People of the North.”
“During Canada’s Chairmanship, the Council will focus its work on initiatives that will make a difference in the lives of Northerners,” said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, Minister for the Arctic Council, and Chair of the Arctic Council. “I thank all delegates for their contributions on making responsible resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities the Council’s top priorities.”
Senior Arctic officials heard from the Arctic Council’s six working groups and four task forces on the progress being made on the priorities outlined by Arctic Council ministers at the Kiruna ministerial meeting in May 2013.
Patrick Borbey, Chair of Senior Arctic Officials, said, “I’m pleased with the headway that the Council has made. Senior Arctic Officials approved four projects and a final report and have discussed ways in which to strengthen the Council and improve its coordination.”
Senior Arctic Officials approved a report by the Arctic Contaminants Action Program on environmentally sound management and safe storage of obsolete pesticides in Northern Russia.
They also approved projects to be completed by the Sustainable Development Working Group on mental wellness, adaptation to climate change, gender equality, and cancer among circumpolar Indigenous peoples. Senior Arctic Officials and Permanent Participants also provided guidance to working groups and task forces, including on the creation of a circumpolar business forum.
The Arctic Council is committed to communicating the results of its work to Northerners. In Whitehorse, the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group released the report Life Linked to Ice, which provides valuable information to policy-makers on the consequences for biodiversity of the dramatic changes occurring to sea ice.
The Council and its CAFF working group, in partnership with the Yukon Science Institute, hosted a public outreach event, Arctic Waters and Biodiversity in a Time of Change: The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, at 7 p.m. on October 23 at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.