October 23, 2014 - The Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials and Heads of Delegation of indigenous Permanent Participant organizations held their third meeting under Canada’s Chairmanship, on October 22-23, 2014, in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum for cooperation on Arctic issues, bringing together representatives from the eight Arctic States and six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations to discuss important issues related to sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

In Yellowknife, Senior Arctic Officials and Heads of Delegation of Permanent Participants heard from the Arctic Council’s six working groups and four task forces on the progress being made on the Arctic Council’s ambitious program, notably Canada’s Chairmanship priority initiatives. These priorities include: promoting mental wellness; incorporating traditional and local knowledge into the work of the Council; ensuring responsible economic development in the Arctic, including through the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council; and developing actions on black carbon and methane. The theme for Canada’s Chairmanship, which culminates in 2015, is ‘Development for the People of the North’.

Some of the specific topics discussed at the meeting included:

  • Oil pollution prevention and preparedness;
  • Biodiversity assessment and conservation of Arctic migratory birds;
  • Short- lived climate pollutants and actions to reduce black carbon and methane emissions impacting the Arctic. SAOs approved a report on concrete recommendations for reducing black carbon emissions from residential woodstoves;
  • The Arctic Marine Tourism Project and ways to promote safe Arctic shipping;
  • Human development issues, including promoting mental wellness and climate change adaptation;
  • Enhancing scientific cooperation in the Arctic; and
  • The United States’ priorities for its chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2015-2017).

“I was pleased to see the progress by working groups and task forces to implement the Council’s priorities during Canada’s Chairmanship,” said Vincent Rigby, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. “This work will undoubtedly result in a rich set of recommendations for consideration by Ministers at their next meeting in 2015.”

The next Arctic Council Ministerial meeting will be held in Iqaluit on April 24, 2015. 

“I am looking forward to hosting Ministers of the Arctic Council next year in Iqaluit, Nunavut, following another productive discussion among senior officials whose work continues to advance the priorities under Canada’s Chairmanship”, said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Chair of the Arctic Council and Canada’s Minister for the Arctic Council, Minister of the Environment and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. “It is important to build on the momentum we have gained since 2013 and continue our successful actions to promote environmentally responsible development that benefits the communities and peoples of the Arctic region”.

While in Yellowknife, the Chair of Senior Arctic Officials also convened a workshop on ways to enhance the capacity of the Council’s Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations to contribute to the Council. The workshop resulted in agreement to pursue a number of initiatives in this area.

Also while in Yellowknife, the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) held an outreach event in N’dilo as part of its commitment to communicate with the people of the Arctic states. The event highlighted the importance of strengthening the use of traditional and local knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council. The outreach event was moderated by Chief of the Dene Nation Bill Erasmus and Jim Gamble of the Aleut International Association (an Arctic Council Permanent Participant) and included speakers from Canada, the Council’s working groups and Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations.

[To see a backgrounder on the Arctic Council, click here.]

[To see the news release announcing the 2015 Ministerial Meeting, click here.]

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Photo: ACS / Jesper Stig Andersen.