Arctic Circle conference attracts hundreds to Iceland
“Up to now, most Arctic conferences had been rather small and specialized”
Leaders from around the Arctic will converge on Reykjavik, Iceland, this weekend to share ideas and build lasting relationships to address, and, presumably, capitalize on, a changing Arctic.
The list of participants is long and varied and includes universities and think tanks, engineering and transportation firms, aboriginal development organizations, energy and mining companies, scientists, charitable foundations, environmental groups and international media.
Unlike the similarly named Arctic Council, made up of member states Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, the Arctic Circle is an Icelandic creation aimed at moving beyond just national government participants.
“Up to now, most Arctic conferences had been rather small and specialized,” Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the president of Iceland, told CNN. “But the issues they talked about are all interrelated in important ways.
“There is therefore a need to create a forum where all the different constituencies — whether they were policy, experts or business constituencies—are able to come together.”
The inaugural meeting, set to unfold from Oct. 12 to 14, has a grab-bag of Arctic topics on its agenda which includes everything from northern sea routes to tourism, security, economic development, the Republic of Korea’s role in the Arctic and something called “Arctic Lessons for the Himalayan/Third Pole Region.”
At first glance, their list of speakers seems truly impressive — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Al Gore and His Royal Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco — until you realize they are just sending video messages.
Real live speakers and presenters include Canada’s Patrick Borbey, chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials, Greenland Premier Aleqa Hammond and Grímsson.
“The Arctic Circle aims to support, complement and extend the reach of the work of the Arctic Council by facilitating a broad exchange of ideas and information at an open gathering held in mid-October of each year,” the Circle’s web site says.
“Plans for resource use and new sea routes linking Asia to Europe and America have led to an increased focus on the region, for better or worse.”
The U.S., Iceland and Russia seem to have the largest number of delegates. Other than Borbey, Canada’s delegation includes mainly scholarly representatives from Trent University, the University of Saskatchewan, McGill University and Yukon College.