Canada takes Arctic Council in new direction with business forum: Aglukkaq
“Why don’t we collaborate more to find what works”
Canada wants to add a new dimension to the work of the Arctic Council by hosting a circumpolar business forum to promote an “Arctic to Arctic” dialogue, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Arctic Council minister, said May 15.
“It’s an opportunity for business communities, Arctic to Arctic. Any community group, small or large will be able to participate,” Aglukkaq told reporters in a press teleconference from Kiruna, Sweden, where Canada took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
Other than that, she had few details to offer, saying a task force to be set up later would likely announce the forum’s program early in 2014.
But she said it does signal an expansion of the Arctic Council’s priorities that is reflected in the Kiruna Declaration that the council’s eight member states released May 15.
The declaration states that “economic endeavors” are integral to sustainable development for Arctic people and communities and that the Arctic Council wants to promote “dynamic and sustainable Arctic economies and best practices.”
And a circumpolar forum, similar to a trade show, is one way to accomplish that.
“It’s an opportunity to support the business community that’s developed in the Arctic,” Aglukkaq said.
The seeds of Arctic Council were planted when the eight circumpolar nations met at Rovaniemi, Finland near the end of the Cold War in 1991 to endorse an agreement called the Arctic Environmental Strategy, or AEPS.
By 1996, the AEPS nations, together with the indigenous organizations who sat with them, had morphed into the Arctic Council, which maintained a focus on environmental protection and scientific research related to the environment.
Aglukkaq acknowledges that her emphasis on development and the private sector takes the Arctic Council in a new direction.
She also said that the role of science within the council within her chairmanship will not be diminished — but that she wants science to be focused on more practical applications.
“That’s a big change from the past 16 years where the work of the Arctic Council is based on science and research. But how can we apply what we’ve learned to actual development?”
For example, she said there’s a knowledge gap in green energy for the Arctic.
And companies like Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., which operates in two circumpolar countries, Canada and Finland, have knowledge that it could share with other firms on mitigating the environmental impacts of development
“Why don’t we collaborate more to find what works and what doesn’t?” Aglukkaq said.
After leaving Kiruna, Aglukkaq headed to the northern business hub of Finland, Oulu, and to Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, where she planned to meet with business leaders.