WWF at northern priorities roundtable for Arctic Council chair
As the majority of my work focuses in Inuvik and the Beaufort-Delta region, I rarely get to make my way down to Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. But last week I made the trip for a very important reason: to participate in a roundtable discussion led by the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq and Canada’s Senior Arctic Official, Sigrid Anna Johnson, consulting Northerners on priorities for Canada’s upcoming Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
Dan Slavik, WWF-Canada Inuvik Field Office. © D. Slavik
The theme of discussion was “Development for the People of the North”, and how Canada’s chair can have a lasting impact. It is fitting that the in-coming chair conducted a series of roundtables’ to get Northern perspectives on these issues.
The roundtable had a dozen participants, and roughly equal representation from industry, regional and Aboriginal governments, and NGOs focused on health and environment. The representatives raised various issues and suggestions for the Minister’s consideration. These discussions were aimed around the three themes of Arctic Resource Development, Responsible and Safe Arctic Shipping, and Sustainable Circumpolar Communities.
Arctic Fox curled up on the Tundra. Also the logo for the Arctic Council. © François Pierrel / WWF-Canon
While a key focus was on economic development, the discussions started with the comment that climate change is the game-changer in the North, which was broadly recognized. On behalf of WWF, I identified opportunities for Canadian leadership on related issues at the Arctic Council (our submission can be viewed online here).
Some other interesting and recurring themes that I noticed included:
- –The importance of sharing knowledge and information between Arctic Nations The value of sharing and adopting industry best practices at Arctic Council–level
- –The importance of East-West connectivity between Northerners, instead of just North-South
- –The need for a “University of the Arctic” in Canada, to develop the North’s knowledge economy
- –Opportunities for youth engagement in the Arctic Council process
- –Need for infrastructure investment in Northern communities
Clearly, there are high hopes for Canada’s leadership of the Arctic Council. With offices in almost all Arctic Nations, a local presence in Canada’s Northern communities, and as a long-time observer and contributor to the Arctic Council process, I look forward to working with Northerners and Arctic Council representatives to ensure that development supports northern aspirations and ensures the health and resilience of the Arctic environment.