THE ARCTIC AND THE ARCTIC COUNCIL
It is often said that there are many different Arctics. Certainly the typical conception of the Arctic as a harsh and empty wilderness populated mainly by polar bears, reindeer and seals is a misleading cliché. Defined politically, the Arctic includes all or part of eight countries—Canada, Denmark (in respect of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA. This human Arctic has been occupied for millennia by numerous culturally unique Indigenous groups—the Inuit, Saami, Gwich’in, Dene, Yup’ik, Aleut, Chukchi, Sakha, Evenk, Nenets and others. Over four million people call it home today.
Founded in 1996, the Arctic Council is dedicated to international cooperation and good governance amongst these countries and communities. Unlike other international organisations, it brings together not only the eight Arctic States listed above, but also organisations representing Arctic Indigenous peoples—the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association for the Indigenous Peoples of the North, and Saami Council.
The Arctic Council is also unusual amongst international organisations in taking all its decisions by consensus. At OMAC, persuasion, influence, negotiation and debate are just as important as they are in other model diplomatic conferences. Yet rather than aim simply to secure the typical majority vote, delegates must rise to the challenge of building consensus amongst their fellows, without sacrificing the objectives of the state or Indigenous people’s organisation they represent.
Now more than ever, as the global climate changes, the Arctic is one of the most fascinating and important regions on the planet. Much more than a vast and pristine wilderness, or a storehouse of great natural wealth, it is homeland for peoples living on the front lines of some of the most pressing challenges the world faces today. By preparing for and participating in OMAC, you will learn much from your in-depth exposure to a part of the world that few of your peers have discovered.
RESEARCHING THE ARCTIC FOR OMAC
Delegates participating in OMAC may have very limited prior exposure to the Arctic and Arctic issues, or to Indigenous peoples and their rights. Fortunately, the Arctic has long fascinated explorers, scholars and commentators. Today the voices of Arctic peoples can also be heard. There is a large literature on the politics, economics and societies of the Arctic, a useful part of which can be found on the Internet.
It is recommended that preparation for the conference begins early. To assist with preparations, Polar Aspect have teamed up with the Arctic Portal to make an online Polar Aspect MAC Research Library available to all OMAC delegates. Please log in as a guest to access it.
In addition to the material in the online Polar Aspect MAC Research Library , the following small selection of links also provide a starting point for discovering more about the Arctic:
- Arctic Council – an excellent springboard for further research, featuring links to the Arctic policies and webpages of the Arctic States and Indigenous Permanent Participants, information about current projects of Working Groups and Task Forces, and a large official document archive
- Arctic Portal – an online gateway to a vast amount of Arctic-related information, data, maps, publications, websites and other resources
- Discovering the Arctic – an interactive introduction to the Arctic region, from wildlife and science through Indigenous peoples and Arctic governance
OMAC delegates will also find it extremely useful to keep abreast of Arctic-related news, which can often be a good source of information about the challenges the Arctic and Arctic peoples face, as well as the positions of the Arctic States and Permanent Participants on those issues:
- Arctic Today – a US-based news-media partnership focused on the circumpolar North
- Eye on the Arctic – a Radio Canada International news-media partnership focused on the circumpolar North—also available as a phone/tablet app, and as a weekly cybermagazine.
- The Arctic This Week – a comprehensive weekly newsletter aggregating the previous week’s news articles, op-eds and commentaries from around the Arctic