A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF OMAC
Online Model Arctic Council (OMAC) is a simulation of the real-world Arctic Council . Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is devoted to advancing international cooperation and good governance across the Arctic. Around its table sit not only the Arctic States—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA—but also Arctic indigenous peoples organisations representing the Aleut, Athabaskans, Gwitch’in, Inuit, Saami and the many peoples of the Russian North.
Held entirely online and open to pupils anywhere in the world, OMAC is one of the few diplomatic simulations of its kind in the world ever held at the secondary-school level. Before becoming an educator, Polar Aspect Managing Principal Dr Anthony Speca lived and worked in the Arctic as a senior policy official with the Government of Nunavut, one of Canada’s Arctic territories. Since 2016 he has launched a number of Polar Aspect MAC conferences, both in-person and online, in order to share his enthusiasm for the Arctic with youth, and in the hope of inspiring them to learn more about this unique region and its peoples.
Whilst pupils with experience of Model United Nations (MUN) may find some aspects of the conference familiar, OMAC offers an exciting new format of model diplomacy. The Arctic Council is unusual not only in promoting the active involvement of indigenous peoples alongside states, but also in making all decisions by consensus rather than majority vote. The Arctic Council is also well-known for collegiality and consensus-building even during times of tension between participants elsewhere in the world—valuable skills for life after school.
Whether an experienced ‘MUN-er’ or a newcomer to model diplomacy, all prospective delegates can take advantage of delegate training as part of their preparations for OMAC or another Polar Aspect MAC conference.
PARTICIPATING IN OMAC
Participation in OMAC is open to pupils from any secondary school around the world. Participants are invited to form delegations of up to three pupils each to play the role of representatives from one of the eight Arctic States or six Arctic indigenous peoples organisations. At the conference, delegates will grapple with the challenge of reaching consensus on some of the most pressing challenges facing the Arctic, and by extension the world as a whole.
It is not necessary for pupils to study at the same school in order to form a delegation together, but preparatory work may be easier to coordinate if so. If demand is high, it is possible that the number of delegates per delegation will be increased. Registered delegates will be informed of any such changes at the close of the registration period.
Since OMAC operates by the rule of consensus, delegates will find their diplomatic skills stretched and improved. Unlike at other model diplomacy conferences, OMAC delegates do not debate pre-prepared resolutions. Rather, they rise to the challenge of negotiating mutually agreeable ‘declarations’ in real time. To assist with the process of consensus building, each delegation is requested to provide a brief discussion paper a week or two ahead of the conference, which will be circulated to other delegations.
OMAC DATES AND TIMES
OMAC conferences take place at regular intervals during the academic year. Dates of upcoming conferences are available at registration. OMAC conferences take place over a single weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, lasting no more than four hours on each day. Exact times during the day vary from conference to conference, in order to accommodate pupils in different time zones. Prospective delegates should register for a conference that best fits their time preferences.
No matter the timings, OMAC conferences generally keep to the following schedule:
- Pre-conference – Videos introducing the Arctic, Arctic Council and OMAC, as well as a pre-recorded keynote speech from an Arctic expert
- Day 1 – Diplomatic negotiation sessions and an optional Arctic-themed online social event
- Day 2 – Continued diplomatic negotiations followed by final speeches and a decision on the ‘declaration’, plus guided reflection on the conference in discussion with Polar Aspect Managing Principal Dr Anthony Speca or other Arctic experts
ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION
At OMAC, delegates consider issues that are very much of concern to Arctic States and Arctic indigenous peoples today. Issues are formally set in advance of each OMAC conference to allow good time for preparatory research. Examples of issues considered at past Polar Aspect MAC conferences include:
- Plastic pollution in the Arctic marine environment
- Sustainable energy in Arctic communities
- Safety in Arctic marine tourism
- The growth of Arctic shipping
- Meteorological cooperation in the Arctic
- Seismic exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic offshore
- Broadband connectivity in Arctic communities
- Arctic wetlands and climate change
- Educational opportunity for Arctic children
- Marine protected areas in the Arctic
- Suicide in Arctic communities
- The European Union as an Arctic Council Observer
Research Briefs will be provided to delegates to help them prepare to discuss the issues set for their OMAC conference.
MATERIALS FOR DELEGATES
Delegates will be provided with a Delegate Guide, Research Briefs and Agenda in good time ahead of their OMAC conference. Sample delegate materials will be available for download here in due course.
Like at the real Arctic Council, every OMAC conference ends with a Ministerial declaration summarising the agreements reached. Sample ‘OMAC Declarations’ will be available for download here in due course.
Each OMAC conference features a keynote speech from an Arctic expert who serves as that conference’s Honorary Chair. Honorary Chairs may also observe conference proceedings, and offer advice to delegates during guided reflection sessions.
Delegates to past Polar Aspect MAC conferences have benefitted from talks, teaching and guidance from such experts as:
- Ms Beth Derks (School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication, University of East Anglia)
- Dr Odile Crabeck (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
- Ms Sarah Gavron and Mr David Katznelson (filmmakers, Village at the End of the World)
- Dr Nanna Kaalund (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)
- Ms Christine Kelly (Polar Regions Department, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
- Mr Asher Minns (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia)
- Prof Mariele Neudecker (Bath School of Art, Bath Spa University)
- Prof Heather Nicol (School for the Study of Canada and School of the Environment, Trent University)
- Prof Antonio Quesada (Spanish Polar Committee, and Faculty of Science, Autonomous University of Madrid)
- Dr David Rose (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
- Dr Anthony Speca (Polar Aspect, and School for the Study of Canada, Trent University)
- Mr Matthew Willis (International Defence Relations, Global Affairs Canada)