By Wilfrid Greaves
In April, the United States marked the midpoint of its two-year term as chair of the Arctic Council. Unlike the country’s first chairmanship shortly after the Council’s formation in the mid-1990s, this time the United States has used its leadership position to set an ambitious agenda for political cooperation in the circumpolar region. The theme of the current chairmanship is “One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities.” President Obama appointed a four-star Coast Guard admiral as the first-ever U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic to make progress on three thematic areas: improving economic and living conditions in Arctic communities; Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship; and addressing the impacts of climate change.
But, as U.S. officials acknowledge, the theme “One Arctic” is borrowed. In July 2014, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)—one of the Arctic Council’s six Permanent Participants representing the region’s indigenous peoples—held its General Assembly in the town of Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The theme of that assembly was “Ukiuqta’qtumi Hivuniptingnun—One Arctic, One Future,” and the principles and political priorities of the Inuit delegates released in the summary declaration were: Inuit inclusion within decision-making and other international fora like the Arctic Council, environmental stewardship, safe shipping and fisheries, sustainable economic development, Inuit health and well-being, food security, improved communications within the circumpolar region, improving Inuit education and language use, and traditional knowledge and science. The General Assembly also reaffirmed the principles enshrined in previous ICC statements, namely the Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic and the Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat.