It has been said that if you want to know what the Arctic Council will be working on two years from now, you should read the conference statements of the Arctic parliamentarians.
Through these statements and close dialogue with the Arctic Council and several other stakeholders, Arctic parliamentary cooperation has given direction to Arctic cooperation.
The first thing we did when we met in Reykjavik for the very first time in 1993 was to call on governments of the Arctic countries to establish closer cooperation among themselves. In 1996 the Arctic Council was established, and since then Arctic parliamentary cooperation has continued to give recommendations and seek discourse to guide the further development of the Council.
From the beginning, the main focus of the Arctic parliamentarians has been on the people living in the Arctic. From the outset, the Arctic Council was focused on natural sciences, and together with the permanent participants we have worked to strengthen the human dimension in Arctic cooperation. In 1998 we recommended the establishment of the University of the Arctic (UArctic), which was officially inaugurated in 2001. Emphasizing the human dimension in Arctic cooperation in 2002, we recommended producing an Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR). The first one was published in 2004. Since then we have worked to raise the profile of Arctic cooperation in the field of human health, strengthened the capacity of the permanent participants to contribute to the Arctic Council’s work, and made sure that the people living in the Arctic see first-hand benefits from economic development in their region.
For many years we highlighted the need for strengthening the Arctic Council by creating its own secretariat and a separate budget. We are satisfied with the establishment of the Arctic Council Secretariat in Tromsø, Norway, but would still like to see a more robust budget for Arctic cooperation. In 2012, we also recommended establishing an Arctic Chamber of Commerce. Two years later, the Arctic Economic Council was formally founded under the Canadian chairmanship of the Arctic Council. These are only a few examples of how our statements and close dialogue with the Arctic Council representatives have influenced the work of the Council.
The Arctic Council has proved to be dynamic, innovative and willing to take on new responsibilities. Establishing the Arctic Economic Council will improve the dialogue with the business community towards the sustainable development of the Arctic. The use of the Arctic Council as a framework for negotiating legally binding agreements between the Arctic countries has also been vital for raising the profile of Arctic cooperation. For our part, we Arctic parliamentarians will continue to introduce new ideas and innovative proposals in the evolving governance of the Arctic region.
In our conference statement from Whitehorse in 2014 there were four headlines: developing sustainable infrastructure in the Arctic, enhancing governance models and decision-making processes, strengthening northern economics and capacity building, and environmental challenges. The most important meeting in the world in 2015 was COP21, the Paris Climate Conference. Hence, the most significant task we gave to the governments of the Arctic countries and the EU Commission was to raise a strong Arctic message to communicate the consequences of climate change in the Arctic at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Paris in December 2015.
For all those of you who would like to know what will happen in the Arctic Council in 2016–2018, I would only say: the next Arctic parliamentary conference will be held in June 2016.