The Arctic Council is a unique assembly of countries with borders or interests in the Arctic Circle. The Council operates as a high-level forum, providing a venue for states to discuss mutual concerns in the region and reach peaceful resolutions. As established in the Ottawa Declaration of 1996, there are only eight voting members. However, there are also six permanent participants representing various indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic. There are also dozens of additional observer members, including states, NGOs, and other UN bodies. Besides its unique membership, the Arctic Council oversees a rapidly changing region. Climate change continues to shrink the amount of sea ice around the North Pole, which presents dire environmental concerns and opens new trade routes and opportunities for economic exploitation. The Arctic is host to vast undersea petroleum reserves that states could exploit, but the web of maritime claims in the Arctic presents numerous obstacles to the exploitation of these reserves.
Topic: Confronting Modern Threats to Arctic Communities
For thousands of years, indigenous people have populated vast regions of the Arctic circle. However, their livelihoods and culture are at risk in the face of growing 21st-century challenges. As states and corporations seek to exploit the Arctic’s largely untapped natural resources, a web of competing maritime claims in the Arctic region presents numerous political, economic, and security obstacles to an already embattled region. Caught in the center of these competing interests are the Arctic’s various indigenous peoples, at risk of losing traditional ways of life as the region undergoes irreversible changes. They are threatened on multiple fronts by industrialization, globalization, climate change, and corporate exploitation. While fending off these modern threats, Arctic communities are also still grappling with the legacies of oppressive colonial cultural programs that stripped children of their native languages and forcibly sterilized young women. These wounds are still felt today and have caused widespread mistrust of national governments among many indigenous communities. The Arctic Council is a unique body made up of representatives from both national governments and indigenous nations. Although there is a history of oppression and animosity between these two groups, delegates will need to work together to meet rising challenges and heal the wounds of the past.