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 the ancestors of numerous culturally unique indigenous groups—the Inuit, Saami, Gwitch’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, Gwitch’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 NORMAC, 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 NORMAC, pupils will learn much from their in-depth exposure to a part of the world that few of their peers have discovered.
RESEARCHING THE ARCTIC FOR NORMAC
The vast majority of secondary-school pupils have very limited exposure to the Arctic and Arctic issues, or to indigenous peoples and their rights. It is recommended that preparation for the conference begins early. 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.
To assist delegates with their preparations, NORMAC have teamed up with the Arctic Portal to make an online MAC Research Library available to all NORMAC delegates and their teachers. Please log in as a guest to access.
In addition to the material in the online 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
- Eye on the Arctic – a news-media partnership focused entirely on the circumpolar North—also available as a phone/tablet app, as well as a weekly cybermagazine.
- The Arctic This Week – an extremely comprehensive weekly newsletter aggregating the previous week’s news articles, op-eds and commentaries from around the Arctic