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ARCTIC 200 – Simulating Canada’s Role in the Arctic Council

2017 Arctic 200

December 14, 2017

After participating in the Model Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2016 and in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 2017, I knew that the best way to teach the Arctic to students would be to conduct a smaller version of the Model Arctic Council in my course, ARCTIC 200. I provided students with some background in Arctic geography, history, peoples, and national policies, and then had them began to examine some of the underlying geopolitical issues that are currently impacting the Arctic, including climate change, resource development, and shipping. With a stronger sense of the geopolitics of the region, the students then received a crash course in the Arctic Council and negotiation before they each embodied one of the Arctic Council member states or Permanent Participants (Indigenous organizations) to discuss the issue of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Arctic. Each student was required to research and write a position paper from her/his respective position, and then work together through a simulated Sustainable Development Working Group and Senior Arctic Official’s meeting to come up with a ministerial declaration. The students were amazed to learn the role of Gorbachev’s 1987 Murmansk Speech in reshaping the Arctic and how Canada spearheaded the formation of the Arctic Council, which resulted in the Ottawa Declaration (1996), even in opposition to U.S. interest in the organization. Using the Model Arctic Council exercise in Arctic studies courses can tell us much about global relations, particularly Canada–U.S. relations and roles.