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Canada, the United States & the Arctic Council – Preparing for the Age of the Arctic

December 31, 2012

Above: (Left to right) Arctic Initiative Interns Adam Akerblom and Sophie Hubbell, Arctic Consultant Terry Fenge, and Arctic Initiative task force students Zoë Cosford and Charlotte Dubiel.

by Sophie Hubbell and Adam Akerblom, Arctic Initiative Interns, Canadian Studies Center & UW Freshman

Canada assumes the chair of the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2013 for a two-year term to be followed by the United States in 2015. Mr. Fenge argues that cooperation between the United States and Canada has the potential to put a major stamp on the circumpolar world. The scope of this premiere and people-driven institution is expanding particularly in its environmental agenda. The conclusion of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) in 2004 made the Arctic our world’s climate change barometer. Persistent organic pollutants found in the blood of Inuit women gave rise to matters of health, culture and women’s issues in the Arctic Council. However Mr. Fenge argues that the indigenous people need an adequate spokesperson to gain much needed attention from civil servants. One of the main issues facing the circumpolar world is the interests other non-Arctic states now have in the region. These would-be observers in the Arctic Council include states like India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. In reviewing The Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council, Mr. Fenge provocatively argues it is hopelessly outdated and is in desperate need of reform. Nonetheless, we have a council that is functioning well and we are seeing, Mr. Fenge argues, a significant increase in the effectiveness of the council as a high level forum. Ultimately, Mr. Fenge claims Canada and the U.S. need to push a “reset button” with the region. The age of the Arctic is almost upon us and it is in our interests to engage people.
On Tuesday, November 13, key Arctic consultant Terry Fenge visited the UW campus and led a provocative roundtable discussion on the Arctic Council. Terry Fenge is an Ottawa-based consultant specializing in aboriginal, Arctic and environmental issues. Born and raised in the UK, he has degrees from the universities of Wales, Victoria and Waterloo. He has been both Research Director and Executive Director of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee and for eight years was Research Director and Senior Negotiator for the Inuit of Nunavut in negotiations with the Government of Canada that resulted in the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the establishment of the Territory of Nunavut. From 1996 to 2006 he was Strategic Counsel to Nobel Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier, then President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. He has authored or co-authored six books, including Northern Lights Against POPs: Combatting Toxic Threats in the Arctic, with David Downie of Columbia University, and more than 70 papers.