Sixty-five students, thirteen countries, representing eight nation states, six permanent participants, and several observer states and organizations. While these numbers provide a simple explanation for the 2016 Model Arctic Council, they do nothing to tell the story. Students from across the globe descended on Fairbanks, AK to participate in a simulation of the Arctic Council. The Model Arctic Council is a thematic network within the University of the Arctic, a network of research institutions focused on Arctic issues – of which University of Washington is a member.
In the simulation, students were assigned a role to play and were asked to research their topic and write a white paper based on their role prior to attending. Students were assigned to be either a delegate to the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group or the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), or as a Senior Arctic Official (SAO). Within the working groups, students were assigned one of two projects: for PAME, the projects focused on sustainable cruise ship tourism and on managing maritime traffic for marine resource development; for SDWG, the projects focused on human health and well being in the Arctic (access to water and sanitation services, as well as suicide prevention). Delegates to the working groups read their prepared statements, and then deliberated in smaller regional groups (i.e., Bering Sea, Barents Sea, Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian Seas) to discuss our priorities. After determining regional priorities, the entire working group reconvened to negotiate what would be included in the work plan moving forward, including the specific language upon which all parties agreed (as all Arctic Council work is performed through consensus). After determining the extent of the projects, the projects were presented to the SAOs, who then further deliberated on what countries were willing to support and send out statements to the ministerial meeting, which concluded the Council meeting.
Simulation aside, the students had the opportunity to listen to plenary lectures from Arctic researchers and dignitaries, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, Hajo Eicken, Piotr Graczyk. Students also partnered with the Arctic Youth Ambassadors in several outreach opportunities. The Arctic Youth Ambassadors are an initiative, started by the United States in conjunction with its Arctic Council chairmanship, designed to use the youth voice to educate the country about the Arctic. The week ended with a banquet, where the students presented their experiences and ministerial declaration to the public, including Admiral Robert Papp and Ambassador David Balton. Beyond the tremendous experiential learning opportunity this program afforded as far as the Arctic Council is concerned, the more important learning experience came from each other – as students learned to live, speak with, and work with students from very different backgrounds. The relationships forged during this program for the basis of professional relationships that will continue to influence Arctic policies for many years to come.
Brandon Ray participated in the 2016 Model Arctic Council as the U.S. Delegate to the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment, for which he was recognized as the Best Performer for the Managing Maritime Traffic for Marine Resource Development project. Brandon is a research assistant in University of Washington’s Department of Atmospheric Science. His research focuses on sea ice predictability in the Arctic at seasonal to interannual timescales, with the goal of allowing stakeholders to better understand the limitations of seasonal forecasts. Brandon was a member of the inaugural Arctic Research Fellows program at University of Washington, where he worked with another graduate student, Brit Sojka, and Nadine Fabbi on a project which examined how the climate change narratives of scientific, political, and indigenous communities have evolved and influenced each other in the Arctic. A naval officer of nine years, Brandon is also interested in how climate change has been incorporated into national security strategies, focusing specifically on the Arctic. Brandon will start graduate programs in the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs as well as the Masters of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) at the Jackson School of International Studies.