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Evolution of the Arctic Council: Reflections on the Past to Inform the Future In conversation with Rosemarie Kuptana, Franklyn Griffiths and Oran Young. Moderated by Tony Penikett.

April 5, 2022

At the age twenty-five forum, this conversation took place at a seminal moment in history on February 24, 2022. Just days after President Putin made clear that Ukraine was under threat of invasion.

Circumstances were different in 1996 when the Ottawa Declaration was signed by representatives of the right Arctic states, establishing the Arctic Council as a high-level forum with a “special emphasis on the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples”. At the time, the Arctic was generally seen as a peripheral region outside the mainstream of world affairs.

Perhaps this situation provided the very conditions required to coordinate the interests of eight sovereign nations. During the decade leading up to the official launch of the Arctic Council, countless meetings occurred among a limited group of people from across all Arctic states. Meetings which took place with regularity encouraged substantive discussion. This spirit early days of the Arctic COunincl where Senior Arctic Officials and members of the Working Groups close connections and a shared understanding of local and regional issues.

Since the founding of the Arctic Council conditions have changed. A sizable number of non-arctic states and non-governmental organizations have joined the COuncil as Observers, media coverage has increased, and corporate interests have kept an eye on business opportunities. How might these developments change the operations of the Arctic Council How can the region’s Indigenous peoples maintain a strong presence in this increasingly crowded field?

The Arctic is now part of the global system. With these pressures in mind, how can the Arctic Council retain the virtues of a smaller organization and also embrace a philosophy of inclusivity?