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Circumpolar Business Forum Task Force meets in Helsinki

6 January 2014
At the May 2013 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, Ministers from the eight Arctic Council states established a “Task Force to facilitate the creation of a circumpolar business forum.” That Task Force met on 4-5 December in 2013 in Helsinki, where it selected a new name – the Arctic Economic Council – and advanced its work on the scope and mandate of the proposed new organization.

In the Kiruna Declaration, signed at the eighth Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in May, 2013, Ministers from the eight Arctic Council states “recognize[d] that Arctic economic endeavors are integral to sustainable development for peoples and communities in the region, desire[d] to further enhance the work of the Arctic Council to promote dynamic and sustainable Arctic economies and best practices, and decide[d] to establish a Task Force to facilitate the creation of a circumpolar business forum.”

The purpose of the proposed forum, as articulated in the Senior Arctic Officials’ Report to Ministers in Kiruna is to “provide a mechanism to allow business and industry to engage with the Arctic States and Permanent Participants. The CBF would provide a venue for businesses, industries and indigenous enterprises to advance Arctic-oriented interests, share best practices, forge partnerships and engage in deeper cooperation.”

The Task Force had its third face-to-face meeting in Helsinki on December 4-5, 2013 to discuss the scope and mandate of the proposed body and how it would work with the Arctic Council. The meeting also included business participants from all of the Arctic States and a number of representatives from observers to the Arctic Council. The two-day meeting focused on reaching consensus on a framework document which outlines the Arctic Council’s expectations of the new business entity, as well as how the Arctic Council and the business entity will interact. The Task Force also reached tentative agreement on a new name for the circumpolar business forum, which will be called the “Arctic Economic Council”.

The Chairman of the Task Force, Mitch Bloom of Canada, said of the meeting: “All Task Force members were excited that we were able to come to a consensus on our ‘Recommendations to Facilitate the Creation of an Arctic Economic Council.’ The proposed shift in the name for the organization, and our shared understanding of the importance of launching the AEC, has everyone looking forward to the next steps.”

And Ambassador Hannu Halinen, the Senior Arctic Official for Finland, noted as well: "In Helsinki the Task Force made important progress. With wider participation from Permanent Participants, business representatives and – for the first time – observers, the meeting agreed on a set of recommendations for creating the Arctic Economic Council (as it is now called).”

The agreed-upon recommendations will be at the center of the Task Force’s report to SAOs that is due this December.

All eight Arctic Council states, including four SAOs who led delegations, were represented at the meeting, as were three of the six Arctic Council Permanent Participants – the Aleut International Association, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and the Saami Council. The Task Force is chaired by Canada, with Iceland, Finland and Russia as co-leads.

The full original terms of reference for the Task Force can be found in section C9 of the Senior Arctic Officials' Report to Ministers from 15 May 2013.