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Interview with the Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials – Vincent Rigby

24 July 2014
Chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials, Vincent Rigby, recently discussed his new role and the road ahead to the 2015 Ministerial meeting with the Arctic Council Secretariat.

Vincent Rigby was recently named by Canada as the new Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. Mr. Rigby will be working closely with the Senior Arctic Officials from the eight Arctic states, the Heads of Delegation of the six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations, and the Chairs of the Council’s six working groups and four task forces over the coming months to continue to implement the Council’s program during the Canadian chairmanship, which culminates in the Ministerial meeting in spring 2015.

ACS: What are you most looking forward to in your new role as the Chair of the Arctic Council’ Senior Arctic Officials?

Vincent Rigby: For me, this challenging role provides a tremendous opportunity to work with a range of players who all have a common interest in the future of the Arctic. I’m impressed with the body of high quality work the Council has produced over the years, which has significantly increased the knowledge base in the region, and I’m encouraged with its recent move towards more action-oriented, policy work. The Arctic is undergoing a time of transformation, and the Arctic Council is evolving to respond to that change.

At just over the mid-point of Canada’s chairmanship, significant progress has been made on the Arctic Council’s program. In just the last few months, several meetings of the Council’s working groups and task forces have taken place, focusing on a number of key issues, including addressing black carbon and methane emissions, promoting mental wellness in Arctic communities and incorporating traditional knowledge in the work of the Council. And the Council’s work will ramp-up quickly over the next few months as we prepare to deliver on the various initiatives that were mandated by Arctic Council Ministers in the 2013 Kiruna Declaration.

For example, facilitating the creation of the Arctic Economic Council – an independent body that will foster sustainable development, facilitate business opportunities and inform the work of the Arctic Council – is a significant accomplishment of the Arctic Council and one which has great potential to make a difference in the lives of the people across the circumpolar North.

ACS: In what ways have your experiences prepared you for the work ahead in the latter half of Canada’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council?

Vincent Rigby: First of all, I would like to thank Patrick Borbey for his work during the first year of Canada’s chairmanship and I wish him good luck in his new position at Canadian Heritage. Patrick’s work as chair has put the Council in an excellent position to implement its agenda effectively during the concluding year of Canada’s chairmanship.

I believe that my previous experiences in the public service have prepared me for taking on this new role as Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. Since November 2013, I have been involved in supporting the implementation of Canada’s chairmanship as Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of Strategic Policy at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and I was responsible for Arctic issues while I was ADM Policy at the Department of National Defence. Also, in many of my previous capacities, including at the Canadian International Development Agency, I was often involved in whole-of-government and multilateral work to develop common policy approaches and outcomes. And since the Arctic Council is a consensus body made up of many actors, these experiences will be useful in guiding the Council’s activities over the next year.

I am grateful that the Chair of the Arctic Council, Minister Leona Aglukkaq, has asked me to serve in this important position. The Arctic Council is working to address important issues that matter to the people in the Arctic, such as sustainable development and environmental protection, and I am looking forward to making a substantial contribution to this process.