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New Arctic Contaminants Project

Industrial development of the Arctic has been accompanied by waste accumulation, especially in the vicinity of indigenous villages. This represents a growing threat to safety and health of the Arctic people who – due to traditional living conditions – are exposed to higher levels of contamination in the air, water, soil and their food supply.

To address contaminant issues in indigenous peoples’ communities in remote areas of the Arctic, the Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council proposed the elaboration of the Indigenous Peoples Community Action Initiative. This initiative was approved by the Arctic Council at the Ministerial Meetings in Salekhard and Tromsø (under ACAP). The work of Indigenous Peoples Contaminant Action Program (IPCAP) PSG is aimed at reducing exposure and impact of contaminants in indigenous peoples’ communities. The group shall also enhance involvement of Arctic indigenous peoples in these activities.

IPCAP PSG gathered for its first meeting on November 7 in Luleå, Sweden. Permanent participant organisations Aleut International Association (AIA), Russian Indigenous Peoples Organisation (RAIPON), Sami Council, Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS), Arctic Council secretariat and country representatives from Finland, Norway, Sweden and USA participated in the meeting.

The group discussed its Terms of Reference and mandate. The aim of the PSG is both to ensure the Indigenous Peoples’ concerns are taken into account in other Arctic Council projects and to facilitate development of projects addressing the exposure to and impacts of contaminants in the indigenous communities. The PSG will elect two co-chairs, one chosen by the PPs and one by the Arctic Member States.

It was recognized that PPs would approach the indigenous communities in order to collect information on potential future work areas. The choice of work areas will be based on:
• the existing published information on indigenous peoples' contaminants with recommendations (AMAP 2004 and many other research projects)
• previous projects addressing the contaminant and indigenous communities that have been carried out in the Arctic.

This analysis will allow the PSG to define key problem areas where action would need to be taken.

The group also discussed the possible criteria for prioritising of future projects (adverse effects on health and environment, source characteristics, exposure pathways, inherent properties of contaminants and their occurrence profiles, communities' vulnerability, project transferability to other regions in the Arctic, technical feasibility).

The next meeting of IPCAP will take place in March 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Photos provided by IPCAP