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Strengthening the Arctic Council

The Arctic is undergoing rapid changes and the Arctic Council is adapting to better address the opportunities and challenges that come with change.

The Arctic is undergoing rapid changes, and the Arctic Council is adapting to better address the opportunities and challenges that come with change. During Canada’s chairmanship, the Council focused on a number of initiatives to ensure it remains effective and strong.

For example, the Council sought better ways to manage the growing body of information the Council has produced in its nearly 20 years of existence. Better archiving of reports and increased access to records and information puts a greater focus on issues that are important to the people of the Arctic. It further allows researchers to access scientific work that can enhance knowledge and understanding of the state of the Arctic.

A new tracking tool was created to better monitor ongoing programs and projects of the Council’s Working Groups and Task Forces as well as increase awareness of the Council’s work. The tracking tool will be updated and maintained by the Arctic Council Secretariat over time.

An Open Access archive to enhance public access to the past and present work of the Council was also established, making Council documents readily available via library databases using modern archiving and record-keeping techniques.

A unique feature of the Council is the participation and active engagement of its six Indigenous Permanent Participant Organizations (PPs). Ensuring strong Arctic Indigenous voices at the table has been an important focus of the Council during Canada’s chairmanship. The contributions by PPs to the Council’s projects help to ensure that its work focuses on outcomes that benefit the people who live in the Arctic. However, as the range of activities undertaken by the Council continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to address the ability of PPs to actively contribute to its work. To better understand the capacity issues facing the PPs, the Arctic Council undertook an assessment to identify potential actions to address these issues. As this work is of an ongoing nature, the Council will continue to build on the initial discussions and recommendations to support the enhancement of PP capacity.

Youth engagement is another important aspect of strengthening the Arctic Council. Informing and engaging youth across the circumpolar region helps build awareness of the Council’s work and creates a sense of shared community on issues of common concern and interest to young people living in the Arctic. Over the past two years, a number of activities involving youth were undertaken, ranging from the active participation of young people at the March 2015 Circumpolar Mental Wellness Symposium, to the organization of a workshop for Future Arctic Leaders in Ottawa, Canada, where young people from the circumpolar region will meet to discuss and share their vision for the future of the Arctic.

A circumpolar youth art competition was also organized and will be exhibited in Ottawa, Canada, providing a unique opportunity to showcase the diverse heritage and cultures of the Arctic, and the creativity of young people.

In addition to youth engagement, a number of outreach and communications activities, including participating in conferences, organizing public events on the margins of Arctic Council meetings, enhancing the Council’s web presence and use of social media, were undertaken to raise public awareness of the Council and its work. Such efforts enhance the understanding of the benefits the Council’s activities can have for people living in the Arctic region.