Arctic nations sign scientific cooperation agreement

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of Foreign Affairs, signs the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation on May 11, 2017. (Linnea Nordström/Arctic Council Secretariat)
Canada and its seven Arctic neighbours signed a binding science cooperation agreement that aims to make it easier for the scientists from all eight circumpolar countries to collaborate with each other in their research in the rapidly changing region.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation on Canada’s behalf during the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska today.

“The Agreement will reinforce Canada’s role as a leader in Arctic science and help attract international researchers to the Canadian Arctic,” Freeland said in a statement. “It will also facilitate Arctic scientific cooperation, which will help us make better decisions for Northerners and all Canadians.”

Freeland was accompanied at the meeting in Fairbanks by Canadian Indigenous Permanent Participants that include the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), the Gwich’in Council International (GCI) and the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC).

Helping Arctic research
Out on the land in Canada’s High Arctic. From left to right: University of Calgary professor Susan Kutz, Cambridge Bay hunter Colin Amegainek, University of Calgary PhD student Juliette Di Francesco. Partnerships between indigenous knowledge and science are increasingly important to understanding Arctic climate change. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The agreement, which was negotiated among the eight Arctic countries, in consultation with six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations of the Arctic Council, is expected to make it easier for scientists to travel, bring their equipment across national borders, conduct studies and experiments and share their research and expertise.

It also encourages scientists to use the traditional knowledge of Arctic’s Indigenous communities.

The agreement is expected to attract international researchers to Canada’s North, including to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus, which Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) will operate upon its completion in 2017, said a statement from Global Affairs Canada.

“Through this Agreement, Polar Knowledge Canada will strengthen its international leadership in ensuring that Arctic research reflects the rich history, traditions, expertise, knowledge and priorities of Northerners and Indigenous peoples,” Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett said in a statement. “We are taking meaningful steps to make sure research about the North is led by the North.”

A legally binding agreement

It is the third legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council, which brings together Canada, Denmark (for Greenland), Iceland, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, as well as six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations and a number of observer states and organizations.

The Arctic Council was established in Ottawa in 1996 with the Ottawa Declaration. Canada was the first Chair of the Arctic Council from 1996 to 1998 and again from 2013 to 2015.

The ministerial meeting in Fairbanks marked the end of U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council and the transfer of the two-year rotating chairmanship to Finland.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian researchers count on Siberian reindeer herders to solve archaeological mystery, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finland looks to put education, environment at top of Arctic agenda, Yle News

Greenland: Q&A: Impact assessments in the Arctic – What Canada and Greenland can learn from each other, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge can help us prevent climate changes says Ban Ki-moon, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway:  Norway’s foreign minister to visit Russian nuclear waste dump, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Barents cooperation leaders meet in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden launches UN Security Council presidency with a New Year’s resolution, Radio Sweden

United States: Arctic Ocean on track to be ice-free in summer by 2040, say scientists, Alaska Dispatch News

The Arctic Council chairmanship moves from the United States to Finland on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn along with EOTA media partners and contributors will be bringing you stories, interviews and analysis leading up to the handover.
Read our full coverage here!

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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