ICC Greenland joins the Arctic Economic Council

“We are hopeful that the AEC will continue to be a constructive partner for the countries and communities involved, and that the Council continues to advocate for much needed economic development in the Arctic in general, and specifically for the Indigenous Peoples who live there”, says ICC Greenland’s Kuupik V Kleist, pictured here in a file photo. (Ulrik Bang/AFP via Getty Images)

The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) – Greenland joined the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) this month, saying Greenland’s economic aspirations fit well with the AEC’s focus on responsible development in the North. 

“We are joining the AEC to ensure the wellbeing of the Arctic Peoples and sustainable economic development in the region,” ICC Greenland’s Kuupik V Kleist said in a news release. 

“Our code of ethics is in line with the principles of the AEC, and we see the organization as a guide for sustainable and responsible investments and development in the region.”

ICC is an organization that represents the approximately 180,000 Inuit in the Arctic and has chapters in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia.

Canadian roots

The Arctic Economic Council was established during Canada’s last chairmanship (2013-2015), of the Arctic Council, an international forum made up of the world’s eight circumpolar nations and six Arctic Indigenous groups.

The AEC was initially conceived as an entity to advise the Arctic Council on business issues but has evolved to facilitate business-to-business activities in the North and promote responsible economic development.

The AEC is separate from the Arctic Council, but chairmanship of the body rotates among the circumpolar countries to mirror the Arctic Council’s rotating two-year chairmanships.

AEC members include both Arctic-based companies and groups, and those based elsewhere in the world, as well as Indigenous groups and corporations. The AEC is open to small and medium sized businesses, as well as large companies.

“We still have a continuous task to promote the Arctic as a favourable place to do business,” AEC’s Director Mads Qvist Frederiksen said.

“I am very happy to have ICC Greenland as a member,” Mads Qvist Frederiksen, director of the AEC, said. 

“This strengthens our representation in Greenland and our work to develop Indigenous businesses across the region. Instead of thinking North-South collaboration, we have to think more across the Arctic.” 

Greenland business opportunities

The AEC’s working groups are focusing on the kinds of industries and investment that make the most sense for the North, something Kleist says is important for Greenland.

“Greenland, like other Arctic communities, is in an urgent need for diversifying its economic activities,” Kleist said.

“We are almost completely dependent on the export of fish, which makes the economy fragile and pushes the limits of resources. Greenland must diversify its economic activities so to ease the pressure on the fish stocks. Harvesting natural resources is a moving target; when nature and the world market economy speaks, one has to obey.”

The Arctic Economic Council 2019 Annual Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland. (Jouni Lösönen/Courtesy Arctic Economic Council)

Responsible resource development is a promising track for the autonomous territory, Kleist said. But recent elections that saw the election of a party which campaigned against a controversial rare earth minerals mining project, has been misinterpreted by some of the international business community, as Greenland being against such initiatives. 

“Considering the fragile Arctic environment, there is scepticism towards mining minerals with radioactive content,” Kleist said.

“While the recently inaugurated Government is strictly against uranium mining, it needs to make it very clear for international investors: the Government is not against mining activities in general.”

Frederiksen agrees. 

“The AEC has together with the World Economic Forum developed the Arctic Investment Protocol, which is a set of guidelines for companies operating in the Arctic,” he said. 

“Nonetheless, we still have a continuous task to promote the Arctic as a favourable place to do business. Since the recent government election in Greenland, we have seen some investors getting cold feet about recent developments in mining.” 

Arctic Economic Council meeting room in Fairbanks, Alaska. The Arctic Economic Council was established during Canada’s last chairmanship (2013-2015) of the Arctic Council. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Kleist says he hopes having ICC Greenland on the AEC will send an important message about the kind of the economic development needed in the region. 

“We are hopeful that the AEC will continue to be a constructive partner for the countries and communities involved, and that the Council continues to advocate for much needed economic development in the Arctic in general, and specifically for the Indigenous Peoples who live there.”

Write to Eilís at eilis.quinn@cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Strong rebound coming for northern territories: Conference Board of Canada, CBC News

Finland: Kemi-Tornio area in northern Finland gets €4.2m recovery package to cope with Veitsiluoto mill closures, Yle News

Norway: Are Norway’s energy policies caught between ‘black gold’ & green ambitions?, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

Russia: Moscow wants new connection to Arctic coast, revives plans for a railway to Sabetta, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Cruise ship docks in Skagway, Alaska for the first time in 21 months, CBC News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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