Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Counselor of the Department of State|
Closing Remarks at First Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council
Iqaluit, Northwest Territories, Canada, September 18, 1998
As released by the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
As Prepared for Delivery
[End of document]
Let me express my appreciation to all those present for their support and encouragement to the United States as it becomes the new host of the Arctic Council. As you may already know, President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary of State Albright are very committed leaders for environmental protection and sustainable development. We are delighted to have this opportunity to facilitate and strengthen Arctic cooperation. We look forward to chairing meetings in the United States, both in our capital and in Alaska.
I also would like to welcome the Aleut International Association as a new Permanent Participant in the Arctic Council. The Council's unique structure is meant to encourage participation by trans-boundary indigenous communities, in particular, from which the Council benefits considerably. The addition of the Aleut International Association as a Permanent Participant has been a priority of the U.S., and is a sign of the council's vibrancy.
Working with all of you in partnership, my government hopes the Council will achieve significant progress over the next two years. I wish to identify a number of areas of particular concern to us.
In our view, the Council should continue its support for the environmental protection objectives of its precursor, the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. Much work in this area remains ahead. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program's five-year assessment of the Arctic environment revealed the extent to which Arctic- and non-Arctic-origin pollutants despoil the Arctic's land and marine environments. We welcome Norway's proposal to initiate an Arctic Council action plan to cover this area. We look forward to working with Norway and others to complete this action plan by our next meeting.
Another positive step concerning the environment relates to the "Regional Program of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution." I would note Canada's strong involvement in this plan. Taking its lead from the Global Program of Action developed by the UN Environment Program, this action plan outlines the measures we must take to clean up the Arctic Ocean in this "Year of the Oceans." The plan represents an excellent first step, and we will strive to integrate and harmonize its recommendations with other Arctic Council activities.
We are very proud of our PCB phase-out project in the Russian Federation. Working with the governments of Russia and other Arctic countries, we have designed the first stage of this project, which will be supported by all Arctic Council states. similarly, working with Nordic countries and the European Union, we are cooperating with Russia to develop a prototype vessel for sealing and storing nuclear waste. We look forward to continuing progress on these and other environmental protection projects over the next two years.
As host of the Arctic Council we will ensure that the Council's other major goal, sustainable development, also receives appropriate emphasis, as envisioned by the Council's charter declaration. The future of the Arctic depends on its people. We must insure their prosperity in the future through sustainable development. We will continue to work in partnership with you to identify and move forward on specific sustainable development projects now that the Council has approved terms of reference in this area, pursuant to the Council's declaration.
The United States believes that sustainable development projects should be developed primarily from the "bottom-up." Those involved with the Council should propose specific projects and seek the support of the Council as a whole. While we welcome continued national efforts to develop principles for sustainable development, we believe it important for the Council to demonstrate through tangible projects that it can help Arctic people in the near-term to address the many important issues they face.
Our state of Alaska recently examined its sustainable development priorities and developed three concrete projects. They involve telemedicine, rural sanitation and eco-tourism. The first, telemedicine, has now been approved for implementation. We welcome your cooperation and participation in this very important project. We hope the Senior Arctic Officials will endorse our rural sanitation and eco-tourism projects at their next meeting.
Another major theme we expect to stress during our tenure as host of the Council involves regional cooperation. There are a number of northern and Arctic bodies looking at different aspects of regional cooperation. Finland and others have suggested examining this matter and we would welcome continued attention to this issue.
An emphasis on regional coordination is in keeping with the Northeast Europe Initiative launched by the United States, the Nordic and Baltic states, Germany, and Russia in 1997. Like the NEI, the Arctic Council represents a new kind of diplomacy organized around transnational cooperation in important, but perhaps less traditional, areas. The NEI has already begun to focus on six priority areas: environment, energy, law enforcement, public health, business promotion, and civil society. We will share with the Arctic Council information concerning the successes and challenges of the NEI, and will coordinate Arctic Council projects with NEI activities and with other fora as discussed this morning, where appropriate. These activities can build on the growing array of links between our State of Alaska and the eastern regions of the Russian Federation.
Another example of a complementary regional program is the proposal to establish the University of the Arctic. Such a university could address an important need of northern communities, and we are encouraged by the initial efforts of its organizers. The involvement of the Permanent Participants and other indigenous groups is crucial to the success of this idea in particular.
During its period as host, the United States will ask the Council to examine how the Council can make better use of its diverse observers. The Council's working groups have benefited from the active participation of its observers, such as the International Arctic Science Committee. We intend to encourage greater observer participation in Senior Arctic Officials' meetings as well.
The United States supports the recent actions by the Council to devote more attention to the health of individuals in Arctic communities. While the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Working Group does have a health sub-component, we are pleased that the Council itself has begun to emphasize this issue directly through the approval of sustainable development projects by Canada and the U.S. which focus on health issues. We hope that additional projects might be examined in the context of an overall Council emphasis on health-related projects. The United States hopes to see more attention focused on health in the Arctic.
These are some of the areas that my government hopes the Council will address while we host the Council, but most of all we look forward to working with all of you to address the challenges facing the Arctic.
Let me once again thank Canada and the people of Iqaluit for their hospitality throughout this Ministerial forum. In many ways one's environment determines one's vision. Here at northern latitudes, we have enjoyed a unique perspective that will guide us as we tackle common goals. Our hosts have contributed to our education about the Arctic. I am confident that we will leave Iqaluit enriched by this experience and with a deeper appreciation of our common purpose.
Also see: Arctic Council Website
Statement on the Arctic Council
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