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162 The Two Arctics - The Arctic Circle Assembly 2022

29 . 11 . 2022


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THE TWO ARCTICS - THE ARCTIC CIRCLE ASSEMBLY 2022 The 9th Arctic Circle Assembly showcased a very divided Arctic Community, with Russian participants glaringly absent.

It seems the circumpolar Arctic does not exist at the moment and the new chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Sara Olsvig, reiterates that there can’t be a solution to this in the Arctic without the inclusion of indigenous people as they live across the modern-day borders. She also said very clearly that with Arctic democracy under great pressure, the post Arctic Council and its future is reason for big concerns.

Further, the future of the Arctic Council in the light of Russia’s unprovoked War on Ukraine has been discussed on numerous occasions. There has been speculation that the West will fundamentally reshape Arctic governance by forming a new international body, known as “Nordic Plus.” While Nordic Plus would have shared values and government norms, it would forfeit the institutional legitimacy and progress that the Arctic Council has fostered. Furthermore, little utility exists in such an organisation without Moscow.

The Arctic Circle Assembly went highly political when the chair of NATO’s Military Committee, Robert Bauer , delivered a very blunt and aggressive speech about the state of regional security, which included the statement that Beijing was undermining the “rules-based international order,” underlining the very different narratives between the United States and China over China’s Arctic interests. His remarks were promptly criticized by China’s Ambassador to Iceland He Rulong, who was in the audience and who accused the NATO official of taking an “arrogant” stance.

This exchange during the Arctic Circle Assembly demonstrated both how cooled the China-US relations are, as well as the high level of difficulty facing Beijing as it navigates a political Arctic much different from five years ago, when China’s own Arctic White Paper was released.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. The Arctic Circle Assembly remains a forum to exchange on numerous topics and it also highlights particular efforts for the circumpolar Arctic with two prizes, the 2022 Arctic Circle Prize for the Alfred Wegener Institute and its groundbreaking MOSAiC Drift Ice Expedition, and the Frederik Paulsen Arctic Academic Action Award given to Professor Hanne Hvidtfeldt Christiansen and Associate Professor Marius Jonassen of the University Centre of Svalbard for their PermaMeteoCommunity project.

This is an episode of the Curiously Polar podcast

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