“Quo vadis Arctic? Arctic Cooperation in Times of Global Change”

Arctic Council Handover Event:
“Quo vadis Arctic? Arctic Cooperation in Times of Global Change”
Berlin, May 22, 2017
CDA Kent Logsdon

Welcome to our Embassy.

Last week, the U.S. hosted the 10th Arctic Council Foreign Ministerial in Fairbanks, Alaska, at which Secretary Rex Tillerson handed over the two-year chairmanship of the Council to Finland.

We are very pleased to co-host this program with the Potsdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies. It is our own handover ceremony and an opportunity to discuss the work of the Arctic Council going forward.  A little later in the program, we will be hearing from Dr. Kathrin Keil.  Dr Keil leads the Sustainable Modes of Arctic Resource-driven Transformations project at the Potsdam Institute.  She is also a member of the German observer delegation to the Arctic Council.

We are also very pleased to welcome Markku Lampinen, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Finnish Embassy who will present the priorities of Finland’s Arctic Council Presidency.  As Secretary Tillerson said at the official handover, he looks forward to working with Finland.  That is true at the Embassy to Embassy level as well.

We will start our program today with a presentation by [TBD: Judy Garber, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and] Julie Gourley, the United States Senior Arctic Official.  Julie, who has been the primary U.S. representative to the Arctic Council since 2005, will discuss the achievements of the U.S. Chairmanship.

Looking forward, the Trump Administration has made it clear that one of our main policy priorities is to balance the needs of economic growth and good stewardship of the environment.  The United States has a long and proud history of environmental awareness, reaching back to the establishment of the National Park System over 100 years ago and the enactment of federal legislation safeguarding the environment in the 1970s.  These legislative measures were among the first laws of their type in the world.   They created the momentum for a broad consensus in the United States among the general public, government at all levels, the community of non-governmental organizations, and the private sector on the importance of environmental protection.  This commitment is reflected in a pragmatic, cooperative, and results-oriented approach to environmental policy – and that includes environmental policy in the Arctic.  And as Secretary Tillerson pointed out, the opportunity to chair the Arctic Council strengthened our commitment to continuing its work in the future.

Last year, the Arctic Council celebrated its 20th birthday.  It has proven to be an indispensable forum; but like many 20-year-olds, the Council is still evolving.

The first Ministerial meeting in 1996 was held in Barrow, Alaska, which holds the distinction of being the northernmost settlement in the United States and the northernmost settlement on the North American mainland.  It has been home to the Native Inupiat Eskimo people for over 1000 years.  Today they make up over half of the population.  Last October, the citizens of Barrow voted to restore the town’s indigenous name, Utqiagvik [Ut ka-va vick] which means a place to gather wild roots.

The Arctic Council is not only the sole international forum devoted to the Arctic region; it is also the only international forum where national officials and indigenous peoples sit at the same table and work closely together on critical issues.  Twenty years ago, groups representing the Arctic’s native people regarded the council’s creation as a breakthrough.  Although the idea of an Arctic organization had been around for years, it was only with the end of the Cold War that it finally became politically feasible.  By uniting efforts on issues of economic development and cultural protection as well as environmental concerns, it was hoped then that the Council would give some political punch and much-needed attention to one of the most isolated and harshest parts of the planet, a broad region covering millions of square miles that is home to some of the world’s most ancient cultures.  But because it is so remote, in the past it has been all too easy to neglect.  The United States was privileged, however, to lead the Arctic Council at a time when the region has been receiving unprecedented and very necessary attention.

The challenges that the Arctic faces are real and profound; and they have global impact.  The slogan for the U.S. chairmanship of the Council was “One Arctic.”  It was meant to emphasize that only together, will we responsibly manage this rapidly changing region for generations to come.  A number of remarkable initiatives and programs were brought to fruition over the past two years, thanks to the outstanding work of all the government officials, the permanent participants, the working group and task force chairs, the secretariats, the observers, and invited experts who participated.  And I am confident that, under the leadership of Finland, the Council is poised to accomplish even more.

Thank you all for joining us today.