Alaska Arctic Council Ad Hoc Working Group

The featured speaker at the Alaska Arctic Council Ad Hoc Working Group meeting and teleconference on was Tara Sweeney, Executive Vice President–External Affairs for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), and Chair of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC).  She gave a short briefing on the Inuit Arctic Business Alliance (IABA) and the AEC, which she said are aimed to help Arctic peoples influence the issues and projects that will affect their lives.


The IABA will focus on regulatory and business policies, and port and broadband development. Rex Rock of ASRC is the President of the IABA, with Wayne Westlake of NANA Regional Corporation as Vice President, and Gail Schubert of the Bering Straits Native Corporation as Treasurer. The IABA will have a conference in Nome this winter, limited to invited participants.


The AEC was established under Canada’s leadership, when it chaired the Arctic Council.  It met in Ottawa earlier this year, and the Executive Committee traveled to Iqaluit, Nunavut, to present its status report and work plan to the Arctic Council ministerial. The plan includes protocols and proposals for search and rescue, food security, broadband, energy, marine transportation infrastructure, and situational awareness for vessel traffic.


The AEC plans to conduct a Pan-Arctic assessment of telecommunications infrastructure to inventory current facilities and determine how to fill the gaps. With its understanding of Arctic energy needs, the AEC also plans to produce best practices guidelines for Arctic energy development and make recommendations on cost-effective and sustainable ways to meet Arctic energy demands. The AEC will also explore the meaning of initiatives to address black carbon and methane releases.


The AEC will open an office on September 8, 2015, in Tromso, Norway, where the Secretariat office is located. The AEC’s governing board will hold its first meeting in Washington, DC, in November 2015.


The AEC has formed three working groups dealing with the broad subjects of Arctic stewardship, responsible resources development, and marine transportation and infrastructure.  It is planning a fourth working group on telecommunications and broadband.  More information on working groups and task forces can be found here.


Adrianna Muir of the U.S. State Department provided updates on Arctic activities related to international diplomacy.


As the Arctic Council chair, the U.S. hosted its first closed meeting of Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) in mid-June.  The meeting dealt with internal administrative issues.  The full SAO plenary meeting will occur in Anchorage in mid-October of 2015. More information about upcoming Arctic Council meetings can be found here.


Muir has been discussing with Craig Fleener, Arctic Advisor to Alaska Governor Bill Walker, how Alaskans can be heard in Arctic Council deliberations.  She said they have been working on streamlined participation by Alaskan experts in upcoming meetings.


Muir said the State Department’s upcoming conference entitled, “Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER)” in Anchorage on August 30-31 is a separate effort from the Arctic Council.  Secretary John Kerry will host and, as widely reported, President Barack Obama will address the conference.


In general, Muir said the GLACIER conference will address how climate change can be mitigated in the Arctic.  Simultaneous sessions will be held on search and rescue, renewable energy, fisheries, black carbon, and other issues.


Non-transferable invitations have already been distributed. Though participation is limited, public registration may be opened online at a future time. Portions of the conference will be livestreamed.


Kate Wolgemuth, the staff of Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, reported the Senator had been able to insert a requirement for an Arctic strategy in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act along with preparation of an Arctic operations plan.  She said the current strategy mentions climate change repeatedly, but contains little acknowledgement of the potential threat from Russia. She added Sen. Sullivan has meetings scheduled with Ambassador David Balton, chair of SAOs, and Adm. Robert Papp, Special Representative for the Arctic.


Alaska Gov. Bill Walker will host the Northern Governors & Premiers Summit in Fairbanks in late September. More information is forthcoming.


Other upcoming Arctic events highlighted include the following:

  • At Governor Walker’s invitation, Alaskans across the State have joined an Alaska Arctic Host Committee that will arrange a variety of events during the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The activities of the Host Committee will help Alaskans to connect to delegations from the other Arctic nations who will be visiting our State for Arctic Council meetings. Institute of the North is organizing a launch in Anchorage on August 14 in Anchorage. More information can be found here.
  • TheS. Arctic Research Commission will meet on August 24 in Anchorage and August 25-26 in Nome. Full agenda can be found here.
  • The Institute of the North will present Mr. Wilfred Boyuck Ryan of Ryan Air with the Robert O. Anderson Sustainable Arctic Award on August 18 in Unalakleet. More information can be found here.
  • The Institute of the North will hold a forum on Foreign Direct Investors on September 1 in Anchorage. The purpose is to raise awareness of Alaska business sectors that could benefit from international investment. Sessions will cover natural gas, travel and tourism, and other subjects. More information and registration can be found here.