Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was initiated in Rovaniemi, Finland, in June 1991 when environmental ministers from the eight Arctic countries signed the Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment. Also referred to as the Rovaniemi Process, the AEPS was intended to be a forum for Canada, Finland, the United States, Iceland, the Russian

Federation, Denmark/Greenland, Sweden, and Norway to share information and to develop programs and initiatives to deal with Arctic conservation and environmental problems such as pollution. Six areas of concern were identified for action at Rovaniemi: persistent organic pollutants (POPs), radionuclides, heavy metals, oil, acidification, and noise.

As set out in its various ministerial declarations, the AEPS objectives are: to protect Arctic ecosystems; to ensure the sustainable utilization of renewable resources by local populations and indigenous peoples; to recognize and incorporate the traditional and cultural needs, values, and practises of indigenous peoples related to protection of the Arctic environment; to review regularly the state of the Arctic environment; to identify the causes and extent of pollution in the Arctic; and to reduce and eliminate pollution.

The Ministers established Working Groups in various program areas that would investigate issues and trends, produce assessments, and generate policy recommendations. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) was set up to identify the levels and effects of anthropogenic pollutants and contaminants in the Arctic. A Working Group on the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) was established to address species and habitat conservation in the region by promoting the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of living resources. The Working Group on Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment was established, following the Nuuk Ministerial Meeting in September 1993, to address policy and nonemergency pollution prevention and control measures related to the protection of the Arctic marine environment from land- and sea-based activities, including marine shipping, offshore oil and gas development, land-based activities, and ocean disposal. At the same time a Working Group on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (EPPR) was set up, as was a Task Force (which later became the Working Group) on Sustainable Development and Utilization (TF/WGSDU). EPPR's work is focused mainly on oil and gas transportation and extraction, and on radiological and other hazards, with a mandate to exchange information on best practices for preventing spills, preparing to respond to spills should they occur, and practical response measures for use in the event of a spill. The Working Group on Sustainable Development was established largely in response to prompting and lobbying by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), and signaled the gradual movement away from the main AEPS emphasis on pollution and conservation issues toward sustainable development concerns. WGSDU became dormant as the negotiations for the Arctic Council drew to an end, but resurfaced as a strong element of the Arctic Council's activities after the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Barrow, Alaska, in 2000 approved a strategic framework document on sustainable development. Based on this foundation for further cooperation, the SDWG began developing the framework for activities on the economic, social, and cultural aspects of sustainable development.

From the beginning, the main objective of the AEPS was to include the concerns of indigenous peoples. In the original Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment, the ministers emphasized not only "our responsibility to protect and preserve the Arctic environment" but also the importance of "recognizing the special relationship of the indigenous peoples and local populations of the Arctic and their unique contribution to the protection of the Arctic environment." The importance of indigenous participation in the AEPS was underscored in 1993 when the environmental ministers convened in Nuuk, Greenland, for the second ministerial meeting to review progress since signing the original Declaration two years previously. This meeting resulted in the "Nuuk Declaration," which established a program with a secretariat to enable indigenous peoples' organizations (IPOs) to participate in future meetings and discussions of the AEPS. The Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat opened officially in February 1995 and is located in the Greenland Home Rule Government's Danish office in Copenhagen. Initially, the ICC, the Saami Council, and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) were all given observer status within the AEPS.

As an unprecedented framework for international cooperation on Arctic environmental and sustainabili-ty issues, the AEPS process initially consisted, at the political level, of Ministerial Meetings (Rovaniemi, June 1991; Nuuk, September 1993; Inuvik, April 1996; Alta, June 1997). There were one or two meetings each year at the executive level of what became known as the Senior Arctic Affairs Officials (SAAO) from each of the eight governments. There was no central, permanent secretariat to support the AEPS process as a whole, with the state chairing the AEPS between Ministerial Meetings in Finland, Denmark/Greenland, Canada, Norway providing its own small unit. In addition to preparing the Ministerial Meetings, the SAAOs attempted to give more substance to their role by directing and coordinating the increasingly broad networks of governmental scientists, experts, and administrators—together with IPOs and a range of nongovernmental actors—active at the working level in the AEPS program areas.

The main activity within the AEPS was working to develop transgovernmental Arctic networks that facilitated the discussion and production of knowledge about the nature and severity of environmental challenges in the Arctic, as well as high-level discussion about how to formulate appropriate responses. Moreover, this programmatic activity has been hampered by the reluctance of member states to provide adequate funding for the Working Groups. Operating on a lead country principle, individual countries assumed responsibility for leading developing and financing projects they have a special interest in. While an agreement in principle was reached on sharing common costs, it proved difficult in reality to agree on a formula for sharing common costs, or to reach agreement on whether this was obligatory or voluntary.

Although established as a high-level intergovernmental process between the eight Arctic governments, the AEPS process has been increasingly open and transparent. Accredited observer status at the political and executive levels was granted to four non-Arctic states (Germany, Netherlands, Poland, UK), to the Northern Forum of Arctic and Northern territorial governments, to some specialized intergovernmental organizations (e.g., UNEP, UN ECE), and to the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). Several environmental/conservation NGOs (e.g., WWF International, Arctic Network) have participated as observers in Working Groups and achieved ad hoc, though not permanent (accredited), observer status at the political/executive level. The special position gradually asserted by the three existing transnational Arctic IPOs was reflected in their recognition as Permanent Participants in the AEPS by the time of the Nuuk Ministerial Meeting in 1993.

With the establishment of the Arctic Council in Ottawa in September 1996, the Working Groups and programmatic activities of the AEPS were subsumed under this new high-level governmental forum. Foreign ministers of the Arctic states agreed in the Ottawa Declaration to form the Arctic Council with a mandate to undertake a broad program to coordinate the programs established under the AEPS, and to promote cooperation between Arctic states on common issues (excluding military security) including all dimensions of sustainable development.

Mark Nuttall

See also Arctic Council; Capacity Building; Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment (1991); Indigenous Peoples' Organizations and Arctic Environmental Politics

Further Reading

AMAP, Arctic Pollution Issues: A State of the Arctic

Environment Report, Oslo: Arctic Monitoring and

Assessment Programme, 1998

Archer, Clive & David Scrivener, "International Co-operation in the Arctic Environment." In The Arctic: Environment, People, Policy, edited by Mark Nuttall & Terry V. Callaghan, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000, pp. 601-619

CAFF, Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation,

Helsinki: Ediita. 2001 Nuttall, Mark, "Indigenous Peoples' Organisations and Arctic Environmental Co-operation." In The Arctic: Environment, People, Policy, edited by Mark Nuttall & Terry V. Callaghan, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000, pp. 621-637

Scrivener, David, Environmental Cooperation in the Arctic from Strategy to Council, Oslo: Norwegian Atlantic Committee, 1996

Young, Oran R, The Arctic Council: Marking a New Era in International Relations, New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1996

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