Arctic Leaders Summit

Arctic Leaders' Summit III was the last of three top meetings between the Arctic indigenous leaders, and was hosted by the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) in the capital of the Russian Federation, Moscow, on September 14-16, 1999.

The process of cooperation between the Arctic indigenous peoples was formalized at the First Arctic Leaders' Summit, which took place on June 17-20, 1991 in H0rsholm north of Copenhagen in Denmark.

This first meeting was hosted by the pan-Inuit organization Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC).

The Second Arctic Leaders' Summit held in Troms0 on January 25-27, 1995 continued this process. The third large indigenous organization in the Arctic, the Saami Council, hosted the second meeting.

Prior to the first meeting, Aqqaluk Lynge, then vice-president of the ICC-Greenland, wrote in the ICC magazine Inuit Tusaatat, "With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the end of the Cold War and the many confidence-building-measures taken between the East and the West, we—the inhabitants of the Arctic—neces-sarily must talk about what we can offer each other to solve our common problems, and what we can offer the rest of the world."

Since 1991, these three Arctic indigenous organizations have participated in the international arena on many occasions, and today they more or less meet on a regular basis in fora such as the meetings within the Arctic Environment Protection Strategy (AEPS), the Arctic Council framework, and the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples (WGIP), as well as in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, established in 2002. Until the establishment of the Permanent Forum, the Arctic Leaders' Summit process was different from the other fora because the indigenous peoples solely set the agenda themselves. What is important to the nation states is not necessarily of equal importance to the indigenous peoples' organizations and vice versa.

Large differences exist among the Arctic regions and the Arctic indigenous organizations. These differences may be due to cultural, historical, or political reasons. It does not really matter, since the Arctic Leaders' Summit was not a historical society, but a political forum where participants could discuss present and future matters of common concern.

One of the foremost shared concerns has been the Arctic environment. It is of grave necessity to solve the environmental problems and to prevent future harm to the Arctic. However, the Arctic is not a preserve where people cannot develop and natural resources cannot be utilized. Living in the Arctic necessarily implies living in and off nature. On the other hand, this does not mean that alternatives cannot be identified. The future of the Arctic indigenous peoples is closely connected to new economic and business initiatives, not only locally but also regionally.

Another common concern in the Arctic is the health of indigenous peoples. The lives of indigenous peoples are closely linked to local resources. This forms the basis of indigenous societies, cultures, economies, and spiritual world. But today it is a well-known fact that the severe health problems are closely linked to the state of the environment. Because the diet of indigenous peoples is mainly based on local food, they are severely threatened by environmental contaminants. Many of these contaminants have their origin in the South, are carried to the Arctic, and accumulate in those animals that end their lives as food of the indigenous peoples.

At the First Arctic Leaders' Summit, collective problems such as pollution and exploitation of living and nonliving resources were discussed.

Working together requires a common language. Approximately 40 languages are spoken in the Arctic, notwithstanding multiple dialects. English was chosen as the official conference language. English-Russian and Russian-English interpretation was provided in H0rsholm. But according to the interpreters, there was a profound need for an English-Russian dictionary dealing with terminology specially related to the Arctic. As one of the outcomes of the First Arctic Leaders' Summit, an English-Russian conference dictionary was written.

Helvi Nuorgam-Poutasuo, then president of the Saami Council, spoke at the second Arctic Leaders' Summit about the new situation of the world, stressing that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had created new and difficult challenges for indigenous peoples in Russia. Moreover, the creation of a European Union (EU) (which Finland and Sweden joined in 1995 and Norway voted to decline joining in 1994) resulted in Sapmi land's division by a new border between members of the EU and nonmembers. Nuorgam-Poutasuo further stressed that cooperation among the ICC, the Saami Council, and the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, and Far East has led to positive developments.

At the third Arctic Leaders' Summit, a fourth indigenous organization—the Aleut International Association—participated. The third summit's theme was The Health of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, with special focus on the North, Siberia, and the Far East of the Russian Federation. This focus was justified by the simple fact that the health and welfare situation in these regions continues to be more endangered than in other places within the Arctic region.

Since 1970, mortality rates and the incidence of various diseases as well as traumas have increased several hundred percent. In Arctic Russia, the mortality rate in 1989 for indigenous peoples was 10.4 per thousand, compared to 6.6 per thousand for non-indigenous peoples. At the end of 980, the life expectancy was 54 years for indigenous men and 65 years for indigenous women (among nonindigenous men and women, those numbers were approximately 64 and 75, respectively). In particular, tuberculosis, parasites, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are common causes of death in Arctic Russia, and many of these fatal health problems are related to alcohol abuse. Also, infant mortality rates are extremely high among indigenous peoples.

The third Arctic Leaders' Summit was the last of its kind due to limited financial and human resources.

Mads F^gteborg

See also Aleut International Association; Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC); Lynge, Aqqaluk; Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON); Saami Council

Further Reading

Fœgteborg, Mads, Towards an International Indigenous Arctic Policy (Arctic Leaders' Summit) (with an English-Russian Conference Dictionary), Copenhagen: Arctic Information, 1993

Fœgteborg, Mads & Anna Prakhova, Arctic Leaders' Summit II (with an English-Russian Arctic Dictionary), Copenhagen: Arctic Information, 1996

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