On Ilulissat Declaration’s 10th, Arctic governments to gather in Greenland
Five Arctic coastal states to organize meeting in May with Indigenous participants, other governments
In a little more than three weeks, on May 23, top ministers from the governments of Denmark, the United States, Russia, Canada and Norway will gather in Ilulissat, Greenland, where they are expected to discuss security, scientific co-operation and possibly sign a long-awaited agreement on regulating fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean.
Their meeting is intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the Ilulissat Declaration, in which the five nation-states with Arctic coastlines vowed to act responsibly on future developments in the Arctic Ocean and maintain peaceful cooperation in the Arctic.
Last Thursday, Greenland’s foreign affairs minister, Suka K. Frederiksen, and Denmark’s foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, invited back to Ilulissat their counterparts from the four other states who signed the declaration in 2008.
The five-member club, dubbed the Arctic Five, does not include Finland, Sweden and Iceland, the three Arctic Council nations whose coastlines do not border the Arctic Ocean.
But that’s changed this time, and other member states of the Arctic Council, as well as Indigenous organizations, which participate in the Arctic Council, are also invited to Ilulissat.
The official program set out in an April 26 release includes a high-level session where ministers and representatives of the eight Arctic states and circumpolar Indigenous organizations will discuss the significance of the Ilulissat Declaration and “different aspects of Arctic co-operation.”
Based on recent statements from Denmark’s foreign ministry, these could include a discussion on a framework for enhanced security policy co-operation—a subject not discussed at the Arctic Council.
The Ilulissat meeting will include a discussion on the Arctic Council’s recent agreement on research co-operation, the release said.
There’s also a scenic side trip planned through Ilulissat fiord to the village of Ilimanaq, 15 kilometres from Ilulissat. In Ilimanaq, the VIPs are likely to tour the Ilimanaq Lodge, which includes a restaurant in a restored merchant’s house, one of Greenland’s oldest buildings, and take in a spectacular view from the lodge.
But what clearly isn’t on the Ilulissat meeting’s official agenda—yet—is the expected signing of the Arctic fisheries agreement, whose draft was finalized last December, by delegates from the U.S, Canada, Norway, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union.
Nunatsiaq News learned that the signing of the fisheries agreement was to have been part of the May 23 official agenda for the Ilulissat gathering when all the key ministers would be present.
However, tensions between Russia and some of the other signatories could be responsible for the signing ceremony not appearing on the official agenda.
That agreement, which won’t be binding until all parties sign it, deals with fish stocks in the most northerly international waters—including those off Nunavut’s Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands—which lie in the so-called “donut hole” at the top of the world.
These international waters, which lie 200 miles off any coastline and so are beyond the control of any Arctic nation, are still unfished.
While it’s still uncertain whether there are any fish there, some observers fear that a lack of regulation in the central Arctic Ocean could eventually lead to trawling and potential over-fishing in those waters.