Yesterday, June 2nd, the US Embassy, the Canadian Embassy and the University of Akureyri jointly arranged the "Arctic Roundtable: Passing the Torch and Looking Ahead". The roundtable was held in celebration of Arctic Council collaboration and to mark the transition of the Chairmanship of the Council from Canada to the United States, as an afternoon of information sharing, learning and discussion of the valuable work that has been achieved over the past few years and the exciting priorities for ongoing cooperation in the years to come.
This initiative confirmed once again the good collaboration and mutual respect of the three countries, especially when it comes on Arctic issues.
The Rector of the University of Akureyri, Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, opend the session welcoming the attendees. He highlighted the good cooperation going on among the three Arctic countries, Iceland, US and Canada, and described the two Nord American countries as an example for Iceland when it will take over the Arctic Council chairmanship, in six years time. The podium was than took over by Árni Þór Sigurðsson, Ambassador and Senior Arctic Official of Iceland, that acknowledged Canada's great achievements over the past two years, as for example the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council and all the initiatives for the wellbeing of Arctic people, and he welcomed US's comprehensive program for the next two years. The Icelandic ambassador also remarked the key importance of the town of Akureyri for Arctic, both within national and international contexts. Indeed, the town hosts two of the Arctic Council Working Groups Secretariats, the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); many different Arctic-focused institutions as the University of Akureyri Research Centre (RHA), the Stefansson Arctic Institute, and Iceland Arctic Cooperation Network, to mention just few examples, while the University of Akureyri offers the unique master in Polar Law, fully taught in English, and it is part of the University of the Arctic.
The first session, "Celebrating Achievements", was opened by Stewart Wheeler, Ambassador of Canada, that briefly explained the work of Canada at the Arctic Council, and its special focus on Arctic human dimension. It was followed by presentations by Courtney Price, Communications Officer for CAFF, Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Director of the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network and Guðmundur Pétursson, Chair of the Icelandic Arctic Chamber of Commerce and member of the Arctic Economic Council.
The second session, Looking Ahead, focused on the oncoming work of the US as chairman of the Arctic Council. Robert Barber, Ambassador of the United States introduced US's main focus areas: " Improving Economic & Living Conditions for Arctic Communities", "Arctic Ocean Safety, Security & Stewardship", and "Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change". Soía Guðmundsdóttir, Executive Director of PAME, Dr. Jason Polk, Director, Center for Water Resource Studies and HydroAnalytical Lab, Western Kentucky University and Þorvaldur Lúðvík Sigurjónsson, Managing Director of Eyjaordur Business Development Agency briefly introduced their current works.
The roundtable was attended by the mayor of Akureyri, representatives of the different institutions of Akureyri and the students of the Western Kentucky University, here in town as part of the program "Semester at the Sea".
A reception hosted by the Candian embassy at Borgir concluded the meeting.