After a number of years absent from the Northern Forum, the US State of Alaska along with the Finnish region of Lapland have decided to re-join the international organization, which brings together local and regional actors from across the Arctic.
Alaska's return symbolic
The return of Alaska to the organization is particularly significant, as the Northern Forum was founded in Alaska in 1991 with the participation of 13 regional members from eight northern countries.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker recently sent an official letter to the Northern Forum supporting Alaska’s reinstatement into the international forum of Arctic regions.
The State of Alaska proposed the a list of priorities for discussion within the broader international reach of the Northern Forum, including making sure all local and regional stakeholders are at the table when decisions affecting their lives are made, addressing industrial and maritime infrastructure gaps in the Arctic, and finding ways to balance emerging economic opportunities with environmental protection and subsistence hunting activities.
Alaska agreed to host a meeting of the Northern Forum Regional Coordinators Committee in Anchorage from 25 to 27 July 2016.
Finnish Lapland: the roots of Arctic cooperation
Following a recent Regional Council of Lapland meeting, the Finnish region decided to apply to become a member of the Northern Forum once again.
Over the years, Finnish Lapland has been a key region in international circumpolar cooperation, and has played a prominent role in bringing together the governors of the northern regions.
In the early 1990s, it was in Lapland where the process of enhancing international cooperation in the North started. Since its adoption in 1991, the Environmental Protection Strategy of the Arctic – also known as the Rovaniemi Process – was aimed at overcoming differences and transforming the zone of Cold War military tensions into a region of peace and cooperation. Through these joint efforts to protect the environment – and later to focus on sustainable development – the Arctic countries, with the support of indigenous peoples' organizations, laid the groundwork for cooperation and the formation of regional identity in the Arctic. Subsequently, the Arctic Council – which brought together eight Arctic countries and six Arctic indigenous peoples' organizations – was established on the basis of this strategy.
Fostering ties in the North
Restoring Alaska and Finnish Lapland as members of the Northern Forum will create a new impetus to foster inter-regional cooperation in the North, and will mark a new stage in development of the Northern Forum.
Bringing the northern regions to the Northern Forum is an important area of focus within the Secretariat of the Northern Forum. A number of Russian regions, Alaska and Lapland re-joined the Northern Forum thanks to the hard work of the Head of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and chair of the Northern forum Egor Borisov, as well as his successor in the chairmanship Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Viktor Tolokonskiy also made great efforts to bring the northern regions together and to revitalize international and interregional cooperation in the North.
The aim of the Northern Forum is to improve the quality of life of northern peoples and support sustainable development of northern regions by providing a platform for collaboration, knowledge and experience sharing and implementation of joint projects. This also includes developing tools and means for leaders of northern regions to address common challenges.