Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The US-led Arctic Council is still trying to get Americans to care about the Arctic

Yereth Rosen, adn.com

Image from article, with caption: In this April 24, 2015 file photo, Fran Ulmer, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, welcomes viewers to a live-stream showing of the Arctic Council meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada in which council leadership is passed from Canada to the U.S. Halfway through the two-year U.S. chairmanship, what's been accomplished?

When the United States took over chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council a year ago, officials articulated some lofty goals under a theme of “One Arctic.”
The council would promote “Arctic ocean safety, security and stewardship,” improve economic and living conditions in the Arctic and address the impacts of climate change, according to the U.S. plan.
Halfway through the two-year chairmanship, how much of that has been accomplished?
Julie Gourley, the State Department official who represents the nation on the Arctic Council, says the U.S. goals have won support. “There’s a lot of common ground (among) all eight Arctic nations,” Gourley said. ...
Gourley and others involved in U.S. Arctic policy are trying to use the chairmanship to heighten awareness of the Arctic across the nation. “We’ve spent a lot of time on what we call, in the State Department, ‘public diplomacy,’ ” she said.
Gourley said there is evidence of success.
There has been a proliferation of Arctic-related meetings and conferences, not only in Alaska but also in the Lower 48, she said. The State Department has launched a blog called “Our Arctic Nation” intended to highlight Arctic connections to each of the 50 states. The joint U.S.-Canada statement produced at a widely covered March meeting between President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a heavy Arctic focus.
In Alaska, there are mixed views about whether the U.S. awareness goal is being fulfilled.
Evon Peter, vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said he believes the chairmanship has helped spread the message.
“I didn’t expect this to be a huge economic boon. But I did expect it to be bringing more attention to Alaska and the Arctic,” he said. “I do think they’ve been able to leverage our chairmanship to bring not only greater U.S. attention but global attention to the Arctic.”
Margaret Williams, Arctic program director of the World Wildlife Fund, said new domestic interest is evident in the list of Alaska-related projectsPresident Obama announced last year and the increased funding for Arctic programs he is seeking from Congress this year, including $400 million for climate-threatened Alaska villages.
Craig Fleener, Gov. Bill Walker’s adviser on Arctic issues, said he is thankful for the “big blowout event” in August when Obama attended the GLACIER conference in Anchorage and toured other parts of Alaska.
Still, Fleener sees signs that Americans are failing to pay attention, possibly because of distractions like the raucous presidential campaign. He cited a recent event he attended in Washington, D.C., where he was disheartened when college students admitted they do not know what is going on in the Arctic.
“We are not doing a very good job of getting the word out,” he said. ...

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