Taking Action to Advance the Inuit Vision
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Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Article 7 in the Kuujjuaq Declaration strongly promoted the need to keep the Arctic environment safe from persistent organic pollutants (POPs), among other things. As it did in the 4 year period prior to Kuujjuaq, ICC continued in 2002 2006 to be a global leader in working both internationally and locally in mitigating the damage already done, and stopping the manufacture and use of POPs at their source. The Inuit dependence on marine mammals, seals, whale and walrus for much of their nutritional intake makes persistent organic pollutants especially harmful. POPs are lipophilic meaning they accumulate in the fat of animals including people; POPs accumulate in the colder regions of the world, they are toxic and as the name implies, they persist in the environment for a very, very long time. Levels of concern of many of these chemicals are found in the blood and breast milk of Inuit globally.
A significant additional contribution in the past 4 years was the publication of ICCs book, Northern Lights Against POPs: Combatting Toxic Threats in the Arctic (McGill / Queens University Press). This book, published in 2003, tells the POPS story from an Arctic and indigenous perspective.
After playing a central role in the negotiation of the global Stockholm Convention on the Elimination of Persistent Organic Pollutants, ICC continued to lobby states to ratify the Convention in their national legislatures. The Convention entered into force in May 2003 and ICC continues to work to ensure that the Convention obligations are implemented. Through national science programmes and AMAP, ICC actively participates in the designing and undertaking of the research that monitors legacy POPs and new and emerging chemicals of concern in the Arctic. ICC uses this data to lobby for the addition of new substances to the Stockholm Convention.
In 2002 2006, ICC took on a more holistic approach to safeguarding the Arctic environment by telling the world, including scientists, industry, and policy-makers to look at the POPs threat not in isolation, but to understand the cumulative effect that POPs and other contaminants have on Inuit land and seas, and ultimately the global environment. ICC worked very closely with the Arctic Councils Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), and its POPs expert group. Also, ICC continued to monitor and be involved in the POPs Protocol negotiated under the UN Economic Commission for Europes Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP).
Each ICC office undertook activities related to POPs as well. One, in particular that of Chukotka bears mentioning as it shows how building capacity at the regional level can produce results that help all Inuit. The Office of the Chair and ICC Chukotka actively participated in a project entitled Persistent Toxic Substances, which was implemented by the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), AMAP, and the Government of Russia. This project was formally presented to delegates by ICC and representatives of RAIPON at the first Conference of the Parties to the Global POPs Convention held in Uruguay. The results of this project evoked quite a reaction from the regional administration in Chukotka. ICC Chukotka went on television to explain the study and its recommendations concerning consumption of marine mammal meat, wild birds and fish. ICC Chukotka told the audience about the history of this project, how it was implemented and what its results were. Most importantly, ICC Chukotka provided recommendations concerning the use of country foods. The information gathered not only assists local people, but also contributes to the larger goals of ICC.
Although POPs have been a central concern of ICC and researchers, ICC works towards the elimination of other contaminants and investigates their health effects on the human and natural environments. ICC has lobbied, for example, scientists and others to evaluate the effects of mercury and other heavy metals. ICC has begun a process of working on these concerns with bodies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its North American Regional Action Plan on mercury, lindane, PCBs, and chlordane. Other bodies of importance include the USA Environmental Protection Agency, the UN Environment Programme, the New England Governors / Eastern Canadian Premiers Mercury Working Group, and the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM), to name a few.
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