10 November 2008 – Ottawa, Ontario – Inuit leaders from Greenland, Alaska, and Canada met in Kuujjuaq last week and agreed to develop an ‘Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic’. In advance of the Declaration the leaders also approved the attached Statement.
“On behalf of ICC and Circumpolar leaders, we are pleased with our discussions over the past two days at the Inuit Leader’s Summit on Arctic Sovereignty in Kuujjuaq. The meeting has been a most useful information exchange on the topic of sovereignty in the Arctic among Inuit leaders and invited experts. We have generated a practical way for going forward,” stated Patricia Cochran, Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC).
Sovereignty is a complex issue. It has a variety of overlapping elements, anchored in international law. But fundamentally it begins with the history and reality of Inuit use and occupation of Arctic lands and waters; that use and occupation is at the heart of any informed discussion of sovereignty in the Arctic. Arctic nation states must respect the rights and roles of Inuit in all international discussions and commitments dealing with the Arctic.
Climate change has moved Arctic sovereignty to the front of the international agenda. We have all seen the escalating speculation about how drastic reduction of ice coverage will open the Arctic waterways to increased shipping traffic and expedited oil and gas development.
Leaders agreed that the pursuit of resources through an agenda of Arctic sovereignty must involve coordinated strategies to ensure the Arctic has viable and healthy communities, sound civil administration, and responsible environmental management, not just ports, training facilities, and military exercises.
“One clear message from the convening of our meeting is that for all sorts of reasons – law, politics, and the very practical reason that the world stands to learn the most about the Arctic from the people who know the Arctic best – Inuit have an essential role in international discussions about arctic waters, marine transportation plans, environmental initiatives and mechanisms, and the future of international Arctic institutions and relations generally,” added Ms. Cochran.
The Inuit leaders gathered in Kuujjuaq committed to complete a Declaration by March 31, 2009. This timetable will allow the Declaration to inform the next meeting of the Arctic Council Ministers scheduled for April, 2009 in Tromsø, Norway.
Apart from the ICC Chair, the Inuit leadership in Kuujjuaq included Inuit mayors, a premier, the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, presidents of land claims organizations, and ICC executive council members from across the Arctic.
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