Iqaluit, Nunavut, Monday, 30 September 2002

The Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) today congratulated the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) for release of its report on Arctic Pollution Issues. Five years in the making, this report states:

“The highest exposures to several persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury are faced by Inuit populations in Greenland and Canada.”

This conclusion mirrors earlier work by AMAP published in 1997 and 1998. In releasing this report, AMAP calls upon ministers of foreign affairs from the eight Arctic states meeting in Inari, Finland on October 9 and 10, to work vigorously for ratification and implementation of two international agreements; the Protocol on heavy metals and POPs to the UN-ECE Convention on Long-range Transport of Atmospheric Pollution (LRTAP), and the recently concluded Stockholm global convention on POPs. ICC endorses and supports this recommendation and will urge the ministers to accept it at their meeting.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Chair of ICC, added: “The Arctic states must work together in international and global meetings to bring the Arctic and Inuit dimensions on transboundary contaminants to the attention of the world. The Stockholm Convention and the LRTAP POPs Protocol both single out the Arctic because Inuit and other Indigenous peoples from the North persuaded agencies of the United Nations of the danger post by contaminants to the Arctic and the health and culture of its Indigenous peoples.” She added: “we must remain vigilant and insist that promises made in international agreements are kept.”

AMAP concludes that global mercury emissions from coal burning power stations, particularly in Asia, may well be increasing, and that, through still poorly understood mechanisms, emissions are ending-up in the Arctic. There is evidence of increasing mercury levels in marine birds and mammals in the Canadian Arctic and west Greenland.

Responding to these worrying conclusions, Ms. Watt-Cloutier called upon ministers to bring Arctic perspectives to the global mercury assessment being conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and to support international action, including a new legally-binding convention, if needed, to address the issue.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier said:  “Our region is a barometer of the globe’s environmental health and well-being. This message must be brought to the attention of the world. We are prepared and willing to work with governments and non-governmental organizations to promote effective international controls on emissions of POPs and heavy metals that threaten the health of Inuit. It is particularly important that funding be provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to effectively implement the Stockholm Convention for many emissions that threaten the health of Inuit come from developing countries and those with economies in transition.

For further information:

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Stephanie Meakin