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Arctic Circle (organization)

The Arctic Circle is a nonprofit organization introduced by President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland on April 15, 2013, at the National Press Club in Washington.[1] The organization's mission is to facilitate dialogue among political and business leaders, environmental experts, scientists, indigenous representatives, and other international stakeholders to address issues facing the Arctic as a result of climate change and melting sea ice.[2] The organization is led by Grímsson, who serves as chairman of the honorary board, and by Alaska Dispatch and Arctic Imperative Summit founder Alice Rogoff, who heads the board of directors.[1]

Grímsson Announcement at the National Press Club
At his introduction of the Arctic Circle organization on April 15, 2013, at the National Press Club in Washington, Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said that "the Arctic has suffered from a lack of global awareness and, as a result, a lack of effective governance. In the past, the region did not matter to the world's decision-makers and was largely forgotten. Now, with sea-ice levels at their lowest point in recorded history, the world is waking up to the challenges and opportunities the Arctic presents for its citizens as well as those who live in lower latitudes."[1]

Grímsson said that participants in the Arctic Circle will include institutional and governmental representatives, political and policy leaders, scientists and experts, activists, and indigenous people from the Arctic countries, as well as Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. Topics of focus will include sea melt and extreme weather, security in the Arctic, fisheries and ecosystem management, shipping and transportation infrastructure, Arctic resources, and tourism.[1]

The stated mission of the Arctic Circle is "to facilitate dialogue and build relationships to address rapid changes in the Arctic" and "strengthen the decision-making process by bringing together as many international partners as possible to interact under one large 'open tent.'"[3] The organization was established in response to issues facing the Arctic as a result of climate change and melting sea ice—such as oil and gas exploration, environmental concerns, national security, and the effects on indigenous populations—as well as the growing international interest in the region. With the opening of shipping lanes and other economic activity in the Arctic, the organization says, the region "is moving to center stage and is playing a significant role in issues such as globalization, economic development, energy exploration, environmental protection and international security."[4]

The Arctic Circle will hold its first open assembly October 12–14, 2013, in Reykjavík, Iceland, at the Harpa Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre.[2] Scheduled to occur annually, the event is described as "a new mechanism for existing institutions, organizations, forums, think tanks, corporations and public associations to reach a global audience in an efficient way."[4]

According to the organization's website, future Arctic Circle events will be held in different Arctic locations, "so that participants can become familiar with the challenges, needs and opportunities presented by these unique environments."[4] The organization will also help facilitate smaller meetings of organizations and individuals to discuss Arctic matters.[2]

Compared with the Arctic Council
As part of its mission, the Arctic Circle aims to convene "as many international partners as possible to interact under one large 'open tent,'" as well as to "support, complement and extend the reach of the work of the Arctic Council by facilitating a broad exchange of ideas and information."[4] In contrast, the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body established in 1996, includes only eight countries with a speaking role: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.[5] The establishment of the Arctic Circle has raised concerns that the organization may give countries such as China, India, and Singapore a greater voice in Arctic affairs. The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail called it "a move that seems certain to irk some northern nations" and added that it "will be seen as complicating, if not challenging, the primacy of the Arctic Council in the rapidly changing north."[6] "The question," wrote environmental journalist Irene Quaile, "is which forum will turn out to be the best placed to effectively protect the sensitive ecosystems and traditional lifestyles of indigenous groups in the Arctic at the time when international commercial interest is growing steadily."[7]

Board Members
The Arctic Circle's honorary board is chaired by Grímsson. Other honorary board members include Prince Albert II of Monaco, Russian polar explorer Artur Chilingarov, former Greenland Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.[8] The organization's advisory board is led by Alice Rogoff, founder of the Alaska Dispatch and the Arctic Imperative Summit, and is composed of business leaders, scientists, and policymakers.[1]

External links

  • Arctic Circle official website
  • Arctic Circle video
  • "The Coming Arctic Boom" (Scott G. Borgerson, Foreign Affairs)


  1. Webb, Robert (April 15, 2013). "Iceland president sounds climate alarm demanding global attention, action at NPC Luncheon". The National Press Club. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  2. "New Arctic Circle group forms to address needs of changing north". Alaska Dispatch. April 14, 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  3. Pettersen, Trude (April 16, 2013). "New international forum for Arctic cooperation". BarentsObserver. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  4. "Arctic Circle". Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  5. Zabarenko, Deborah (April 15, 2013). "China, India, Singapore could join new Arctic Circle forum". Reuters. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  6. Koring, Paul (April 16, 2013). "New Arctic group gives Canada political competition". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  7. Quaile, Irene. "Why a new "Arctic Circle" Forum?". Ice-Blog. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  8. Knight, Sam (April 23, 2013). "Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson Founds The Arctic Circle". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 7 August 2013.

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