In October, CIEE participated in the seventh annual Arctic Circle Assembly, held in Reykjavik, Iceland. With more than 2000 participants from 60 countries, the Arctic Circle Assembly is the largest annual international gathering focused on the Arctic. This year’s assembly featured close to 200 sessions and plenaries, covering a wide array of topics ranging from regional security in the Arctic, Greenland’s emerging foreign policy questions, and Inuit language and culture to Arctic geo-economics, sustainable development in the Arctic, or climate change impacts on fisheries. Other sessions were dedicated to joint scientific research, Fulbright in the Arctic, as well as Arctic youth exchanges.
Conference attendees included heads of states and governments, such as the Prime Ministers of Iceland and Finland, the Crown Princess of Sweden, and the Premier of Greenland, elected leaders and other officials such as embassy deputies and representatives of indigenous populations, as well as experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, business leaders, students and activists.
CIEE participated in the conference as part of the Maine delegation, led by Dana Eidsness from the Maine International Trade Center (MITC). The delegation consisted of Governor of Maine Janet Mills and more than 60 representatives from Maine businesses, organizations, and higher education institutions. In fact, the Maine delegation was the largest U.S. state delegation at the Arctic Circle Assembly this year.
An overarching theme of the conference was the ever-growing importance of the Arctic not only for Arctic nations but also for countries geographically far removed from the Arctic, along with the unique and pressing issues facing the Arctic politically, socio-economically, as well as with regards to climate change.
The importance of youth development and exchange was featured in several sessions, most prominently in a session entitled “Inspiring Arctic Voices through Youth.” In addition to showcasing students from the Arctic who had participated in short-term exchanges, the session highlighted the work of the Arctic Youth Network, a global network of ~250 youth engaging in Arctic affairs. The network focuses on international cooperation, capacity-building, as well as education and resource-sharing. CIEE is seeking new ways to facilitate inter-Arctic exchanges of people and ideas. We have a significant presence in Alaska through the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, and recently hosted Greenlandic Foreign Minister Ane Lone Bagger at our Portland, Maine, headquarters.
As H.R.H. Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, noted in her plenary remarks: “The Arctic is a global issue demanding global attending.”