Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 187

187 Arctic Yearbook 2014 equality in the Council’s Sustainable Development Action Plan, the Norwegian chairmanship removed both women and indigenous people from its priorities. The Council does still include the domains of gender equality and indigenous people in its Human Dimension (or Human Development) portfolio, but it was not until 2011 that Carl Bildt, the foreign minister of Sweden during the beginning of the Swedish chairmanship of the Council, recognized the importance of the equality issue. At that time, he stated that the Arctic is ‘first and foremost a home to the people who live there,’ that the Swedish chairmanship intended to ‘make it a high priority to involve indigenous peoples in the work of the Arctic Council and promote their interests in matters of intergovernmental relevance,’ and that ‘attention will also be given to gender equality’ (Bildt 2011). Despite the finding that ‘these issues had been prominently mentioned in [the Swedish Chairmanship’s] originally proposed agenda for action,’ there is no evidence of any such attention during the Swedish chairmanship, with the exception of a day of open seminars at the May 2013 Minister Meeting in Kiruna, during which the Chairmanship was forwarded to Canada. The day of seminars ended with a panel on gender equality in the late afternoon (Nord 2013) in which the authors of this paper participated. Much has been said about the importance of the involvement of women and indigenous peoples at all levels of governance (Sloan 2004). There is growing consensus that when women are largely absent or merely hold high positions more as ‘window dressing’ than as autonomous elected officials, governments tend to downplay or ignore the gender impact of legal and fiscal issues. Similar effects are seen in relation to indigenous issues. Indigenous women’s interests in community membership, land use, habitat and environmental protection, economic development, and new forms of geographic and economic displacement tend to be subsumed within the views articulated by official entities like government ministers and representative indigenous individuals who themselves may gain position more through their relationships with governments than because they are community leaders. Although women often play stronger roles in community-level politics, ethnic identities are often given precedence over gender representation. At the same time, however, gender is