Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 386

386 Arctic Yearbook 2015 In order to facilitate the participation of Arctic indigenous peoples the following organizations will be invited as observers: the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Nordic Saami Council and the U.S.S.R. Association of Small Peoples of the North. During this period it was recognized that the Indigenous organizations taking part in the AEPS would benefit from the support of a secretarial body, and so in 1994 the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) was created to assist the Indigenous observer organizations in their work in the AEPS, primarily through communications and coordination. Two years later when the AEPS was enlarged and mandated with additional responsibilities it became the Arctic Council. At that time the role of Indigenous peoples organizations was also expanded when the category of Permanent Participant (PP) was created. The PPs were endowed with full consultative powers and a seat in all AC matters, only lacking an actual vote from putting them on exactly equal footing with the Arctic states. However, this notion that the PPs have a seat, but not a vote is too simplistic. In reality, in an organization like the AC that operates on the principle of consensus, only a no vote that breaks consensus matters. So that means that while the PPs can’t break consensus and keep an initiative from moving forward, in my experience there has never been an occasion when one or more of the PPs had serious reservations that weren’t addressed by an effort to reach consensus that included the PPs. The implications of this are plain, it’s essential that the PPs not only have the resources to be present during discussions of matters that affect them, but that those resources support the participation of those with the proper knowledge and expertise. With the recognition of the Arctic member states that participation of Arctic Indigenous peoples is so vital to the work of the AC the question of how to properly support this participation emerges, and clearly this has been on the mind of the AC since its very inception when it was stated in the first Iqaluit Declaration: Request Arctic States to consider the financial questions involved in securing the participation of the Permanent Participants in the work of the Arctic Council and in the operations of the Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat. And every declaration since has mentioned support of the PPs. So when the Kiruna Declaration which signaled the end of the Swedish Chairmanship stated, “…identifying approaches to support the active participation of Permanent Participants, and to present a report on their work at the next Ministerial meeting in 2015,” the ministers mandate resulted in very positive steps to seriously work on PP capacity and support which occurred during the Canadian Chairmanship which followed. It should be noted that PP capacity and support is a complicated issue for a number of reasons; the six PP organizations are all very different in size, structure, and how they are funded; in addition, the PPs have differing relationships with the Arctic states in which their memberships reside and so, for instance, the relationship that Aleut International Association has with the United States is different than what the Saami Council experiences with the Norwegian government in terms of support. This doesn’t change the fact that all of the PPs do have similar challenges in trying to contribute to the work of the AC, and to serve their constituencies in that regard and so work to address these common elements can be beneficial to all of the PP’s. Also, the question of PP support has received attention from the AC at various times including a comprehensive report undertaken during the Icelandic The Arctic Council Permanent Participants