Inuit Leader Wants Diverse Industry, Peaceful Arctic

By Wendy Laursen 2014-07-29 19:22:00

“I want to express my personal opinion clearly. The development of the Arctic must be determined by the peoples of the Arctic,” says Sara Olsvig, a Greenlandic politician and the leader of the Inuit Ataqatigiit political party. Olsvig is also Chair of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, an observer to the Arctic Council. 

Last week she spoke at the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an international Indigenous Peoples’ Organization representing approximately 160,000 Inuit living in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka, Russia. “We acknowledge that many Arctic societies lack funding for developing industries and infrastructure. At the same time there must be no doubt about who is responsible of governing the Arctic region,” she said. 

As a Greenlandic politician, it is my strong opinion that we must focus on other industries than mineral, oil and gas, she said. “As the Arctic changes, so does the fish stocks, and we must enhance our cooperation in regards to fisheries management and research. Even though the Arctic Council has member states that are not Arctic Coastal States, I believe that the Arctic Council should increase its focus on fisheries. It will not only be Arctic fishing companies that go for these resources, also European, Asian and others will most likely find their way into the Arctic Ocean and search for living resources.”

Olsvig believes that tourism should be developed further, and she hopes that the Arctic countries will reach a binding agreement on this, particularly eco- and geo-tourism. “There can be many other industries to develop. For me, the point is to not put all of our eggs in one basket. The Arctic is diverse, our societies are diverse. We need to diversify our Arctic businesses in order to foster a broad spectrum of possibilities for our future generations.”
The EU ban on seal products due to animal welfare concerns is a contentious issue for Olsvig. “Among many things Arctic peoples have in common is the use of our living resources, and we, just as other peoples around the world, must be able to live from and export these resources, of course when managed sustainably.

“It is my opinion, that the issue of the seal product ban is not just a Canadian or Greenlandic issue. Bans of products of living resources is an Arctic issue which must be addressed and fought collectively and continuously. We must maintain a strong voice in the protection of our rights to develop the use of our living resources.”

On the political front, Olsvig stresses the importance peace and stability in the Arctic. “Terrible conflicts go on in this world. But we should not bring conflicts from other parts of the World into the Arctic cooperation. We must protect the relationship we have built among our Arctic peoples and states. This relationship is invaluable and must be cared for politically in a way that fosters and cherishes our common future. We need to think smart, not just for the benefit of our own states, but as a collective Arctic.”

The theme for the meeting was One Arctic – One Future. “That is true - for our peoples, our future generation and for our environment,” says Olsvig.