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Friday, 11 September 2009 15:24

Human Health and Climate Change

Human health and wellbeing of Arctic populations were discussed at a recent international scientific and practical conference on Prevention and Management of Emergencies under the auspices of the Arctic Council ’s Working Group on Emergency Prevention, and Preparedness and Response (EPPR). The conference took place in Anadyr, Chukotka, in August 2009, and was hosted by EMERCOM (Ministry of Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters). At the conference it was pointed out that northern residents and especially the Indigenous Peoples’ health and wellbeing are being challenged by climate and environmental changes and by man-made and natural disasters as well as by increased economic development. PCB and DDT are accumulated in the Arctic and constitute a risk for human health and wellbeing. PCB’s and DDT are found in abandoned barrels and substances buried in the ground that get released as permafrost thaws. This situation calls for new issues to be included in emergency planning, Mr. V. Chashchin from Northwest Centre of Science Hygiene and Public Health explained. Introduction of new diseases, such as vector borne diseases from invasive species (e.g. ticks), is of concern as are other risks introduced to the northern areas due to climate change and global warming. Sound and quick emergency responses to these challenges are important if human health and wellbeing are not to be undermined – such was the general message proceeding from the EPPR event. bvh
Friday, 11 September 2009 12:03

Security of peoples of the North

At the recent EPPR meeting held in Anadyr, Chukotka, August 17-21, Larisa Abryutina, member of the Executive Committee of RAIPON , presented a list of issues that in her view need to be addressed with regard to the safety of the population and human health and well being in the Russian North. According to Ms. Abryutina, these issues include: Communication of threats and dangerous situations to indigenous populations; Raising public awareness of prevention, preparedness and response to potential emergency situations; Reconstruction of mobile medical units operating in regions of the North; Re-establish network of local weather stations to monitor changes in the environment, for example risks of floods, strong winds and wild forest fires, and communicate it to indigenous communities. Transparency of economic development projects that take place in the North, for example results of impact assessment etc. should be communicated to impacted communities and peoples; Cooperation between authorities and indigenous peoples organizations. Indigenous peoples are not prepared for threats they do not know about (for example nuclear devices placed on their traditional hunting and fishing grounds and reindeer pasture areas) which renders communication and cooperation all the more crucial. Ms. L. Abryutina explained that restoration of traditional industries of people of the North would have a positive impact on ecological, political, economic and social security. Overall, the meeting highlighted the need for increased cooperation among authorities and institutions in Russia and in other Arctic states. In terms of emergency prevention and preparedness, it was made clear that increased participation of Indigenous Peoples and other residents of the Arctic mark out a definite way forward. The entire Emergency Preparedness, Prevention, and Response/Arctic Rescue event, organized and hosted by the Russian Federation Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters, was presented as an international scientific and practical conference on ”Emergency prevention and the coordination of emergency responses in Arctic conditions including consequences for the environment”. The conference took place in the city of Anadyr, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russian Federation August 17-21, 2009. It was attended by representatives of Russian ministries, agencies, departments, institutions, representatives of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East ( RAIPON ) and the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat (IPS). bvh
Friday, 11 September 2009 11:11

Arctic exposure

The problem of disaster management of radiation in the Arctic was among the themes when EPPR ( Arctic Council Working Group on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response) gathered in Anadyr, Chukotka, in August. Radiation hazardous materials are being used all over the Russian Arctic, in nuclear power plants and other hazardous facilities as well as in nuclear powered icebreakers and transport ships. Besides, RITEG’s (radioisotope thermoelectric generators) for navigation at sea and other devices used for civilian and scientific purposes, are installed about the Russian Arctic. Many of these devices are old and have not been properly maintained for years due to remoteness and costliness. Although the removal of these old nuclear devices and replacing them with solar and wind powered navigation devices has begun. it is a slow and troublesome process. Even though these devices (RITEG’s) are placed in uninhabited areas, they do pose a potential threat to local people – especially indigenous peoples who travel long distances to reach their hunting and fishing grounds or herding their reindeer. It is an open question how well informed indigenous peoples in the North are of the threat these devices pose and how people should behave when near these devices. At the meeting, Vice-Governor E. Danilyuk of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug stressed that the considerable number of RITEG devices placed in Chukotka have not been maintained for years and that no one knows their actual state. Vice-Governor Danilyuk expressed his concern for the fact that local people may unhindered approach these devices. Therefore there is an urgent need for informing local communities about the risks and threats represented by the RITEGs - and not only in Chukotka but all across the Russian Arctic. Mitigating the unsustainable situation demands close cooperation – on national as well as international levels - between different institutions, and among other things calls for setting up centres for local awareness training. bvh
Monday, 07 September 2009 11:52

Burning Ice

Isen Braender”, (The Ice is Burning), is the name of an exhibition that was officially opened on Friday, September 4, by Tryggvi Felixson of the Nordic Council of Ministers. In his speech, Mr. Felixson touched upon the main topic of the exhibition, the unique adaptation of animal species to the harsh, yet vulnerable Arctic nature and the ways in which these species are likely to be affected by climate changes. Apart from taxidermy specimens of musk ox, polar bear, ring seal, and a variety of seabirds, the exhibition is made up of various audio-visual, partly interactive, projections of informative material such as film documentaries and long-term TV weather forecasts. The burning ice exhibition is a warm up to COP15 initiatives that are to take place in and around the warehouse on the North Atlantic Quay. The Greenland Government Representation is preparing an exhibition entitled ”In the Eye of Climate Change”, whereas an ”Arctic Venue” event are being arranged by the Danish Energy Agency. The latter two events are scheduled to open on December 11 and 12, respectively, in the weekend separating the two COP15 weeks. Both aim at comprising elements contributed by Arctic Indigenous Peoples that so far have not been specified.
Friday, 28 August 2009 08:35

Melting hot summer in Greenland

he Greenlandic newspaper AG reports of a summer of records in terms of warmth and dryness. Scientists from all over the world are busy monitoring one of the planets most magnificent and spectacular climate change barometers, the Kangia glacier in Western Greenland. Majestic and awe-inspiring as the glacier remains, with a front that stretches 5 kilometres across the fjord, it is on a hasty retreat ever farther into the fjord, leaving its mark of barren, formerly ice-covered rock. Especially since 2001, the retreat of the glacier has accelerated so that its front is now positioned deeper into the fjord than ever before. At the same time, the speed of the ice being transported in the opposite direction out into the fjord is also increasing  - reaching a speed of 40 metres per day – so that, while no longer producing quite as impressive icebergs as it used to, the glacier is nonetheless sending out a record-breaking more than 40 cubic kilometres of ice into the sea per year. In the same World Heritage environment of the Kangia Ice-fjord, earlier this summer a wildfire raged through the  landscape around the listed, prehistoric ruins Sermermiut. Meteorological measurements from various parts of Greenland unequivocally tell of an exceptionally hot and dry summer, a fact that gets corroborated by many dried out lakes and waterways. Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, has experienced an bone-dry month of July receiving only 1,4 millimetres of rain as opposed to an average of 86 millimetres. In Northern Greenland, in Qaanaaq, the mean temperature of July rose to 8,3 degrees Celsius as compared with the mere 4,5 degrees of a normal year. Hunter Uusaqqak Qujaukitsoq tells about conspicuous changes to the fauna: ”-Never before in my life have I seen so many flies. If food is left outside the house, it gets completely covered by flies in no time. It is not the ordinary kind of flies that everyone knows. It is a species entirely new to this place. They are very big and have red legs,” he says to AG, and continues, ”- A lot of very large jellyfish get caught in my salmon nets. I do not know if they sting, so I remove them only with gloves on my hands.” At the same time, in the opposite, Southern part of the country, sheep herder Jørgen Lund of Inneruulalik near Narsarsuaq reports of failing crops as well as lambs much smaller than usual due to dwindling pastures. Jørgen Lund estimates his lambs to weigh somewhere between a half and one kilogram less than they normally would. eg
Friday, 14 August 2009 11:18

Support for Indigenous languages

The Sakha (Yakutia) Republic Ministry of Education is organizing an international conference on “Threatened Native Languages in Russian Education System”. The conference is organized within the framework of the Second Decade of Indigenous Peoples of the World and is scheduled to take place in Yakutsk city, September 8-11, 2009. Testifying to the apparent increase in focus on indigenous languages, the conference aims at summarizing Russian experiences, learning about international practices, and adopting recommendations for preservation and restoration of disappearing native languages of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East. Within the Arctic Council , too, the latter years have seen a growing interest in Arctic indigenous languages. In 2006, the importance of indigenous languages was highlighted by the Salekhard Ministerial Declaration’s recognition of “the cultural diversity in the Arctic represented by more than 40 distinct peoples, cultures and languages. “ An Arctic Council symposium focusing on the importance of indigenous languages and their role in maintaining indigenous cultures and supporting the aspirations of indigenous peoples took place on October 21, 2008 in Tromsoe. The symposium, organized and led by Permanent Participants, was commended as “an excellent example of cooperation between Permanent Participants and Member States of the Arctic Council . The symposium was successful in meeting its objectives, which included: sharing best practices; engaging with policy makers and indigenous experts on the state of indigenous languages; exploring the role of language supporting Arctic-specific knowledge; examining the ways language is transmitted through cultural expression; and developing recommendations on the next steps needed to promote and maintain indigenous languages.”(Symposium Chair Duane Smith in “Proceedings of the Arctic Indigenous Language Symposium”, 2008) The next steps involve maintaining support from the Member States of the Arctic Council . Responses to the report of the Language Symposium have already indicated steady support for the work on indigenous languages. The report was a major SDWG deliverable for the 2009 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting that, in the ensuing Declaration, signed for it by recognizing “the urgent need for action to support Arctic cultures and reduce loss of Arctic indigenous languages and take into consideration recommendations developed at the Arctic Indigenous Language Symposium.” bvh
James Stotts has been selected Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council . In a press release of 18 June ICC announced the immediately effective appointment of Mr. Stotts as its Chair. Mr. Stotts is an Alaskan Iñupiaq from Barrow with extensive experience in circumpolar and international matters. He replaces Ms. Patricia Cochran, who resigned as Chair after having lead ICC since 2006. In a recently circulated message the Danish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council announced the appointment of Ms. Sheila Riordon as Canada’s new Senior Arctic Official effective 4 August. Ms. Riordon is Director General, Environment, Energy and Sustainable Development Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. She replaces Ms. Adèle Dion, Canada’s SAO for the previous three years.
Friday, 07 August 2009 13:29

EU seal ban attacks cultures

At a meeting on July 27, the Council of the European Union approved a ban on selling of sealskin products within its member states. The ban will come into force in 2010. Canada and Norway find that the ban violates the World Trade Organization’s guidelines, and intends to challenge it at the WTO. Greenland’s Premier Kuupik Kleist and other Inuit leaders like ICC vice-president Violet Ford have criticised the ban for being incompatible with international agreements and human rights, whereas Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, spoke of a cynical and unjustified decision: The seal ban is an abomination because it directly attacks cultures, communities, and livelihoods that represent a basic means of living for many here in Canada, using groundless accusations influenced by animal rights propaganda campaigns. And today we are witnessing the EU’s willingness to ignore its own trade rules and relations to please certain myopic self-interests while trying to claim some moral high ground—it doesn’t add up. The disagreement between sealskin producing countries, subsistence hunting peoples and an EU influenced by animal rights opinions has been building up for a while. Earlier this year, at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in late April, the EU was denied status as Permanent Observer as the Arctic Council decided to continue discussing the role of its observers. EU reacted to this by sending only officials and no commissioners to the meeting in Tromsø, Norway. The Arctic Council decision also affected other applicants for permanent observer status - China, Italy and South Korea - and prevented them from becoming permanent observers. eg
Thursday, 16 October 2008 18:42

Adaptation Workshop, September 20-21

Copenhagen - Representatives of Indigenous Peoples from across the Arctic are calling on Governments to work with them in tackling the “catastrophic” effects of Climate Change. Bill Erasmus, representing the Arctic Athabaskan Council in Canada, called the situation a “crisis” at a meeting of circumpolar Arctic Indigenous Peoples over the weekend (September 20 & 21). “The permafrost is melting, homes are destroyed, rivers are rising, lakes are disappearing, migratory patterns are changing, seasons are not the same anymore,” said Erasmus. “Reindeer herders face the loss of herds, hunters face starvation, trappers are dying because they cannot read ice conditions anymore. People are losing their homes and their lives. Entire communities of Indigenous Peoples are at risk across the Arctic. I think use of the word ‘crisis’ is appropriate.” The Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat organized the meeting. This was the first of several planned meetings for Arctic Indigenous Peoples to compile information and develop recommendations to forward to the eight Nation States within the Arctic Council . Indigenous Peoples hope their work will lead to international initiatives that will deal with the human dimensions of Climate Change leading up to the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change to be held in Anchorage, Alaska, in April 2009.
by Clive Tesar Arctic Indigenous Peoples are engaging in two processes this week to advance climate change action. In Svolvaer, Norway, the Arctic Council meeting is considering future action including a study of materials that contribute to climate change that are not carbon dioxide. These other materials include soot, ozone, and methane. Meanwhile, other Arctic Leaders are attending a meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. This week, the forum is focusing on climate change issues. Speaking on behalf of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Saami Council , Patricia Cochran told the Forum: “It is clear that in future COPs, the plight of Indigenous Peoples will not be addressed if they are not at the table and not involved in the decision-making. We call upon the United Nations to open the door to indigenous peoples in all matters affecting climate change.” Ms. Cochran highlighted three recommendations to the Permanent Forum, and through the Permanent Forum to the wider UN community: each UN agency that works on climate change matters should develop a special Arctic focal point for climate change; the UNFCCC should develop a seat at the negotiating table specifically dedicated to Indigenous Peoples, in which we would have direct access to decision-makers and where we would be able to offer our knowledge in constructive ways; All UN member states and agencies should include in their climate change strategies a screening mechanism that evaluates the impacts of mitigation measures themselves on Indigenous Peoples. Back in Svolvaer, the indigenous leaders at the Arctic Council called on the Arctic states to adopt and promote these recommendations in dealing with United Nations processes. They also urged the Arctic states to ensure that the increasingly worrying projections for the Arctic climate are central to ongoing United Nations consideration of global action on climate change.
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Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat
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