Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 454

  Commentary A TRIBUTE TO ANTON VASILIEV & SENIOR ARCTIC OFFICIALS Else Berit Eikeland The Arctic Council is the only government-level, circumpolar body for political cooperation. In recent years the Council’s international influence and importance has grown considerably. The Arctic Council provides a forum for discussion between the Arctic states and representatives of indigenous peoples on issues of common interest. In this respect, the Arctic Council is unique. There are currently several international arenas in which issues related to the Arctic region are discussed. Only the Arctic Council, however, brings together all the Arctic states and representatives of the indigenous peoples. The Arctic Council is unique in other areas too. Last year the magazine, «the Economist” had an article about the Arctic Council as an example of a successful circumpolar cooperation. The article was illustrated by a photo of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs – high level representatives from the eight Arctic states) hugging and laughing and holding the flags of the Arctic States at the North Pole. May be the world needs more Arctic Council ? – was the question raised in the article. The magazine noted that this seemed to be an international cooperation where officials liked each other and had fun. We all know that international or circumpolar cooperation does not depend on the likes or dislikes of officials, but it surely helps if there is good chemistry between representatives. As a new Norwegian SAO in the Arctic Council two years ago, what really struck me was this combination between a formal decision making structure and the informal way the meeting was conducted, and the possibilities for the SAOs to reach consensus in a an informal way. The Russian SAO at that time, Anton Vasiliev, was my role model and mentor. He was very pragmatic and flexible, but clear when Russia could not support a position. Unlike many other international organisations a SAO who is consensus oriented is regarded as a strong in the Arctic Else Berit Eikeland is Norway’s Senior Arctic Official.