Chargé d’Affaires Degnan’s Remarks for the opening of the SIOI “One Arctic” Event
May 2, 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
President Frattini, distinguished guests, members of the secretariat, delegates, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to be here with you today to launch this important event.
One Arctic, this simulation of the Arctic Council, involves not only the nations that are represented here, but a variety of stakeholders. This simulation is an opportunity for young people to discuss challenges and find solutions to a complicated issue: the future of the Arctic.
Let me thank the Italian Society for International Organizations for organizing this worthwhile four-day marathon and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting it.
Bringing together people and resources for an undertaking such as this involves a tremendous cooperative effort on the part of the organizers. I commend SIOI for moving this initiative forward and for working with us so diligently. Under President Frattini’s guidance, SIOI has been especially forward-thinking in planning and coordinating this event.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome has dedicated significant resources to support the active participation of young people in issues of global significance.
This is our third partnership with SIOI on major activities for international youth audiences: a Model UN on Milan EXPO-related themes was held in 2015, and a hackathon on the UN Sustainable Development Goals took place in 2016.
We believe that youth involvement in multilateral diplomacy and sustainable development is a crucial driver for progress. As the people who stand to inherit the world – and, inherently, its challenges – young people around the world are motivated to make a difference and shape the future.
Next week, on May 11, the United States will conclude its second year as Chair of the Arctic Council. Finland will take over leadership of the Council, which is why I’m so pleased that Ambassador Taalas (TAA-las) has joined us here today.
The United States has been an Arctic nation with important interests in the region since the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. At that time, national security and economic development were key U.S. interests.
While this remains true today, significant changes in the international political arena; environmental, scientific and technological developments; and increasing global interdependence have created new priorities and opportunities for the United States and the other Arctic nations.
U.S. Arctic policy is based on the following principal objectives:
- Meeting U.S. national security needs;
- Protecting the Arctic environment and conserving its living resources;
- Ensuring environmentally-sustainable natural resource management and economic development in the region;
- Strengthening institutions for cooperation among the eight Arctic nations (the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden);
- Involving the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them; and
- Enhancing scientific monitoring and research on local, regional, and global environmental issues.
As you all begin to engage in this exciting simulation of the Arctic Council and the U.S. prepares to hand over the chairmanship to Finland, I’d like to share with you all a few thoughts from Ambassador David Balton, the current Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials.
Ambassador Balton believes that the Council is capable of doing what is outlined in the 2013 document, a “Vision for the Arctic,” which committed the Arctic states to “pursue opportunities to expand the Arctic Council’s roles from policy-shaping to policy-making.”
I hope that this empowers you to come up with strong ideas for your draft declaration at the end of this week’s activities.
Ambassador Balton also noted that, “Compared to many other parts of the world, the Arctic is a peaceful and well-ordered region. … I believe that the Arctic Council plays a part, perhaps a large part, in keeping the Arctic blessedly free from these problems by providing the governments and stakeholders with a forum in which to speak plainly to one another and to deal with the actual problems of the region, which are largely environmental and economic. That role, often underappreciated, may constitute the most important benefit that the Arctic Council provides.”
In this spirit of international, multilateral cooperation, I wish you all the best in your endeavors during this event and beyond. The future is yours, and I hope that this important event will help you all define what that future holds for you, your peers, and the planet.