Presentation of Finland´s Chairmanship Program for the Arctic Council by Mr. Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Arctic Council 10th Ministerial meeting

Fairbanks, Alaska 11 May 2017

Presentation of Finland´s Chairmanship Program for the Arctic Council by minister Timo Soini

I thank you for the opportunity to present Finland´s chairmanship program of the Arctic Council and to share with you some thoughts on how we all could take Arctic cooperation forward.

We must take a hard look at the future. In many ways, we are standing at a crossroads. There are crucial choices to be made. International tensions are running high. So far these tensions have not affected Arctic cooperation. It is my sincere hope that we will all work to keep it that way.

The Arctic will not remain what it once was, or what it is now. Climate change will fundamentally change the Arctic region in the coming decades. Global warming will open up new parts of the Arctic, and human activity in the region will increase.

Globalization will reach the Arctic. In a not so-distant-future the region may become a hub for commercial activities. Arctic resources may attract worldwide interest and globally significant transport routes may be created.

Now is the time to think what kind of Arctic we want in the future. We should make sure that all human activity is sustainable. Increasing opportunities shouldbenefit the people who already live in the Arctic region, and certainly also the indigenous communities.

We should develop appropriate stewardship, based on international law, to govern activities in the Arctic. The Arctic countries should effectively contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change.

When preparing for the chairmanship, Finland had very useful discussions with the United States, all other Arctic states and the participating indigenous peoples´ organizations. I wish to thank all of you sincerely for your support and your suggestions for the chairmanship program.

In our opinion two broad frameworks should be taken into account in all Arctic Council activities. They are climate change, especially the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations adopted two years ago.

Finland has identified four priority areas of Arctic cooperation that we believe deserve particular attention. They are environmental protection, connectivity, meteorological cooperation and education.

Environmental protection includes many climate-related issues. Finland would also like to take forward work to safeguard biodiversity, slow down the acidification of oceans, to curb the emissions of black carbon and methane and to reduce marine litter.

Connectivity or telecommunications in the Arctic is an initiative launched by the United States. Better connectivity is a lifeline for all human activities. We should speed up identifying solutions that are best suited for the Arctic and work together with the Arctic Economic Council.

Meteorological cooperation is vital for the study of changing conditions in the Arctic. We need a strong network of stakeholders providing weather, climate, ice and sea monitoring in the region. We hope that also the Arctic Council working groups will benefit from close cooperation with the World Meteorological Organization.

Providing good basic education to all children in the Arctic is the first step to help them learn a trade in changing circumstances, or to receive higher education. We should make full use of the technical means to cope with the challenges of long distances and minority languages. Here we want to cooperate closely with the University of the Arctic network of teachers and educators.

When thinking of the future, we should be prepared to strengthen Arctic cooperation and ensure its political support in our countries. Finland is ready to host an Arctic Summit meeting, provided that the international situation is favorable, and that we can agree on an agenda, which is appropriate for a Summit.

On my behalf, I welcome the new observers invited today to join in the work of the Arctic Council. Finland recognizes the important role of the observer states and organizations in the activities of the Arctic Council. We want to continue the good practices of the U.S. chairmanship to work for a stronger involvement of the observers.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Arctic Colleagues,

Exploring common solutions is the slogan that Finland will use during our Chairmanship. I look forward to cooperating with all of you to find common solutions and to put them into practice.