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Arctic Council to Review U.S. Program, Begin Finland Chairmanship in Upcoming Ministerial

Looking back at the U.S. Arctic Council chairmanship ...

Representatives of the Arctic Council’s eight member nations say the organization has made great progress over the past two years on studying the region and its challenges. That’s the takeaway from a recent meeting of high-ranking diplomats who carry out the day-to-day work of the Arctic Council.

“There’s a lot of great work that this council is doing,” said David Balton, a deputy assistant secretary with the State Department who attended a meeting of senior Arctic Council officials in Juneau earlier this month.

“There is still some work to be completed, but I’m confident that we’ll have a lot to show for two years in the chair,” Balton said, referring to the Arctic Council chairmanshipthat the United States has held over the past two years. It’ll relinquish the chair to Finland during the Arctic Council’s ministerial to be held May 11th in Fairbanks.

Credit Arctic Council
David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Balton serves as SAO chair.

“The United States has been working with the government of Finland to prepare a transition in chairmanships,” he said in a media briefing after the meeting.

The meeting in Juneau of Senior Arctic Officials was held to prepare participants for the ministerial. They heard progress reports on projects and programs the council has been working on during the U.S. chairmanship that’ll all be presented in final form during the ministerial. Those include reports on Arctic marine biodiversity and on the region’s snow, ice, water and permafrost; and updates on projects to reduce black-carbon air pollution and to improve residents’ health and ability to respond to climate-change-related impacts.

“I think the United States is on track to deliver the chairmanship program that we advanced almost two years ago,” Balton said.

He told journalists at the briefing or listening-in online that the United States’ overarching goals for the Arctic Council remain; they include serving as an environmental steward of the Arctic Ocean and ensuring the safety of mariners and subsistence users; also improving the quality of life for peoples of the Arctic; and monitoring and mitigating climate-change impacts.

“Our emphasis there was to try to make everyone see that we have common problems and that we need to find ways to move forward together.”

Balton says Finland’s chairmanship priorities include helping member nations improve education, and their weather-forecasting capabilities and broadband connectivity.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.