New Arctic Economic Council could be a missed opportunityA new coalition of Arctic businesses, established today at an Arctic Council meeting in Yellowknife, Canada, could be a missed opportunity without greater transparency and accountability, says WWF.
The Arctic Economic Council (AEC) will be made up of businesses appointed by the Arctic Council member states and Permanent Participants and given a broad mandate pertaining to economic development in the Arctic. Once established, however, the body will operate entirely independently, with no accountability to the Arctic Council. It may be that the AEC will assume the mandate currently held by the Arctic Council to deal with economic development in the Circumpolar world.
WWF was supportive of the initial direction from Arctic Council Ministers to establish a circumpolar business forum. An open, transparent and accountable body could provide a valuable service in helping to define and encourage best practices to ensure sustainable and responsible development and business operations in the Arctic. But, as approved by the Arctic Council, the proposed body will be neither open nor transparent, and accountable to no one but the large industries expected to cover the costs of the group.
“We encourage greater involvement of business in a meaningful dialogue about sustainable Arctic development” said Alexander Shestakov, Director of WWF’s Global Arctic Programme. “Unfortunately, this proposed Arctic Economic Council is likely to thwart such dialogue. Instead, it will comprise an indeterminate group of business interests selected according to no clear criteria and acting on their own behalf, without any accountability to the Arctic Council or the diverse interests that have made the Arctic Council an important forum for addressing the most significant issues facing the Arctic. Without the appropriate safeguards this is a real missed opportunity.”
Although the paper on the establishment of the AEC mentions sustainability, environment and responsibility, there is no mechanism in place to hold AEC accountable to those principles. The next steps to implement the decision remain unclear.
WWF recommends that the Arctic Council address these weaknesses by establishing clear criteria for admission to the AEC, ensuring the AEC operates in a transparent and open manner, and creating a broader advisory committee to the the Arctic Council that will ensure the AEC advances sustainable economic development and follows the Arctic Council's major principles.