The Polar Freeze

I wouldn’t have guessed, upon nestling in along the East Coast to start my thesis, that Baltimore would be consistently colder than the High North. Though we are not (yet) buried under the two meters of snow covering most of New England, it is beginning to feel strangely arctic here. At this point, it is welcomed inspiration. Plus, lots of wildlife to spy on from my windowed workstation…


To explain the thesis in a bit more detail, I am looking into the role of the Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council. The Council is a high-level, intergovernmental forum comprised of the 8 Arctic member states, permanent participants, working groups, and observers. The Permanent Participants (6 organizations representing the indigenous peoples of the High North) hold a unique position in the Council,  as they are afforded a seat next to the member states and play a vital role in all of the Council’s decisions (though only the member states have voting power). Still, the inclusion of the indigenous in such a way is novel, so I am investigating how this has worked (or hasn’t) and what this means for indigenous representation by the Council.

It took me awhile to find a sense of direction, but things are starting to unfold (often in ways unexpected). Filled with literature gathering and relentless correspondence, the past month has been both motivating and challenging. Contacting anyone in or related to the Arctic Council right now is tedious work, as the Council is set to meet for its Biennial Ministerial meeting in April–and the closer it gets, the more chaotic things become on their end. Surprisingly, however, people have been quite willing to work me into their schedules (probably with hopes that I will stop emailing and calling them)…

Researching any international forum, especially one based throughout the circumpolar North, is complicated. Trying to coordinate interviews & meetings in 8 different time zones, and sorting out where and when to travel, does not leave me envious of the Council Secretariat’s duties. Moreover, most of the Permanent Participant offices are located in remote towns in the Arctic, making them practically inaccessible until the summertime. So, as much as I was anticipating traveling to Northern Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and Greenland, I want to avoid being found, frozen, in a snow drift three months from now.

Luckily, many of the PP and Council members have offices outside of the Arctic as well, and in March I am heading out to Ottawa and Anchorage to meet with some of them. A Permanent Participant Capacity Workshop is also set for mid-March in Anchorage, but they are still sorting out if funding will come through in time, so many fingers crossed for this as I was hoping to use the opportunity to conduct a focus group.

Ever so slowly, things are falling into place. For now, and until I depart for a bit of adventure, it is reading (so much reading) and phone/Skype interviews (the more the merrier).

I will write again soon, once closer to the North…



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