Pogodaev WalkerThe Northern Forum is happy to announce the return of the State of Alaska and Finnish Lapland to the Northern Forum.

The Northern Forum is an international non-profit organization for governors of northern regions, which was established in 1991 in Alaska with 13 regional members from eight northern countries. The aim of the Northern Forum is to improve the quality of life of northern peoples and support sustainable development of northern regions by providing a platform for collaboration, knowledge and experience sharing and implementation of joint projects. This also includes development of tools and means for leaders of northern regions in addressing common challenges.

Alaska Governor Bill Walker recently sent an official letter to the Northern Forum supporting Alaska’s reinstatement into the international forum of Arctic regions.

The State of Alaska offered the following priorities for discussion within the broader international reach of the Northern Forum:

1) Collaboration: In any sub-regional province or state,  the community, business and political leaders should be at the table, as Northerners would prefer     things to be able done “with us, not for us.” Business opportunities must be available for all companies, including  small and medium-sized enterprises and those owned by indigenous peoples.

2) Infrastructure Gaps: We must address industrial base and infrastructure gaps, as well as to resource development. Investments in navigational aids and maritime infrastructure must be increased in order to ensure marine traffic reliability, safety and access.

3) Responsible Development: Balancing emerging economic opportunities with environmental protection and subsistence activity is a priority of the utmost importance. We are proud of Alaska’s successes in sustainable fisheries, in reduced oil and gas industry footprints, and in responsible mineral development.

An agreement was reached to hold a meeting of the Northern Forum Regional Coordinators Committee in Anchorage from 25 to 27 July 2016.

In addition to Alaska's request for re-instatement in the Northern Forum, the County Governor of Finnish Lapland Mika Riipi informed the Northern Forum Secretariat that during the Regional Council of Lapland meeting it was decided to apply to become a member of the  Northern Forum.

Over the years, Finnish Lapland has been a key region in international circumpolar cooperation, and has played a prominent role in bringing together the governors of the northern regions.

Pogodaev Mika RiipiIn the early 1990s, it was in Lapland where the process of enhancing international cooperation in the North started. Since its adoption in 1991, the Environmental Protection Strategy of the Arctic – also known as the Rovaniemi Process – was aimed at overcoming differences and transforming the zone of Cold War military tensions into a region of peace and cooperation. Through these joint efforts to protect the environment – and later to focus on sustainable development – the Arctic countries, with the support of indigenous peoples' organizations, laid the groundwork for cooperation and the formation of regional identity in the Arctic. Subsequently, the Arctic Council – which brought together eight Arctic countries and six Arctic indigenous peoples' organizations – was established on the basis of this strategy.

Restoring Alaska and Finnish Lapland as members of the Northern Forum will create a new impetus to foster inter-regional cooperation in the North, and will mark a new stage in development of the Northern Forum.

Bringing the northern regions to the Northern Forum is an important area of focus within the Secretariat of the Northern Forum. A number of Russian regions, Alaska and Lapland joined the Northern Forum thanks to the hard work of the Head of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) Egor Borisov, who was Chairman of the Northern Forum for two terms. After the chairmanship was transferred from the Sakha Republic  (Yakutia) to Krasnoyarsk Krai, its Governor Viktor Tolokonskiy also made great efforts to bring the northern regions together and to revitalize international and interregional cooperation in the North.

- The Secretariat of the Northern Forum