First International Conference on Human Environment in Northern Regions

December. Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Winter ForestHosted by Hokkaido Governor Naohiro Dougakinai, this inaugural conference brought together representatives from the Canadian provincial governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Northwest Territories; United States state governments of Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin; and representatives from the capital cities of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The conference made evident a multitude of environmental, climactic, economic and social commonalities faced by residents in northern regions.

Participants at the conference came to understand that, as regions with similar climatic conditions, they shared many environmental challenges. They discovered that the way one northern region addressed a particular issue might apply to similar issues in many - if not all - northern regions. Government representatives realized that improved communication and cooperation could vastly enhance the way of life for all residents of the North. Furthermore, delegates acknowledged the value of holding regular meetings to discuss these commonalities. They vowed to work diligently as a whole on issues of shared importance.

During his closing address, Governor Dougakinai proclaimed, "It is earnestly desired that this three day-conference will produce fruitful results for the happiness of all peoples living in northern regions through the active exchange of views among the participants and that it will contribute to the promotion of friendly relations and to the social development of the entire region.

The seeds for the establishment of the Northern Forum were planted.


Second International Conference On The Human Environment in Northern Regions

September, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Participants determined that renewed vigor must be given to maintaining the balance among natural resource development, environmental protection and quality of life. Some governors worked to convey to each other that all might benefit from an organization which made it possible to act cooperatively to resolve seemingly intractable problems shared by those who live in Northern climates. Other regional leaders, preoccupied by their own immediate concerns and mandates, listened to these visionary suggestions.The Conference focused on human settlements. Specific sessions were held on: urban growth; the creation of new towns as a result of accelerated natural resource development; planning for the rapid expansion of existing settlements; and enhancing the livability of older towns and cities.Policy makers from twenty-two provincial, regional, and municipal governments gathered to address issues relative to improving the quality of life in northern regions. Peter Lougheed, Premier of Alberta, expressed hope at the opening ceremony that the exchange of information would extend beyond human environment issues to create a better understanding between different peoples inhabiting similar parts of the world.

90916284 SmallHowever, little was done beyond polite acknowledgement until 1990. A major part of the North, Russia's vast Northern Territories, were as yet unable to participate.


Third Northern Regions Conference: Cooperation in a Changing World

September, Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A.

Picture 3With the dramatic opening of the Soviet Union to the outside world, northern Russia provided the final piece of the puzzle in the movement to create a permanent "Voice of Northern Regions." Some 600 delegates to this third conference concluded that historical northern trans-border cooperation, largely sporadic and ad hoc in nature, was an anachronism. Participants recommended that a permanent regional organization by the name of the Northern Forum be established.This organization was intended to act as a mechanism "to improve the quality of local, national, and international decision-making regarding northern issues by providing a means through which northern voices can be heard at all stages of the process." Delegates also hoped that the Northern Forum would "offer opportunities to exchange ideas, solve common problems, and plan cooperative initiatives regarding issues that are unique to the North."

During the proceedings, several issues of common concern were identified as having priority within the scope of a northern regional organization's activities:


  • Environmental assessment, monitoring and research.
  • Pollution prevention and clean-up.
  • Human resources, including culture, education, and health.
  • Cooperative management of northern renewable natural resources.
  • Northern technology and engineering.
  • Physical infrastructure, including northern communications and transportation systems.

Furthermore, it was decided that the Northern Forum would locate its main office, or Secretariat, in Anchorage, Alaska.


The Northern Forum Founding Meeting

November. Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A.

In what may be seen as the culmination of years of conferences, multilateral meetings and frank apolitical discussion, the Northern Forum was formally established with eleven regional members from nine northern countries.

The founding members included: Yukon Territory, Canada; Heilongjiang Province, Peoples' Republic of China; Lapland, Finland; Hokkaido, Japan; Dornod, Mongolia; Trondelag and Tromso, Norway; Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Kamchatka Oblast', Magadan Oblast', Russian Federation; Republic of Korea; and the state of Alaska, U.S.A

All inaugural members agreed that the future held boundless potential for the Northern Forum and that, together, the Northern Regions had many difficulties to overcome, and milestones towards which to strive. They expressed hopes concerning their Northern Forum's initial goal of serving as the primary means of communication to improve trans-boundary cooperation throughout the North. They hoped that the Forum would, in time, generate international awareness, respect and legitimacy for the commonalities shared by all Northern Regions. These issues, after all, had been bringing representatives of Northern Regions together for years.

After seventeen years, a unique experiment in inter-regional and international relations-Northern style-had begun.