12 May 2011: The Nuuk Declaration, which includes the first legally-binding agreement under the auspices of the Arctic Council to cooperate in search and rescue efforts in the Arctic, was adopted at the Seventh Ministerial Meeting in Nuuk, Greenland.
The meeting was exceptionally well attended by small delegations headed by Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all Arctic countries except Finland and, in the case of the United States of America, both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Interior Salazar attended. All permanent representatives (Indigenous Peoples' organizations), save one, were represented by their Executive Heads.
Outcomes of the meeting
Members and permanent participants hailed the meeting as an unprecedented success. Indeed the outcomes of the conference and of the Danish (including Greenland and Faroe islands) Presidency of the Council are noteworthy:
The Nuuk declaration includes a number of breakthroughs including the agreement to create the permanent secretariat in Tromso, Norway; UNEP is specifically recognised in the context of mercury - a prominent concern in the declaration, speeches at the Conference and the incoming Swedish presidency.
The programme of work of the incoming presidency of the council indeed builds on these outcomes and proposes to focus on a number of topics most of which are of direct relevance to UNEP. The signature in Nuuk of the agreement on search and rescue operations (preparedness and response) was referred to by many (including outgoing and incoming chairs) as "hopefully the first of a number of other similar agreements".
Thematically, references were made repeatedly to the need for action in mercury, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), black carbon, and the Arctic countries' particular stake in promoting a comprehensive global agreement on greenhouse gas reduction. Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of the use of Arctic Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge and capacity-building initiatives in the planning and implementation of measures to adapt to climate change.
The Nuuk Declaration can be accessed here.