On March 8 - 21, 2016, I conducted a research in University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), United States. The research was carried out with financial assistance from the Program for Overseas Visits by Young Researchers, which is a part of ArCS project. The purpose of the research was mainly to consider the future role of observer states within the Arctic Council through the participation in the Model Arctic Council (MAC), Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2016 and Arctic Observing Summit (AOS).
During the first half of the research, I observed MAC process. MAC is a mock exercise of the Arctic Council for graduate or undergraduate students. This time, about 70 participants were engaged in the simulation of the PAME, SDWG, Senior Arctic Official (SAO) meeting and Ministerial meeting. By observing the MAC process, I could gain practical knowledge on how the meetings of the Arctic Council proceed, including the role of the observer states. In addition, what was unexpected for me was that there were no participants from Asian Universities. I hope that Japanese students will attend the next MAC to be held in Finland in 2018.
In the last half of my stay, I participated in the ASSW and AOS. In particular, the series of presentations in the International Arctic Assembly Day on March 15 were very beneficial for me since they provided information on the ongoing negotiations of the fisheries issues in the Central Arctic Ocean and of a binding agreement for Arctic scientific cooperation in the Scientific Cooperation Task Force (SCTF). At the same time, I attempted interviews with participants of the SAO meeting about the discussion during the meeting. Through the interviews, I became aware of the very limited role of observer states at the SAO meeting. For example, they have no opportunity to make a statement individually during the meeting.
Overall, for me as a new-comer of the Arctic legal and policy study, this research in Fairbanks was very fruitful both in developing connections with the Arctic researchers and in gathering latest information on the various Arctic issues. Among other things, I felt that it is necessary to consider how Japan can get involved in the work of the Arctic Council more substantially by utilizing its observer status. Last but not least, I would like to express deep gratitude to all the people supporting my research in UAF.
(Research fellow of Polar Cooperation Research Centre (PCRC), Kobe University)