Ambassador David Balton was fairly relaxed for his hour with the press following the Senior Arctic Officials meeting, with the Permanent Participants, basically the various representatives of indigenous peoples and other NGO’s. Responding to a query about why it was necessary to close the doors to the press, he said “I’m not sure I have a good answer for that,” and said he would be willing to raise the issue. He wasn’t sure there was anyone for whom confidentiality is a concern. The Council does not move without unanimous consent, so we’ll see.
Not being a treaty based organization, it runs without a lot of the formality of the usual run of diplomatic business, and he said he wouldn’t want to lose that “flexibility.” But structure? Well, maybe they could use a bit more structure. Especially in the funding department, though Balton said he couldn’t really think of anything that was being stalled by budget considerations right now.
The main thing the Ambassador wanted to announce was that the Council is beginning to look into a strategic planning process, which might offer a way to get beyond the current two-year planning cycle that is driven by the rotating chairmanship. The last two years were Canada’s (the Harper administration), the current two years the U.S., and then it’s Finland’s turn.
The Council’s business is basically taken up by working groups or task forces. There’s not much of a budget, so the participants themselves have to put resources into the work. They are working toward a binding agreement on scientific co-operation that is expected to be ready for their next full meeting. They are also working on agreements about black carbon and methane. Another working group is “chugging ahead” on linking Marine Protected Areas. I asked whether the body would welcome recommendations from the Observing Summit that has been going on at the same time, and he said most definitely.