In just a few short years, the Arctic region has exploded in popularity and is recognized as the largest emerging market opportunity on the globe. The eyes of the world are looking north, with massive interest in gaining a foothold in this growing and increasingly accessible region.
This amplified interest and attention carries with it additional responsibility; it also brings incredible opportunity. That is why, through many years of discussion and negotiations, the Arctic Council formed the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) in 2014, a move that has served as a hallmark of the Canadian chairmanship. During the time of the US chairmanship, through 2017, the AEC will focus on four key areas that include maritime and telecommunication infrastructure, responsible energy and economic development in the Arctic, the promotion of stable and predictable regulatory frameworks, and Arctic stewardship. The AEC is governed by a 42-member board of directors from the eight Arctic states and six permanent participant organizations.
The AEC sets the table for the Arctic business community to have a meaningful voice in the responsible and sustainable economic growth of our homelands. The underlying principles for the creation of the AEC were to create a new independent forum of business representatives to facilitate Arctic business-to-business activities, promote responsible economic development, and provide a pan-Arctic business perspective to the work of the Arctic Council. Its purpose also includes facilitating responsible trade and investment in the Arctic through collaborative environments that bring together financial experts and potential investors. The advantages and benefits may be local, but the AEC is designed to be a resource for Arctic as well as non-Arctic stakeholders.
Businesses need certainty and regulatory stability in order to minimize their risks while pursuing projects or investing in the Arctic. Dealing directly with the closest stakeholders during this process helps to provide that assurance. The most strategic vehicle for incentivizing short and long-term investment in the Arctic is to partner with those who will share in the results and responsibility. This is a region with the greatest resource available to any potential investor: local perspective, knowledge and insight. The value of local alignment is often overlooked and is therefore a focus of the AEC.
When you see the other themes of focus, the balance of AEC’s mission becomes clear:
- Establish strong market connections between the Arctic states
- Encourage public-private partnerships for infrastructure investments
- Create stable and predictable regulatory frameworks
- Facilitate knowledge and data exchange between industry and academia
- Support traditional indigenous knowledge
However, our communities cannot connect with opportunity if they are not well-connected. Reliable high-speed broadband in our regions remains a priority for the AEC and would enable Arctic governments to deliver improved health and education services, spur economic development, empower local businesses, and allow consumers access to video and other high-speed applications. The current lack of high-speed internet service within large areas of the Arctic impedes progress, from environmental protection in our communities to even emergency preparedness.
The AEC is supported by the pillars of collaboration, partnership, innovation and peace, and as the current chair, I look forward to building momentum in the Arctic in order for our regions to realize their enormous economic potential.