Youth Voices Shaping the EU Arctic Policy

The Arctic is amongst the most heavily impacted regions by climate change, warming two to three times faster than the rest of the world. This vulnerable region is a key stabiliser of the Earth’s climate and damaging it will lead to largely unpredictable changes in our planet’s system. As we already know, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Why is it so, and how can youth help to mitigate the effects of climate change in the region? To discuss the youth participation in Arctic matters and issues concerning the EU’s involvement in the Arctic in light of the updating of the EU Arctic policy, YEE met with the EU Arctic Ambassador Michael Mann. 

YEE is committed to strengthening the links between youth in Europe and the Arctic, including local stakeholders in the conversation. We have partnered up with the Arctic Youth Network (AYN), a youth-led NGO aiming to connect young people and empower them to engage with Arctic issues, so as to enrich our approach to Arctic matters. With the support of the AYN, YEE met with Michael Mann, EU Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic, to discuss youth perspectives regarding the EU’s involvement in the Arctic.

Who is Michael Mann? Michael took over as the second EU´s Special Envoy for Arctic Matters in the European External Action Service at the beginning of April. He has taken up the challenging task of updating the EU Arctic policy centered around three priorities: Climate Change and Safeguarding the Arctic Environment, Sustainable Development in and around the Arctic and International Cooperation on Arctic Issues. The updated policy aims to reflect the current challenges of the changing Arctic climate, in both natural and geopolitical terms. 

YEE Liaison Officer on Oceans and the Arctic, Venetia Galanaki, together with the YEE External Relations Officer, Nathan Métenier,  as well as members of the AYN,  met with Michael Mann to  discuss  youth perspectives and concerns regarding the EU’s involvement in the Arctic. Concerns were raised over a proposed railway line in Finland that will destroy Sami territories, we also discussed the issue of Norway drilling in the Arctic and the EU’s position on that. The Ambassador also brought forth the challenge of reconciling development and sustainability in the Arctic and stressed the importance of the EU Green Deal in making the EU a global example of sustainability. 

The issue of Indigenous peoples participation in decision making was also discussed. We stressed the importance of non-formal structures, receiving positive feedback from the Ambassador. He seemed very willing to engage local people in informal settings which has not been feasible because of COVID-19. We assured him that both YEE and AYN are ready to help out in that.

The Ambassador outlined the steps leading up to the forming of the updated EU Arctic policy including the public consultation and an impact assessment and ensured us that there will be plenty of opportunities to provide relevant feedback. We discussed the  public consultation on the EU Arctic policy and how the depth and specificity of the questions undermines the inclusivity of it. The Ambassador explained the processes behind the consultation and encouraged to submit responses nonetheless as he just wants to hear from people even if they can’t answer everything. YEE will be submitting a response too!”, said Venetia Galanaki (YEE Liaison Officer on Oceans and the Arctic). 

Michael Mann was very willing to continue our discussion with us in the future so we can regularly provide input or come up with new projects. We will stay in touch to identify the next steps. In the meantime, we would like to encourage you all to submit your response to the open public consultation on the EU Arctic policy which you can find here. The deadline for submitting your feedback and concerns is 10 November 2020. 

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