Students represented a) delegates from the eight Member States and six Permanent Participants to the Protection of Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group and b) Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) and Permanent Participants delegates at the SAO meetings. One student role-played the delegate from Poland, which is an Observer of the Arctic Council, at the PAME and SAO meetings. The Arctic Council Member States include Canada, Finland, Iceland, the Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States. The Permanent Participants represent various Indigenous communities throughout the circumpolar north and include the Aleut International Association (AIA), Arctic Athabascan Council (AAC), Gwich’in Council International (GCI), Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), and Saami Council. Although Permanent Participants cannot vote on proposals, they have full consultation rights. Rarely do Member States advance proposals without the approval of the Permanent Participants, and the Model Arctic Council reflected this practice. One of six Working Groups of the Arctic Council, PAME focuses on the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic’s marine environment. Each student role-played at least one delegate to the Arctic Council; some doubled up on roles. Jonathan Wood, a graduate student in the Polar Law Department at the University of Akureyri, chaired the PAME meetings, and Sophie Goliber, a Geological Sciences Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin, chaired the SAO meetings.

Participants in the PAME meetings discussed and developed plans to address Arctic marine problems, specifically plastic pollution and endangerment to protected marine areas, before moving their recommendations to the SAOs and Permanent Participants at the SAO meetings for their feedback and guidance. Everyone endeavored to ensure that Indigenous representatives had an equal voice in meetings and proposals. Ultimately, the students produced a final report, with the Arctic Council Ministers – the foreign ministers of the eight Arctic Council Member States – as their intended audience. During the program, students learned about various Arctic challenges, biodiversity and conservation in the Arctic, the functioning of the Arctic Council, the importance of Indigenous voices in Arctic governance, and how to navigate online diplomacy. Jonathan Wood reported on the program to a virtual audience at the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW).

Participants used Google Documents to produce and edit progress reports and the final proposal and, in addition to talking, the chat function in Zoom to discuss issues collectively and privately with one another in real time. One example of good collaboration was Canada, Norway, AIA, and the Saami Council’s proposal to reduce marine litter through the adoption of new technologies in fishing and the management of ballast and grey water in relation to shipping.

During the program, the students also heard from high-profile guest speakers. Gunnar Rekvig, Nansen Professor in Arctic Studies at the University of Akureyri, lectured on the history of diplomacy between Sweden and Finland concerning the Åland Islands. Friðrik Jónsson, Iceland’s SAO, discussed the necessity of online diplomacy and social networking during emergencies, like the current coronavirus pandemic. In the debriefing session, Robert Gerber, Chief of the Economy, Energy, and Environmental Unit, and Oscar Avila, Public Affairs Office, at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik, discussed the importance of the Arctic and congratulated the students on their work.

The Model Arctic Council was organized jointly by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and the University of Akureyri. Dr. Brandon Boylan, Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of Arctic & Northern Studies at UAF; Dr. Mary Ehrlander, Professor of History and Co-Director of Arctic & Northern Studies at UAF; Mike Letzring, an Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. candidate, housed in Arctic & Northern Studies at UAF; Rachael Johnstone, Professor of Law at the University of Akureyri; and Gunnar Gunnarson, International Coordinator at the University of Akureyri planned the event since spring 2019.

The Model Arctic Council is a Thematic Network of the University of the Arctic (UArctic), led by UAF professors Brandon Boylan and Mary Ehrlander. To date, the UArctic MAC program has taken place at UAF (spring 2016); Dartmouth College (summer 2017); the University of Lapland (Finland) (fall 2018); and online (spring 2020). The goal is to host a MAC in the country that is currently chairing the Arctic Council.

Brandon Boylan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Co-Director, Arctic & Northern Studies
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska

Anna Shchenina
Undergraduate major, Regional Studies of Russia
Department of Regional Studies, International Relations, and Political Sciences
Northern (Arctic) Federal University

Please contact Brandon Boylan,, for further details.