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Looking Back 20 Years After Rovaniemi


In 1994 Governor Wally Hickel gave a pioneering speech to the Arctic Opportunities Conference in Rovaniemi, Finland. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Arctic was opened for communication in a way not possible before. The connections and ideas forged during this early period have been an incredibly important foundation for increased activity, more robust governance and stronger relationships.

Hickel said then that, “We are pioneering a new trail. And I am enthusiastic about its potential. Our region-to-region approach may become the wave of the future. It was so natural for us. We were drawn together, once we, the peoples of the North, were able to communicate without being blocked by curtains of iron or ice.” Governor Hickel believed strongly that we must understand the reality, the richness and the responsibility of the North.

Alaskans and other Arctic peoples understand the inherent challenges to living in the Arctic but have found prosperity in a high quality of life and potential economic opportunity. One of the fundamental principles of an Arctic reality is that of collaboration within a circumpolar neighborhood. Alaskans can continue and build upon the strong international relationships forged by Governor Hickel and others over the past decades. The themes of Hickel’s Rovaniemi speech ring true to this day.

Governor Hickel proclaimed, “Our greatest challenge is to cope with a decision made in the South that does not work in the North.” So let us look North. The Institute of the North is pleased to head the Finland Policy Tour, June 15-20, 2014—20 years after Hickel’s original Finland policy tour. The Institute of the North has hosted meaningful visits for Alaska’s leaders to neighboring Arctic states over the last three years with delegations visiting Norway, Iceland and, most recently, Russia.

These policy tours seek to help Arctic nations foster a shared sense of purpose when addressing today’s most pertinent Arctic issues. In Finland, Alaska business, policy and community leaders will spend four days exploring Finland’s economic and resource development agenda, better understanding its position in the Arctic, and learning more about issues ranging from icebreakers to education. Not only will Alaska leaders have an opportunity to learn about what Finland is doing right, but the group will be able to share Alaska’s lessons with those they meet along the way and bring back to the state the results of those conversations.

The Institute’s vision for these policy tours is simple, and embodies Wally’s ambition that “our new frontier is to work together to improve the living standard for our people,” regardless of geographic area or nationality. The circumpolar north is entering a new area, full of uncertainty, and our path forward is strengthened by shared advocacy on behalf of all Northern peoples.

For more information on the Finland Policy Tour please visit our site here.

Institute of the North

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