Interacting with personnel on the spot at the Arctic – a conference organized in Burlington at the University of Vermont

It takes an hour by flight from New York to Burlington, where the University of Vermont is located. Burlington is a relatively small city compared to other cities in the United States. An airport is located approximately within the distance of ten kilometer from the city center. Most of the hotels in Burlington have their own shuttle bus services. This means that visitors are picked from the airport and dropped at the hotel free of costs. This services are also available for other shorter travels for the visitors staying at the hotels, for example, one can use the service to go to nearby shopping malls or to city center, and then to come back, which is actually very unique. The heart of the city presents legendary buildings and other structures as traditional signs of the city with streets having wonderful restaurants and bars, most of which have terrace next to them with full of people. There is live music. People from all across make this part of the city very lively. Then down to the main road there is a lake called “Lake Mackintosh Park” covering over 1150 acres of land and has a shoreline of 61 miles. The lake serves as an overall recreational site for all to enjoy. In the evening a nice walk by the side of the lake is just wonderful. The view of the sun set also attracts many to come here.

Even though the city is small, the campus of the University occupies a rather larger area. The campus is full of nice buildings, separated from each other, and linked by clean and nice walkways everywhere with green compounds and beautiful gardens full of flowers all around. The University has its name and fame for excellence in research. In recent years, it started focusing on Arctic research, in particular, research concerning energy resources in the Arctic. Use of diplomacy to reduce any potential tensions in the Arctic has been the main approach. The Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security (IEDS) located within this university has made a name as it has produced a number of significant research projects. A series of research reports on the implementation of Arctic Council’s Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines and the recently published book “Diplomacy on the Ice” from the Yale University Press are the just two examples of its increasing engagement in research on the Arctic.

From July 6-7, 2015 the IEDS organized an interesting conference – “Reframing the Arctic: Cooperation, Not Conflict” – in cooperation with the US Army research office and the University of Queensland, Australia. The conference brought scholars from Australia, Canada, Europe, and South America and from the US. What has been interesting about the conference is that it has made a huge effort to bring also military officials, public servants, media representatives, and other stakeholders to interact with scholars, and to share their views, and finally to make fruitful dialogues amongst themselves. It has maintained the so called “Chatham House rule”, which means that the information in the conference can be shared, but not the identity or affiliation of the speakers. Importantly speakers were allowed to talk without much depending on any formal PowerPoint presentations. Rather, they were given the possibility to briefly present their topic in such a way that the presentation may stimulate broader, and engaging, discussions. Notes of the discussions were written down by the moderator of each of the sessions, which has finally been synthesized. This synthesis report has been communicated with all the participants to better rationalize the whole discussions taken place during these two-day seminar.

The event is being developed as a new addition in Arctic research which would add to the other forums discussing Arctic issues. The big events on Arctic research, the exposure of which has recently been on the rise at the global level, see diversified discussions from various angles. Most of these events hold academically oriented topics with probably some policy dimensions. Arctic Frontiers in Tromso, Polar Law Symposium hosted by Akureyri and Rovaniemi, Arctic Exchange in Seattle, Arctic Circle in Reikjavik, In the Spirit of Rovaniemi process by the Arctic Centre are the major venues that bring academics, policy makers and stakeholders to discuss Arctic, and to some extent Antarctic, issues. The common method applied in these forums are speeches, talks and presentations that stimulate dialogues, provide opportunity for networking and create framework for research collaboration. While there are other good number of sporadic events in each year organized in all across the globe, where Arctic scholars, government representatives and members of indigenous peoples as well as representatives of organizations, such as from the Arctic Council are present, where also diversified views on the Arctic are presented. Reframing the Arctic security is one of such sporadic events that brought new dimensions in Arctic discussions by including effective interactions essentially with military personnel including navy, coast guards, marine and technical engineers who are directly or indirectly involved in activities related to Arctic and Antarctic, and with public officials from various ministries and agencies.

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Friday, July 10, 2015 - 15:09