Non-governmental organizations are also looking at what this change means for Arctic biodiversity, peoples and the ecosystems that support them. However, to date there has been no consistent way for NGOs that work on Arctic environmental issues to get together, exchange ideas and perspectives and develop common strategies to influence policy makers.
The creation of a new Arctic NGO Forum is designed to address this gap. Funded by the European Commission Directorate General for the Environment and co-ordinated by UNEP/GRID-Arendal and Ecorys, the forum will allow Civil Society organizations to develop ideas and provide advice to the global Arctic community.
The idea of creating an Arctic NGO Forum was laid out in the Commission’s 2008 Communication 'The EU and the Arctic Region'. The Communication provided the basis for a structured and ongoing coordinated approach by the EU on Arctic affairs. It stated that the Commission should “promote permanent dialogue with NGOs on the state of the environment in the Arctic region”. In the EU, where there is already a demonstrated commitment to reducing Europe’s Arctic footprint, such public and expert attention will reinforce and inform policy direction and development.
NGO access to policy makers
The creation of a regular platform for dialogue will give NGOs a unique possibility to strengthen their position, and get access to policy makers. The Arctic NGO Forum will contribute to the further elaboration and development of an Arctic Policy for the EU by directing attention to areas of common interest, raising awareness about key issues, and providing expert opinion on emerging issues and ways to respond to present and potential future pressures on the Arctic environment. It will assist NGOs in focusing attention on the rapid changes taking place, and the need for action.
The Forum will meet twice a year over the next three years. The first Forum meeting will take place in Arendal, Norway, in January 2012. Three larger workshops will be organized related to the state of the Arctic environment with wider NGO and stakeholder participation. The first workshop is planned for Arendal, Norway, later in 2012.
At the first forum meeting in January, NGOs will be invited to shape the Forum and identify the key issues to work on over the next three years.