In the past, Inuit, the first residents of the Arctic, have mostly been ignored by Western political, scientific and economic actors in their projects and activities in the Arctic, and their concerns have been disregarded. The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) therefore developed protocols for the equal and ethical inclusion of Inuit, which were published a few days ago and are addressed to all decision-makers, politicians, researchers and others working in the Arctic.
The Arctic is increasingly the focus of international interests, and there is growing discussion about climate change, resource development, expansion of research initiatives, and other activities. At the same time, international negotiations are taking place on these and other issues such as biodiversity, shipping, animals and plants, and food security – all issues that affect the Arctic and the Inuit way of life.
The ICC criticizes that Inuit communities have not been included in activities, discussions, and policy developments in an equitable and ethical manner, despite their millennia of knowledge and best sustainable practices. “As the first inhabitants and stewards of the Arctic, we have the right and responsibility to protect our environment and culture,” says James Stotts, president of ICC Alaska. “Our knowledge must be relied upon to inform decision-making in all matters.”
With the new protocols, the ICC wants to ensure that Inuit are put at the forefront of future decisions in terms of equity and ethics. An ICC statement last Friday said the protocols offer a path to success for international organizations, researchers, decision and policy makers.
“We persist with the call for all others to recognize our status, rights, and role in relation to every issue of concern to us,” Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough, the ICC’s international chair, said in a statement. “The same is true for exercising our self-determination in relation to the ‘intricate knowledge’ that our founder, Eben Hopson, spoke of in 1977. This document lays out elements of the substantive and procedural foundation for engagement with Inuit and the diverse subject matter that affects every aspect of our lives as Inuit, including our knowledge.”
Inuit from across the Arctic spent three years collaboratively developing the eight Circumpolar Inuit Protocols for Equitable and Ethical Engagement (EEE), which were developed last year in virtual workshops by delegates from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka. Each of the protocols provides guidance and directives for achieving common goals while respecting Inuit sovereignty and self-determination. “Our first protocol comes with the key phrase: ‘Nothing about us without us.’ It has everything: The call, the principle, the foundation, and the rule. I believe that our protocols will help us live in harmony with everyone,” says Liubov Taian, President of ICC Chukotka.
The eight protocols at a glance
- ‘Nothing about us without us’ – always engage with Inuit
- Recognize Indigenous Knowledge in its own right
- Practice good governance
- Communication with Intent
- Exercising accountability – building trust
- Building meaningful partnerships
- Information, data sharing, ownership and permissions
- Equitably fund Inuit representation and knowledge
This also applies to scientific activities, as Kuupik V. Kleist from ICC Greenland describes: “Every spring, we see groups of researchers coming into our village or town. We don’t know what they are about to do and never hear of their research results either. They and we would gain in following the EEE Protocols.” The ICC is certain that implementing the protocols would also lead to higher quality research.
However, in addition to research, it is also about making decisions and policy. “Organizations and institutions such as the Arctic Council and agencies of the United Nations are a key audience for ICC,” said Monica Ell-Kanayuk, president of ICC Canada. “The development of these international protocols for the ethical and equitable engagement of Inuit communities and Indigenous knowledge is fundamental to advancing our governance and our future engagement with international fora.”
Julia Hager, PolarJournal