Held over three days, the Trent-Yukon Model Arctic Council Conference (TRYKOMAC), is one of the only Model Arctic Councils in the world today designed primarily for undergraduate students. Students play the roles of delegates from Arctic states and, unusual for model diplomacy, Indigenous Peoples. Their challenge is to negotiate unanimous consensus on some of the most pressing questions facing not only the Arctic and its communities, but by extension, our world as a whole.
Read on for a student perspective on the first-ever Model Arctic Council held at Trent, with Will Richmond, a fourth-year Environmental & Resource Science student, sharing an inside look at his experience.
The Arctic Council
Trent University and Yukon University recently held the first Trent-Yukon Model Arctic Council, in collaboration with and facilitated by Polar Aspect. These model councils bring together students from around the world to discuss contemporary issues of the Arctic through imitating the process of the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental organization which brings together Arctic States and northern indigenous peoples (referred to here as Permanent Participants) to create guidelines for Arctic sustainability and protection while promoting cooperation between these groups. The Model Arctic Council is meant to educate students on the process of annual Arctic Council meetings, and raise awareness to the threats faced by our circumpolar north.
The issue – permafrost thaw
In the Model Arctic Council, students role-play as delegations representing Arctic states or permanent participants, negotiating with other delegations on how to best address a particular issue facing the Arctic. For this meeting, the issue being discussed was permafrost thaw – a major threat to the north and the entire world.
With global temperatures rising every year – and the Arctic warming twice as fast – the frozen soils of the Arctic are at risk of thawing on a massive scale. The effects are varied, with the Arctic seeing an increase in landslides, infrastructure damage, and heavy metal pollution. Permafrost contains large concentrations of dead organic matter, which is now at risk of decomposing and emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Therefore, the issue of permafrost thaw is not only an Arctic issue, but a global issue as well.
The majority of the TRYKOMAC was spent in negotiations, where delegations spent time proposing, editing, and voting on guidelines for addressing permafrost thaw in the Arctic. In order to make an addition to the document, all delegations had to unanimously vote to include the addition – therefore each proposition had to be amended to the satisfaction of all delegations.
This rule promoted cooperation between students during negotiations and dissuaded us from disregarding the opinions or needs of other delegations. Adopting the rules of the Arctic Council also forced us to make compromises for the benefit of all delegations, and to seek out solutions which served the entirety of the circumpolar Arctic. Therefore, the additions made by delegations were multifaceted and interdisciplinary, combining environmental science, social science, and traditional knowledge to address the issue of permafrost thaw.
As a student interested in the Arctic for the past few years, participating in this Model Arctic Council was a great privilege. I had the chance to apply the scientific knowledge gained from my courses at Trent to the meeting, in a context I was unfamiliar with.
Participating in formal negotiations was a new experience for me, but also a rewarding challenge since I learned a great deal throughout the Model Arctic Council. Many students reflected this same notion, feeling they had gained skills in professional conduct and successful negotiations.
Looking back, I believe I am now a more well-rounded student, with the ability to participate in conferences and negotiate on a higher level. If my career path leads me to the Arctic in the future, TRYKOMAC will likely prove to be one of the most beneficial of my Trent experiences.
- Will Richmond
The Trent-Yukon Model Arctic Council is a project funded by Universities Canada's Outbound Student Mobility Pilot Program to enhance international mobility. The event was hosted by Trent University's Circumpolar Studies program, in partnership with Yukon University, and facilitated by Polar Aspect.