An international working group of nation-states and permanent members of the Arctic Council deliberated on policies for women’s inclusion in decision-making processes regarding fisheries resource management in the Arctic.
Problems and Purpose
Fisheries represent a traditional way of life and are of great economic and cultural importance to coastal populations in the Arctic: Indigenous and non-Indigenous Northern inhabitants. Women are part of these coastal settlements and fisheries resource management and regulatory measures affect their lives; however, they are not accorded stakeholder status or participatory rights in significant regulatory bodies .
In response to this lack of representation in decision-making processes, the Arctic Council nation-states, and permanent partners such as Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes, Norway, and Sweden formed a working group and an International Steering Committee to promote women’s participation in decision-making processes in Artic fisheries resource management.
Background History and Context
Many United Nations declarations and international conventions on sustainable development have focused on the need for democratization of decision-making processes, and the importance of including stakeholder groups in processes affecting environmental issues and resource management is often stressed in this connection. In the 1992 Rio Declaration, principle 10 declares, “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level”. Principle 20 states, “Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is, therefore, essential to achieve sustainable development. Chapter 24.2 of Agenda 21 focuses on “global action for women towards sustainable and equitable development” and proposes that national government adopt these objectives to “increase the proportion of women decision-makers, planners, technical advisers, managers and extension workers in environment and development fields”.
The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, The Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States), Arctic Indigenous Peoples, and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues primarily regarding sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Many working groups emerge from the Arctic council focusing on various issues and themes relevant to the Arctic.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The collaborators are represented by project leaders at the national level. State-level collaborators include Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faroes, Sweden, Sapmi, and Norway. The group also consists of an International Steering Committee with representatives based in different affiliate organizations that supported collaborators' contributions to the larger project. The affiliate and supporting organizations include Nordland Fisherwomen’s Association, Aja Sami Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, the Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association, Equality Council, and the Intuit Circumpolar Conference, Swedish Sami Association. The Nordic Atlantic Co-operation also contributed funds towards securing participation from Greenland and the Faeroe Islands.
The working authors of the final report were also supported by their affiliate organization which includes the Northern Feminist University, Canadian Circumpolar Institute, Greenland, University of Iceland, Lulea University of Technology, Norut NIBR Finnmark, and Samediggi.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Several international conventions govern the management of marine resources, such as the United Nations Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFA) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNC- LOS), which have been adopted by the countries participating in this project. In many important Arctic fisheries, the Total Allowed Catch is determined at a bilateral or multilateral level. Therefore, different decision-making bodies dealing with quota policies in the Arctic have comparable design and power structures .
As such, participants were invited on account of being an existing nation-state, or permanent partner of the Arctic Council with special emphasis on members sharing the same international frameworks and agreements concerning fisheries governance. Each collaborator was represented by project leaders at the national level. This included Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faroes, Sweden, Sampi, and Norway.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The collaboration emerged from the 2002 Taking Wing conference on gender equality and women in the Arctic in Finland, with a focus on the link between gender equality and natural resource management for sustainable development. The conference suggested to the ministers that they should establish a project that analyses and documents the involvement and role of women and Indigenous peoples in natural resource management in the Artic .
At the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Inari, the ministers asked the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) to consider and approve project proposals arising from the recommendations adopted by the Taking Wing conference (Report of SAOs, Inari 2002, p 30)
Norway followed up this conference and has contributed by putting gender equality questions on the agenda of the Arctic Council. The Northern Feminist University had participated in the Taking Wing conference at the invitation of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and after the conference, they developed a project proposal for the “Women’s participation in decision-making processes in Arctic Fisheries Resource Management” project. Project partners from the Arctic Council nation-states and permanent participants were invited to participate.
The initial goal of the project was to do research on three levels of fisheries resource management as it relates to gender . Namely, individual power, structural or institutional power, and discursive power. However, the project goals expanded to include:
- Describe, systematize, and compare the roles of women in fisheries management in Arctic areas regarding participation in decision-making processes.
- Develop tools and strategies that can be used to promote participatory values and practices.
- Establish a source of information that can be used for the economic, social, and cultural development of the North.
- Increase transparency and democracy in fisheries management.
- Promote and establish international co-operation on gender equality in marine resource management.
The working group utilized workshops to collectively engage and organize around central project objectives. The first workshop was held in Steigen in September 2003 where all project participants were present. Here, the outline of the project was agreed on, individual fieldwork was mapped and planned. The group also established the beginning of a knowledge foundation concerning Arctic fisheries. Gender studies and fieldwork methodologies.
The Second workshop took place in March 2004 in Nanaimo, Canada during the fieldwork period where new members who joined the project after the first workshop were briefed on initial agreements. These initial agreements were discussed and worked upon. Subsequently, a final workshop was held in June 2004 at the end of the project period. This final workshop was used to finalize the report, discuss the dissemination of project findings as well as the planning of a follow-up project.
The project was presented at the Arctic Council meeting on 7–8th April 2003 and was approved by the Arctic Council as a project under the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) work program for 2002-2004. Progress reports were presented in October 2003 and at the May 2004 meeting, and the final report was presented to the ministers in November 2004.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The group's collaboration generated specific insights into the gendered dynamics of fisheries governance in the Arctic alongside pragmatic recommendations to increase representation in Artic fisheries governance. These findings were presented to respective ministers as well as circulated in the form of a published report.
 Sloan, L. (2002). Women's participation in decision-making processes in Arctic fisheries resource management. Forlaget Nora, Kvinneuniversitetet Nord. https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/bitstream/handle/11374/29/Women%27s%20Participation%2 0in%20Decision.making%20Process%20in%20Arctic%20Fisheries%20Respurce%20Managem ent.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y