HELSINKI, Oct. 27, 2017 -- Education and prevention of pollution have been the most prominent themes at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Oulu, northern Finland on Wednesday and Thursday.
The meeting gathered representatives of the eight arctic states and six indigenous organizations and observers from over 30 countries or organizations. It was the first meeting of senior officials during the two-year chairmanship of Finland.
Ambassador Aleksi Harkonen, the Finnish chair of the meeting, said Finland chose education as one of the focal points of its program for the two years. "Education is a local issue, and in some countries even not a public issue, but we promote common goals", he said.
One of the themes was the arrangement of education for nomadic children. Finland has taken up the feasibility of using modern technologies for education in distant areas.
Contrary to media speculation earlier this year, the work of the Arctic Council has not been affected by increased international tensions. "There were no indications of that", Harkonen said.
Finnish diplomats have noted earlier that one of the strengths of the Arctic Council is that dialogue has been maintained even at the times when the situation elsewhere in the world has worsened.
Asked by the international media whether the attitude of the United States had changed in the discussion of the climate change, Harkonen said no change had been noticed in the approach of any of the delegations. "Climate change is a fact and indigenous people will feel its impact early", Harkonen said.
With the "festive season" approaching in many of the participating countries, Harkonen ended with a light note explaining that the issue "Santa Clause actually has his home" splits the Council members and it is one where no consensus is possible.
Both Finland and Sweden have claimed to be the home county of Santa Clause, but in many countries the home is considered to be at the North Pole.
During the Finnish presidency that started in May, Finland will stage several meetings in Northern Finland. The next senior officials' meeting will take place in the winter resort town of Kittila, near the Swedish border, in March 2018.