Preparations underway for Arctic Council ministerial, related events

Ann Maceda, Arctic affairs officer with the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and Polar Affairs; and Larry Hinzman, UAF vice chancellor for research.
(Greg Martin/Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce)

A U.S. State Department official said planning is well under way for the big, biennial meeting of top diplomats from the eight Arctic Council member nations to be held this spring in Fairbanks.

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“We have an advance team of 40 individuals who are up with us – to give you an idea of how much commitment and how much work goes into planning a meeting with these many moving parts,” Ann Meceda, a State Department Arctic affairs officer, said.

Meceda told the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce this week that the advance team handles the logistics of preparing for a high-profile meeting like the Arctic Council’s ministerial – now known as the Fairbanks ministerial.

“So they come and look at the locations and preparations in advance of a meeting like the Fairbanks ministerial,” Meceda said. “So this will be the ministerial at the end of the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council.”

Larry Hinzman, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, told the chamber audience that local and statewide organizers also are working on preparations for a weeklong series of events called the Week of the Arctic, to be held May 8-14, in conjunction with the ministerial.

“The Week of the Arctic is going to be a big event for Fairbanks,” Hinzman said. “We’ll have a thousand people coming in, we’ll have policy-makers, decision-makers, engineers, scientists from around the world. We’ll have local stakeholders.”

Hinzman is helping coordinate UAF’s support for events to be held in Fairbanks, most of which focus on scientific, engineering and technological issues Arctic nations are dealing with. The events include the Arctic Interchange, a four-day series of sessions to review U.S. achievements during its two-year Arctic Council chairmanship; and the Arctic Broadband Forum, a two-day series on the challenges of providing telecommunications to the region, and efforts to improve broadband availability here.

The Week of the Arctic will wrap up with a series of arts- and culture-related events called North by North, to be held May 12-14 in Anchorage.

“And so they’ll have a film festival, culture and craft shows, dance party, local foods and brewery tasting,” Hinzman said. “So, it’s going to be fun.”

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Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.