Arctic circumpolar participation in the Global Forum for Indigenous Issues and the World Summit on the Information Society

Geneva, December 2003

Communications as an activity has come into focus in recent times because of the growing ease with which information can be exchanged across great distances. The rapid development of indigenous peoples’ own media has highlighted the need to create liaisons with other communicators and news associations. Indigenous communicators need to network, and to explore the best ways to communicate among themselves. It has become urgent and essential that indigenous peoples write about themselves and join in the world dialogue.

Indigenous peoples, who are often the minority in their countries, share values and concerns across national borders. International organizations have recognized the desire to meet and share issues, challenges and aspirations. In the context of the United Nations Decade for the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, the High Commissioner’s Officer for Human Rights, UNESCO, and many specialized agencies of the UN system have been cooperating to advance the rights and the social and cultural well-being of indigenous peoples. The World Summit on the Information Society, and the concurrent Global Forum on Indigenous Issues, held Geneva in December, 2003, began to address the concerns raised by indigenous groups.

The circumpolar region is divided into eight different countries with over ten official languages and many traditional languages which sometimes transcend contemporary political boundaries. In all countries, there are significant numbers of indigenous people in northern and Arctic regions. The political transitions in Russia, remoteness of many Arctic circumpolar settlements, and Arctic economic limitations have limited some indigenous groups from fully sharing in the global economy. Development of communication which respects and preserves traditions is a critical base for inclusion of these peoples in today’s world.

Several indigenous professional media representatives from the Arctic Circumpolar countries [Canada, U.S.A. (Alaska), Greenland (Denmark), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Russia] were awarded United Nations Fellowships to attend these events. These included:

Several fellows were unable to travel to Geneva because of difficulty with travel arrangements.

Shirley Adamson, Sabet Biscaye, and Roy Dahl addressed international participants on subjects under the headings “Indigenous Peoples, Territorial-based Development and ICT: Challenges and Opportunities”; and “Traditional Indigenous Styles and Ways of Communication and Implications for Modern Technologies”.

Summer courses for circumpolar Arctic journalists of all linguistic and ethnic groups will be investigated. The Greenland School of Journalism is a possible option. A website has been established to foster interaction among Arctic communicators (

An intranet which will allow exchange of programming and information among Arctic and non-Arctic indigenous people is being established by Saami Radio in Norway. Nils-Johan Heatta is Chair of this project, and will continue to communicate its progress to the ACICC.

Both management and journalistic skills are necessary to optimize the effectiveness of the ACICC. Further consultation will identify a wider circle of members. The members agreed to lay the groundwork for additional funding that would permit both teleconferencing and face-to-face meetings among the membership to prepare for expanded activity and future participation in the Tunis WSIS conference in 2005.

Mary Stapleton, Facilitator
Managing Director, Arctic Circumpolar Route
Box 12, Site7, RR 8
Calgary, AB, Canada T2J 2T9
Tel. +1.403.931.2453
Fax +1.403.931.2454

Development Objective

noted that three types of training were needed: development of knowledge and skills, advocacy training, and using press strategies to deliver messages.

The preliminary goals were stated as follows:

To improve the capacity of indigenous communicators and journalists to practice their professions, and to fulfil the information needs of their cultures and societies.

Additional Goals: