The 11th Inuit Circumpolar Council general assembly wrapped up its conference Friday in Nuuk, Greenland, by calling for an urgent Inuit leaders summit on resource development.
Sixty-five Inuit delegates from Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland spent five days in Greenland's capital discussing issues of mutual concern, including uranium development and offshore oil and gas drilling.
Delegates passed the Nuuk Declaration, which calls on the council to lobby member nations of the Arctic Council to confirm their commitment to that forum.
The ICC is a permanent participant on the Arctic Council along with eight northern countries: Canada, Denmark — including Greenland and the Faroe Islands — Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
Akkaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Greenland, who was elected at the assembly as the ICC's new chair, said the assembly is concerned about a recent meeting by governments of the five countries — Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark, which administers Greenland — that border the Arctic Ocean.
Inuit were not included in those discussions, he said.
"We are the only ones that are living in the Arctic, in the Arctic coastal areas," Lynge said. "No one else does, except for oil explorers and mineral resources developers. We are staying there the whole winter."
Historically, the ICC has opposed all offshore drilling in the Arctic.
Mary Simon, president of the Canadian organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said most ICC members were "much more against development" three decades ago, but that position has changed over time.
"Twenty years ago, all the delegates at the ICC said there would be no uranium mining," Simon said. But in recent decades, change has come fast to the Arctic.
A proposed uranium mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, is under review. And in Greenland earlier this month, the government gave formal approvals to Scotland's Cairn Energy to begin drilling the first two of four planned wells this year in the Davis Strait between Greenland and Baffin Island in Nunavut.
Delegates nowadays, however, are divided on critical issues.
While some feel those would lead to prosperity, others feel the risk to the region's people and animals is too great.
An emergency summit on development will deal with those issues, ICC said.
"One thing we can agree upon is that the Arctic and the Inuit need economic development in every sense," said Greenland Premier Kuupik Kliest.
The Inuit leaders summit is expected to happen within the next year.
More than 50,000 Inuit live in Canada, mainly in Nunavut, Labrador, the Northwest Territories and the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, according to the 2006 census.