Alaska News

Senators, scientists and diplomats convene in Anchorage for major Arctic conference

Hundreds of policy experts, diplomats, industry representatives, Indigenous leaders and two U.S. senators are in Anchorage for a two-day event focused on the Arctic starting Thursday.

The Arctic Encounter Symposium is the largest annual policy event focused on the region in the United States. Prior to the pandemic, it was hosted in Seattle, but now the event is taking place in downtown Anchorage for the first time.

“This is an important week to foster dialogue for the future with over 600 stakeholders convening in Alaska at the Dena’ina Center,” said executive director Rachel Kallander, who founded the organization in 2013. “Arctic Encounter aims to provide a platform for voices and expertise in Anchorage, and elevate Alaska to be a leading U.S. diplomatic and Arctic policy stage in the Far North.”

A packed roster of Alaska leaders and elected officials is slated to speak on panels whose topics range from resource development and international security to tourism and fish stocks in the Arctic. Ambassadors from across the circumpolar north and near-Arctic nations are attending. As are U.S. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both of whom will speak during an event hosted by Washington Post and former Alaska journalist Libby Casey.

Noticeably absent from an international conference focused on the Arctic is Russia, which accounts for around half the world’s land within the region. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, diplomats from the U.S., Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden announced a boycott of activities connected to the Arctic Council, of which Russia currently holds the rotating chairmanship. Ambassadors from several of those countries will be speaking on a panel alongside Murkowski during the symposium.

As part of the event, the Anchorage Museum is hosting a “Far North Fashion Show” featuring designs, artwork and music from the Arctic.

Under its COVID-19 mitigation strategy, the conference is requiring daily rapid testing for all attendees. Masking is optional though encouraged under the guidelines.

Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.