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Greenland in the World: A Collaborative Vision - Part 2

Guest comment Barry Zellen part 2
Comments and Views from the Inuvik Drum and Letters to the Editor

Editor’s note: This essay is a continuation from last week.

As stated in Section 1 (Introduction), “Greenland’s foreign, security and defense strategy is an expression of our vision and desire for more collaboration with the world around us — not just because this is the course that we intend to pursue, but because it is necessary. Greenland is seeking greater international cooperation and trade because our development and progress require it.

Section 1 further elaborates, “The strategy aims to lay down the overall framework and guidelines for Greenland’s relations and policies with other countries to safeguard the security and defend the interests of Greenland and the Greenlandic people, to define our objectives, and to foster cooperation for the benefit of our country and our partners. Our foreign policy must support and strengthen our foreign trade and bolster our progress towards achieving a self-sustaining economy to enhance our self-determination, defend our interests, and increase our independence as stipulated in the Act on Greenland Self-Government and under international law.”

On the independent spirit that infuses its Arctic strategy, Section 1 further states: “With the right to self-determination and the goal of independence, our country and people aim to increase their cooperation with other countries. It is important for us as responsible citizens of the world, in our own name, to have the courage to take a stand on issues and events around the world.”

Among the many shared values described in Section 1 that “underpin Greenland’s approach to relations with other countries” are its commitment that “Democracy and human rights are at the core of all relations;” “Greenland and the Arctic is an area of low tension;” “Improving the lives and livelihoods of the Greenlandic people is of key importance;” “All relations are based on the premise that Greenland and the Greenlandic people constitute an independent people and nation;” “All relations must be solution oriented;” and “We stand in solidarity and work hand in hand with other Arctic communities.”

On Greenland’s aspiration to independence, Section 1 proclaims: “Our country is aware that we are part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but we also strive for independence. We want to make a difference in the world, and we have something to contribute to the world.” Within the Kingdom of Denmark, it is Greenland’s aim that “all member countries must cooperate with respect for their differences and with equal rights and conditions;” beyond the Kingdom, within the Indigenous world in which most Greenlanders also reside, Section 1 also affirms that “Inuit in Greenland will continue to serve as a role model for other indigenous peoples, and we can champion their rights.”

As Section 13 (Closing Remarks) asserts, “Greenland in the World — Nothing about us without us is an ambitious strategy that demonstrates that Greenland is insisting on a seat at the table. Greenland has something to contribute, and it is important that Greenland’s voice is heard and that we safeguard our interests and articulate our values. At the same time, this is a strategy that sets out our objectives for developing ties with our neighboring countries, partners and the international community.”

It presents not only an Arctic vision, but a global one, as described in Section 1: “In addition to pursuing our collaborations with countries farther south, as an Arctic nation we also look to the East and the West, including our closest neighbors, and intend to develop our North-to North ties as a source of inspiration and collaborative opportunities;” Greenland thus plans to utilize its “foreign policy and diverse collaborative relationships to convey to the outside world our culture and our values, and to promote peace and democracy, international law and the right to self-determination, all the while providing an understanding of the conditions in the Arctic and the unique and valuable interplay between the peoples of the region. Our climate is changing, and the ice is getting thinner.

“We have proud peoples in the Arctic who continue to live and adapt—and we seek greater cooperation on today’s terms. We will not allow ourselves to be hemmed in by outdated mindsets and structures, which give us no control over the course of developments. Nothing about us without us.”

Greenland’s aspiration for independence, and its vision of a collaborative world in which it can not only survive but also thrive as an independent sovereign state, are essential to its first Arctic strategy. Indeed, the most likely sovereign polity to emerge across the vast Inuit homeland stretching from the northeastern tip of Siberia all the way to Greenland’s easternmost shores is an independent Kalaallit Nunaat, as Greenland is also known, within its present geographical dimensions; achieved through a peaceful, negotiated secession from the Kingdom of Denmark; with both continued NATO membership and close bilateral ties to fellow NATO members the United States, Canada and Iceland; while nurturing new economic ties to trading partners in Asia, particularly China, and fostering close diplomatic ties to the host of multinational and intergovernmental fora to which it presently belongs as part of the Kingdom of Denmark, such as the Arctic Council.

Greenland’s strategy is thus a bold declaration of decolonized thinking about Greenland’s place in the world, one where it is increasingly independent when it comes to matters of state and statecraft. A peaceful and cooperative Arctic remains the goal, but with Greenland’s increased engagement and agency as a NATO ally and partner, while simultaneously fostering the formation of a new Arctic North America Forum to help strengthen the unity of the regions of Arctic North America (Alaska, in the USA; Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, and Nunavik, in Canada; and Greenland in the Kingdom of Denmark, at least for now); pursuing continued cooperation at the international and regional level through the UN, EU, Arctic Council, Nordic cooperation councils (Nordic Council of Ministers, Nordic Council, and West Nordic Council), and Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC); maintaining close bilateral ties with neighboring allied states, foremost of which is the United States for its military power and prominence in NATO, but also Canada and Iceland; and nurturing its evolving relationship with China and other East Asian trading states.

At the centre of these multiple overlapping collaborations stands Greenland, as a partner to all of these stakeholders, revealing a complex, balanced, pragmatic, thoughtful and independent approach to statecraft that illustrates Greenland’s maturation as an emergent sovereign polity, ready not only for its seat at the table, but its place among the world’s family of nations.

Barry Scott Zellen is a PhD, research scholar in the department of geography, University of Connecticut