The inaugural Arctic Ocean Conference was held in Ilulissat, Greenland May 27 — May 29, 2008. Five countries, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States, discussed key issues relating to the Arctic Ocean. The meeting was significant because of its plans for environmental regulation, maritime security, mineral exploration, polar oil oversight, and transportation. Before the conclusion of the conference, the attendees announced the Ilulissat Declaration.
The conference was the first ever held at the ministerial level that included the five regional powers. It came at the invitation of Per Stig Møller, Denmark's Foreign Minister, and Hans Enoksen, Greenlandic Premier in 2007 after several territorial disputes in the Arctic. States Møller, "We must continue to fulfill our obligations in the Arctic area until the UN decides who will have the right to the sea and the resources in the region. We must agree on the rules and what to do if climate changes make more shipping possible." "We need to send a common political signal to both our own populations and the rest of the world that the five coastal states will address the opportunities and challenges in a responsible manner."
Ilulissat's melting glacier was an appropriate backdrop for the landmark conference. The key ministry level attendees were:Canada: Gary Lunn, Canadian Minister for Nature Resources
Denmark: Per Stig Møller; Hans Enoksen
Norway: Jonas Gahr Støre, Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Russia: Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs
United States: John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Arctic Ocean Conference Wikipedia
The inclusion of some members of the Arctic Council, while excluding others (indigenous peoples, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden) from the conference caused controversy.
Defending Denmark's decision to exclude certain council members, Thomas Winkler, head of the Denmark's International Law Department stated, "This meeting in Ilulissat is not a competition to the Arctic Council. The issues that we're going to discuss will be issues that is [sic] the responsibility of the five coastal states of the Arctic Ocean."
The reaction by Aqqaluk Lynge, a Greenlandic politician and former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, was concern that indigenous peoples of the Arctic are being "marginalised". "Inuit have their own definition of sovereignty."