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News, 11/29/2017
Exploring Common Solutions - Finnish Chairmanship - Arctic Council

Cooperation is the key to successful meetings

During Finland’s Chairmanship, the Arctic Council will convene over ten times in various configurations. The meetings will vary from small working group meetings with approximately 40 participants to the Senior Arctic Officials’ (SAO) plenary meetings with 150 participants. The final event of the Finnish Chairmanship will be the Arctic foreign ministers’ meeting in the spring of 2019.

Annariina Kukkonen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini go through the seating arrangement at a high-level Arctic meeting in Oulu. In the background, Anneli Korhonen, chief of protocol at the City of Oulu. Photo: Juha Sarkkinen

The meeting schedule will keep Conference Coordinator Annariina Kukkonen from the Arctic Team of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs busy with practical arrangements.

Annariina Kukkonen, what does your work as the Arctic Team conference coordinator involve?

My job is to organise venues and catering for meetings held in Helsinki and northern Finland, negotiate group reservations with hotels and arrange evening programme in cooperation with partners, such as the Lapland Arctic Council Host Committee as well as host cities and municipalities. Of course, I also make sure that our guests are in the right place at the right time.

To ensure that meetings are successful, venues, conference technology and other practicalities must be carefully planned.

Arktinen kick-off eduskunnassa. Kuva: Petri Krook
Conference assistants Vuokko Ranki and Martta Rissanen attach ecological static cling posters at the meeting venue. In the background, Pekka Kouhia, who designed the visual identity of the Finnish Chairmanship. Photo: Petri Krook

My duties also include communication tasks, such as designing website contents, as well as participating in various projects to raise awareness of the chairmanship and assisting in Arctic events included in the programme of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I’m also responsible for the chairmanship budget and the use of appropriations.

How has the Finnish environmentally sustainable meeting concept been received at Arctic meetings?

The Arctic Council mandate also includes environmental protection. Therefore, it is only natural to make sure that meeting arrangements are as environmentally sustainable as possible.

By offering healthy, mostly vegetarian food in accordance with the greenmeeting concept developed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and WWF Finland, we can help participants’ keep their energy levels up throughout the meeting. The concept also includes striving for almost paperless meetings: meeting materials are only distributed in electronic format.

We also try to avoid unnecessary transport. For example, in many meetings we have walked to the evening reception. This supports both environmental sustainability and participants’ wellbeing.

Inarinkokous_pyörät_kuva_Martti Ruokolainen
Meeting organisers Annariina Kukkonen (left) and Virpi Voittonen in Inari. Photo: Martti Ruokolainen

Our solutions have been well received. For example, at the meeting of the Sustainable Development Working Group in Inari, we organisers took ecological aspects into account by transporting meeting materials between venues by bicycle instead of hiring cars. These efforts were acknowledged in the concluding remarks by the Saami Council and the Canadian delegation.

Feedback from other Finnish ministries has also been very positive, and they have adopted the concept in their own meeting arrangements. Just this week, we also met a representative of the Icelandic Arctic Team and expressed our wishes that Iceland would continue to use the environmentally sustainable meeting concept during their Chairmanship.

I believe that environmentally responsible meeting arrangements will continue to become increasingly common. You could say that environmental sustainability is the new black in the field.

What is the recipe for a successful international meeting?

Cooperation! Organising a meeting involves numerous parties, and seamless cooperation is the key to success.

I always make a few planning trips to meeting locations, creating good relationships with all those involved in organising the event. The Arctic Council Secretariat in Tromsø helps with registration before meetings, and they are a great help in organising logistics during meetings. The help provided by colleagues in my own unit is also indispensable.

Annariina Kukkonen_Fairbanks
One of Annariina Kukkonen’s most unforgettable Arctic memories is the Arctic Council
Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Kukkonen became responsible for the chairmanship gavel that was passed to Minister Soini at the meeting.

When organising meetings, I follow two main principles: environmental sustainability and the wellbeing and comfort of guests. The two themes are mutually supportive.

Much to the amusement of my fellow organisers, I have a somewhat peculiar way of applying the ‘worst case scenario’ approach. When we have finished planning meeting arrangements, we look at all the things that could possibly go wrong. This is my way of checking that we have taken care of everything down to the smallest detail. 

I also believe that you can get far with good work ethics – the will to do things well and to succeed. Sometimes, things go wrong no matter how hard you try. The crucial thing is how you communicate with guests and remedy the situation. Many issues can be solved with a smile and a friendly attitude!

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