A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF NORMAC SCHOOLS

Norwich Model Arctic Council (NORMAC) is a simulation of the real-world Arctic Council . Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is devoted to advancing international cooperation and good governance across the Arctic. Around its table sit not only the Arctic States—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA—but also Arctic Indigenous peoples organisations representing the Aleut, Athabaskans, Gwitch’in, Inuit, Saami and the many peoples of the Russian North.

Held at Norwich School in the cathedral city of Norwich in the UK, NORMAC is one of the few diplomatic simulations of its kind in the world ever held at secondary-school level. Before becoming an educator, NORMAC Director Dr Anthony Speca  lived and worked in the Arctic as a senior policy official with the Government of Nunavut, one of Canada’s Arctic territories. Since 2016, he has launched a number of Polar Aspect MAC conferences, both in-person and online, in order to share his enthusiasm for the Arctic with youth, and in the hope of inspiring them to learn more about this unique region and its peoples.

Whilst pupils with experience of Model United Nations may find some aspects of the conference familiar, NORMAC offers an exciting new format of model diplomacy. The Arctic Council is unusual not only in promoting the active involvement of indigenous peoples alongside states, but also in making all decisions by consensus rather than majority vote. The Arctic Council is also well-known for collegiality and consensus-building even during times of tension between participants elsewhere in the world—valuable lessons for life after school.

PARTICIPATING IN NORMAC SCHOOLS

Participation in NORMAC is open to pupils from any secondary-school around the world. Schools are invited to send one or more delegations of three pupils each to play the role of representatives from one of the eight Arctic States or six Arctic Indigenous peoples organisations. As with most other model diplomacy conferences, NORMAC delegates are usually aged 15 to 18, though some may be younger.

If demand is high, it is possible that the number of delegations per school will be limited, or the number of delegates per delegation increased.  Registered schools will be informed of any such changes at the close of the registration period.

At the NORMAC conference, delegates will grapple with the challenge of reaching consensus on some of the most pressing challenges facing the Arctic, and by extension the world as a whole. Whether an experienced ‘MUN-er’ or a newcomer to model diplomacy, all prospective delegates can take advantage of Polar Aspect’s online OMAC Delegate Training as part of their preparations for NORMAC, should an OMAC Delegate Training round be scheduled.

However, no special training, or even prior experience of the Arctic or of model diplomacy, is necessary to participate in NORMAC. Delegates will be provided with a Delegate Guide and Research Guide in good time to help them prepare.  The NORMAC Secretariat will also be on hand before and during the conference to answer any questions.  Scheduled ‘reflection’ sessions will help delegates pause to consider the progress of the conference, and to transform their experiences into learning.

Since NORMAC operates by the rule of consensus, delegates will find their diplomatic skills stretched and improved.  Unlike at other model diplomacy conferences, NORMAC delegates do not debate pre-prepared resolutions.  Rather, they rise to the challenge of negotiating mutually agreeable ‘declarations’ in real time. To assist with the process of consensus building, each delegation is requested to provide a very brief discussion paper a week or two ahead of the conference, which will be circulated to other delegations.

NORMAC SCHOOLS TIMETABLE

NORMAC conferences take place annually, and normally in the first week of March.  They begin after school hours on a Thursday, continue all day Friday and Saturday, and end on Sunday afternoon. Whilst the exact schedule might vary from year to year, NORMAC conferences generally keep to the following timetable:

  • Thursday – Opening ceremony and welcome dinner
  • Friday – Diplomatic negotiation sessions
  • Saturday – Continued diplomatic negotiation sessions, followed by a formal dinner with keynote speech from an Arctic expert
  • Sunday – Continued diplomatic negotiations, followed by final speeches and a decision on the ‘declaration’

The conference timetable will also include dedicated opportunities for guided reflection with NORMAC Director Dr Anthony Speca , in order to support delegates in transforming experience into learning.

A full timetable will be provided to delegates closer to the date of the conference.

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION AT NORMAC SCHOOLS

At NORMAC, delegates consider issues that are very much of concern to Arctic States and Arctic Indigenous peoples today.  Issues are formally set in advance of each NORMAC conference to allow good time for preparatory research.  Examples of issues considered at past Polar Aspect MAC conferences include:

  • Thawing Arctic permafrost
  • Plastic pollution in the Arctic marine environment
  • Sustainable energy in Arctic communities
  • Safety in Arctic marine tourism
  • The growth of Arctic shipping
  • Meteorological cooperation in the Arctic
  • Seismic exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic offshore
  • Broadband connectivity in Arctic communities
  • Arctic wetlands and climate change
  • Educational opportunity for Arctic children
  • Marine protected areas in the Arctic
  • Suicide in Arctic communities
  • The European Union as an Arctic Council Observer

Research briefs will be provided to delegates to help them prepare to discuss the issues set for their NORMAC conference.

NORMAC SCHOOLS DELEGATE MATERIALS

No prior experience of the Arctic or of model diplomacy is necessary to participate in NORMAC, nor is it necessary to have participated in any special training.  Delegates are provided with a Delegate Guide and a Research Guide in good time ahead of their NORMAC conference, in order to help them prepare.

The most recent NORMAC delegate materials are available for download using the links below:

NORWICH DECLARATION

Like Ministerial meetings of the real Arctic Council, every NORMAC conference ends with a declaration summarising the agreements reached. Past ‘Norwich Declarations’ are available for download below.  Please note that these declarations represent the collective agreement of secondary-school student delegates to NORMAC, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Polar Aspect or Norwich School.

ARCTIC EXPERTS AT NORMAC SCHOOLS

Each NORMAC conference features a keynote speech from an Arctic expert who serves as that conference’s Honorary Chair.  Honorary Chairs may also observe conference proceedings, and offer advice to delegates during guided reflection sessions.

Delegates to past Polar Aspect MAC conferences have benefitted from talks, teaching and guidance from such experts as:

  • Dr Odile Crabeck (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
  • Ms Beth Derks (School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication, University of East Anglia)
  • Ms Sarah Gavron and Mr David Katznelson (filmmakers, Village at the End of the World)
  • Dr Nanna Kaalund (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)
  • Ms Christine Kelly (Polar Regions Department, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
  • Mr Asher Minns (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia)
  • Prof Mariele Neudecker (Bath School of Art, Bath Spa University)
  • Prof Heather Nicol (School for the Study of Canada and School of the Environment, Trent University)
  • Mr Tony Penikett (former Premier, Yukon Territory)
  • Prof Antonio Quesada (Spanish Polar Committee,  and Faculty of Science, Autonomous University of Madrid)
  • Dr David Rose (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
  • Dr Anthony Speca (Polar Aspect, and School for the Study of Canada, Trent University)
  • Mr Matthew Willis (International Defence Relations, Global Affairs Canada)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Polar Aspect and NORMAC have been fortunate to benefit from the support of, or charitable discounts offered by, the following organisations. Special thanks must go to Norwich School for their on-going partnership and generous financial and in-kind support.