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, Gwich’in, Inuit, Saami and the many peoples of the Russian North.

Held at the University of East Anglia in the vibrant and historical city of Norwich in the UK, NORMAC is one of the few diplomatic simulations of its kind in the world, and the one of the very few designed primarily for undergraduates.  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 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 students 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 skills for a career after university.


Participation in NORMAC is open to students from any university around the world, particularly undergraduates.  Participants are invited to form delegations of normally two students each to play the role of representatives from one of the eight Arctic States or six Arctic Indigenous peoples’ organisations. Students need not study at the same university in order to form a delegation together, but preparatory work may be easier to coordinate if so. Some students, typically from the host university, will also be invited to play the roles of Secretariat staff facilitating the diplomatic meetings.

No prior experience of the Arctic or of model diplomacy is necessary to participate in NORMAC, and all participants will be provided with a Delegate Guide and Research Guide in good time to help them prepare. Senior members of 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.

At the 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. 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 brief discussion paper a week or two ahead of the conference, which will be circulated to other delegations.


NORMAC conferences typically take place during middle or late June. They extend for five full days, and they generally keep to the following schedule:

  • Day 1 – A teaching day featuring introductions to the Arctic, the Arctic Council and NORMAC, plus presentations from Arctic experts, followed by opening speeches from delegates and a welcome dinner
  • Day 2 – Diplomatic negotiations
  • Day 3 – Continued diplomatic negotiations
  • Day 4 – Field trip to the renowned Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, with time to explore Cambridge campus and city
  • Day 5 – Continued diplomatic negotiations with final speeches and a decision on the ‘declaration’, followed by a finale dinner

The conference timetable will also include dedicated opportunities for guided reflection with NORMAC Director Dr Anthony Speca  and other Arctic experts, 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.


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:

  • Food security in the Arctic
  • Passing Indigenous Knowledge from elders to youth
  • 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.


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


Like Ministerial meetings of the real Arctic Council, every NORMAC conference ends with a declaration setting out the agreements reached, and named after the location where the diplomatic meetings took place. Past ‘Norwich Declarations’ are available for download below.  Please note that these declarations represent the collective agreement of student delegates to NORMAC University, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Polar Aspect, Trent University or the University of East Anglia.


Each NORMAC conference features teaching and presentations from experts on the Arctic, climate change, the environment, sustainable development, and so on. Arctic experts may also observe conference proceedings and offer advice to participants. One of these experts also serves as NORMAC Honorary Chair, with special responsibility for a keynote address, and for helping to mentor participants during guided reflection sessions.

Participants in past NORMAC University conferences have benefitted from 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)
  • Dr Nanna Kaalund (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Ilona Kater (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of East Anglia)
  • Dr Martin Mahony (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
  • Mr Asher Minns (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia)
  • Prof Heather Nicol (School for the Study of Canada and School of the Environment, Trent University)
  • Prof Tim O’Riordan OBE (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
  • Prof Gareth Rees (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)
  • Dr David Rose (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
  • Dr Olga Tutubalina (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)


Polar Aspect have been fortunate to benefit from the support of the following organisations for NORMAC University. Special thanks must go to the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, as well as to Trent University, for their on-going partnership and generous financial and in-kind support.