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Arctic Frontiers

Health, wealth and independnece

Greenland leader focuses on health and economic issues in Tromsø address, but relationship to Denmark remains overarching theme

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Greenland’s march to economic modernisation will improve the lives of that country’s people, but progress will not come without a cost, Aleqa Hammond, the country’s premier, said yesterday.

Speaking to the audience of the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway, Hammond said she expected industrialisation to improve the health of Greenlanders, but she made it clear that Greenland was also preparing for the darker side of development.

“Social disruption, loss of traditional values, declining mental well-being and increased suicide rates are well known to us from our recent past, and from that of our Arctic neighbours,” Hammond said.

Eyes still on independence prize
Hammond’s address deviated momentarily from the pro-independence theme that has dominated her foreign appearances since her election in March. But any discussion of economic development in Greenland is impossible without the topic coming up.

“I want Greenland to have a self-sustaining economy based on our own resources with a greater degree of integration into the world economy. Greenland’s long-term political goal is independence,” Hammond said.

While Hammond in her speech sought to smooth over strained ties to Copenhagen, she reiterated that when it came to uranium mining (one of the sticking points between the two governments) Greenland had the right to determine what it did with its mineral resources.

Other Inuit leaders, including Aqqaluk Lynge, the Greenlandic president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, an international Inuit organisation, agreed that mining held potential benefits, but they expressed concern that the government was ignoring the lessons Inuit groups in other countries had already learned.

Read the full text of Aleqa Hammond's address

Watch the address on Arctic Frontiers website (starts at around 44:00)