An interesting tidbit in the NYTimes today in an article about Palin which discusses her short tenure as Governor of Alaska...
This information about Palin's relationship to The Northern Forum jumped out at me as a major missed opportunity in the area of International Exposure and Experience... and highlights Palin's limited focus on (and experience limited to) regional, Alaskan concerns. Had she actually participated in the Northern Forum, her claims of Foreign Policy experience due to Alaska's proximity to Russia would not seem so far-fetched. Instead, this information contradicts that argument.
Arguably, focus on one's own state is perhaps an admirable quality in a Governor, but certainly such a narrow focus is a liability / limitation for anyone with National and International aspirations (such as being VP). Palin's predecessor, Governor Murkowski recognized the benefit of interacting with other regional governments on economic, environmental and political issues pertinent to all Northern regions, including Alaska. Apparently, Palin did not.
Ms. Palin does not appear to have made any trade missions since taking office, and former state officials said the state's trade staff had been reduced under her watch.
Alaska has also sharply reduced its role in the Northern Forum, an association of state and regional governments from countries including Canada, Russia, Japan and China that works on common issues in northern regions like economic development, flooding and global warming.
Under Mr. Murkowski, Ms. Palin's predecessor, the state sent senior administration officials to the forum's meetings and contributed $60,000 to $100,000 to the forum each year, according to the forum's executive director, Priscilla Wohl.
Under Ms. Palin, the state has reduced its spending to the base-level membership dues, $15,000, and the administration has not attended any forum meetings, including one last fall in Russia.
"Had she participated, in the last 18 months she would have met ambassadors, governors, heads of the European Union's programs, of United Nations programs," Ms. Wohl said.
Delving further... an article in The Seattle Times:
Opportunities abound for Alaska governors to engage in Russian diplomacy, with the state host to several organizations focusing on Arctic issues. Anchorage is the seat of the Northern Forum, an 18-year-old organization that represents the leaders of regional governments in Russia, as well as Finland, Iceland and Canada, Japan, China and South Korea.
Yet under Palin, the state government -- without consultation -- reduced its annual financial support to the Northern Forum to $15,000 from $75,000, according to Priscilla Wohl, the group's executive director. That forced the forum's Anchorage office to go without pay for two months.
Palin -- unlike the previous administrations of Gov. Frank Murkowski and Gov. Tony Knowles -- also stopped sending representatives to Northern Forum's annual meetings, including one last year for regional governors held in the heart of Russia's oil territory.
"It was an opportunity for the Alaska governor to take a delegation of business leaders to the largest oil-producing region in Russia, and she would have been shaking hands with major leaders in Russia," Wohl said.
Here is information about The Northern Forum:
The Northern Forum is a non-profit, international organization composed of sub-national or regional governments from eight northern countries.
Northern regions share characteristics that set them apart from other areas of the world.
- These include -
- economies based upon the extraction of natural resources
- lack of internal capital resources
- limited infrastructural development
- harsh climates and vulnerable ecosystems
- diverse and relatively strong indigenous cultures
- sparse populations
Such complex factors create unique challenges for regional Governors and other executives. From throughout the North, the Northern Forum brings these leaders together to address common political, environmental and economic issues.
In today's world, where climate change and globalization create new challenges for the Northern regions of the world, the ability of the Northern Forum to bring together these regions and find new partners at the international level, such as the UNDP and the UNEP and networks of regions around the globe, opens new horizons for its members.
The idea of creating an organization of northern regional governments was raised in 1974 by the government of Hokkaido, Japan, during the first of a series of international conferences on northern issues. The Northern Forum developed from a Northern Regions Conference held in 1990 in Anchorage, Alaska, attended by more than 600 delegates from 10 countries. The Forum was formally established in November 1991.