AUGUST 25, 2017: Behind NAMMCO – Kate Sanderson, Faroe Islands

The people behind NAMMCO:

A force from another continent, two former remarkable and dedicated figures of NAMMCO under a single smiling face – or knowing things from two facets: the first General Secretary with a leading role in establishing the Secretariat and shaping the organisation and later the Head of the Faroese Delegation and Chair of Council — Kate Sanderson from the Faroe Islands.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the debate about whaling and sealing was not only heated and emotional, it was downright aggressive and divisive. The Faroe Islands suddenly found themselves in the midst of this, while our closest North Atlantic neighbours Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada had already been dealing with similar challenges for some time, with their own forms of whaling and sealing coming under attack. There was an obvious need to bring common sense, science and rational management back into the equation. And to remind the wider global community that the countries around the North Atlantic have both the right and duty to manage their marine resources – fisheries and marine mammals alike – on which our economies and cultures depend.

This all led to the establishment of NAMMCO. For the Faroe Islands, this new forum was a huge advantage for a very small nation. It gave the Faroe Islands a visible and active voice in regional and international cooperation. As NAMMCO was taking shape, the global community was also busy discussing nature conservation and the environment, culminating in international consensus on the principles of sustainable development adopted in Agenda 21 in Rio in 1992. It is no coincidence that this was the same year that the NAMMCO agreement was signed. NAMMCO’s founders were well aware of the significance of this new and lasting international consensus.

My work with NAMMCO as its first general secretary, and my subsequent career in the Faroese Foreign Service, had their beginnings in this exciting and challenging context. These were formative years for me, both personally and professionally. They gave me invaluable experience, and also a strong and lasting sense of commitment to the common values and experiences of the peoples and cultures of the North Atlantic.

I often like to share a moment from my first year at the NAMMCO Secretariat in Tromsø in 1993, which speaks for itself. Taking my older son, then 5 years old, in a bus to the kindergarten one day, we were looking out the window at the red glow of the late October Arctic sun reflected on the smooth water, when he asked me in a very loud voice: “Mum, is that where they kill the whales in Tromsø?” Fellow passengers simply smiled.

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