The West Nordic Council and its Arctic Engagement
- Egill Thor Nielsson
Themes and Highlights from the 2013 NRF Open Assembly
- Susan Carruth & Julia Martin
The West Nordic Council and its Arctic Engagement
Egill Thor Nielsson
The Arctic is undergoing rapid changes and has in the last century moved from being a largely unknown part of the world to a global hotspot. In recent times the Arctic region has started to carry more weight in geo-economic terms than before, due to its promises of vast amounts of attainable mineral resources and feasible Arctic shipping routes. These discourses have mainly emphasised the larger and more powerful Arctic players, while sparsely populated places such as Iceland, Faroe Islands and to some extent Greenland are seldom in the foreground. This briefing note seeks to explain how West Nordic cooperation has grown in the past 30 years, both internally and externally, and how the West Nordic council members can influence Arctic developments in a stronger manner, by identifying common Arctic interests and goals, which can then be implemented through a joint West Nordic Arctic strategy.
This opportunity will be looked at through the following questions:
· What is the West Nordic Council and how does West Nordic cooperation work?
· How can the West Nordic countries increase their Arctic cooperation and the influence they hold in a gradually more global Arctic?
The Origins and Rational for West Nordic Cooperation
The West Nordic Parliamentarian Council of Cooperation was formed in Nuuk in 1985 and its establishment created a formal cooperation between the parliaments of the three West Nordic countries, namely: Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands1 (Althingi, 2013a). The council was created following political discussions in the three countries during the early 1980s, after home rule was introduced in Greenland 1979. Its rational was: to cooperate on common problems and to conduct positive and constructive cooperation regarding West Nordic, or North Atlantic, issues with the Nordic Council as well as other organisations (West Nordic Council, n.d.).
The cooperation has strong roots given that the three countries are geographical neighbours and share many historical and cultural bonds, as well as basic natural and economic conditions; in terms of (often harsh) living conditions in small and isolated communities, highly dependent on adaptation to their natural surroundings and especially the use of maritime resources (see Althing, 2011; ibid, 2013a; Thór, Thorleifsen, Mortensen, & Marquardt, 2012; West Nordic Council, n.d.).
The West Nordic Council
The West Nordic Council and Its Arctic Engagement 3 Arctic Yearbook 2013 In the year 1997 a new charter was agreed upon by the three respective West Nordic national parliaments and the council's name was changed from the West Nordic Parliamentarian Council of Cooperation to the West Nordic Council. Subsequently, the council undertook some changes by introducing new working rules and strengthening its goals (Althingi, 2013b). Broadening its focus from cultural/social purposes (Bailes and Heininen, 2012: 73), to include amongst other issues increased political and economic cooperation (West Nordic Council, n.d.). The West Nordic Council meets twice every year, once for an annual general meeting, which constitutes as the council's supreme authority, and once for a theme conference. Its work is then realised through recommendations approved at the annual general meeting, which are then presented to the member countries parliaments and executed by the appropriate minister (West Nordic Council, n.d.a). In recent years the West Nordic Council has given recommendations on various issues, including search and rescue, resources and transportation, cultural and environmental affairs, as well as foreign affairs – with Arctic issues at the forefront (Althingi, 2013b; West Nordic Council, 2012).
The main objectives of the West Nordic Council are defined on the council's website (West Nordic Council, n.d.):
- To promote west Nordic (north Atlantic) interests.
- To be guardians of north Atlantic resources and north Atlantic culture and to help promoting West Nordic interests through the West Nordic governments – not least with regards to the serious issues of resource management, pollution etc.
- To follow up on the government's west Nordic cooperation.
- To work with the Nordic Council and to be the west Nordic link in Nordic cooperation.
- To act as the parliamentary link for inter-west Nordic organisations, including Arctic parliamentary cooperation.
A Surge in West Nordic Cooperation
In the past few years there has been a surge in bilateral cooperation between the three West Nordic countries, especially cooperation between Iceland and the two autonomous countries within the Commonwealth of the Realm of Denmark. This includes, (1) a comprehensive bilateral free-trade agreement between Iceland and Faroe Islands (the Hoyvik Agreement, ratified in 2006)2, which "applies to trade in goods and services, movement of persons and right of residence, movement of capital and investment, competition, state aid and public procurement" (Althingi, 2011: 8). There have also been on-going discussions about Greenland joining the agreement (thus creating a West Nordic free-trade zone)3; (2) the establishment of a Greenland-Iceland Chamber of Commerce in 2012 (GLIS, n.d.)4; and (3) in September 2013 Iceland became the first country to set up a consulate in Greenland5, 6 (Icelandic Prime Minister's Office, 2013).
The West Nordic Council and its External Affairs
The West Nordic Council offers the three small countries in question an interesting platform to, amongst other things, increase their economic cooperation and conduct foreign affairs, not the least concerning Arctic affairs. For Greenland (and to some extent Faroe Islands) it is one of few venues where it conducts international cooperation without Denmark's supervision, with the only other notable exception for such cooperation forums being NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission) (see Kingdom of Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011: 53; Naalakkersuisut, n.d.). The West Nordic Council has in recent years started to apply its goals in a broader range of West Nordic, Nordic, European and Arctic cooperation than before, formalising such cooperation with agreements signed: in 2002, on cooperation between the West Nordic Council and the governments of the West Nordics; in 2006, providing the West Nordic Council more influence within the Nordic Council through increased representation and recommendations, as well as with consideration of West Nordic Council's resolutions; and again in 2008, when the West Nordic Council made an agreement with the European Parliament on regular meetings for information and cooperation (Althingi, 2013a).
The West Nordic Council's closest collaborator is the Nordic Council, which sees the "Nordic Region's neighbours to the west" (The West Nordic Council) as, "actually an internal Nordic body" (Nordic Council, n.d.). The two councils work together on key issues of the West Nordic Region and the West Nordic Council has speaking rights at the Nordic Council's sessions.7 The West Nordic Council furthermore plays a role in the Nordic Council's external Arctic cooperation with its North American and North European neighbours (Nordic Council, n.d.). The Nordic Council of Ministers has observer status in the Arctic Council (Nordic Council, n.d.), while the West Nordic Council and Nordic Council are members of a complimentary forum to the Arctic Council named the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (CPAR, n.d.). The importance of Arctic affairs has grown in the past few years within the Nordic Council and the West Nordic Council, with both councils planning to The West Nordic Council and Its Arctic Engagement publish their own joint Arctic strategies to better safeguard their Arctic interests8 (Nordic Council, 2012; West Nordic Council, 2012).
The idea behind the West Nordic Council's Arctic strategy is that the three small countries are stronger unified than separate and they should increase co-operation on Arctic affairs in fields where the member states have shared interests, including a common stance on outside interest in the West Nordic region; and to deliver joint recommendations for the Nordic Council's upcoming Arctic strategy (West Nordic Council, 2012). The Nordic Council's Arctic strategy is likely to yield more global influence than the West Nordic Arctic Strategy, including within the Arctic Council (see Althingi, 2013a). A clear example that the West Nordic Countries do not hold the influence their strategic Arctic position could possibly render them was visible at the Arctic Council's ministerial meeting in Kiruna 2013. Greenland ended up boycotting the meeting altogether, not accepting being side-lined from decisions affecting their everyday lives (Nunatsiaq, 2013). The overall weak representation of the West Nordic Council countries in the Kiruna meeting underlines the importance of a strong common West Nordic Arctic strategy with the ability to influence the Nordic and Arctic Councils' work in a more persuasive way. The countries may also be able to strengthen their Arctic position by contributing to other complimentary initiatives to the Arctic Council, such as the Arctic Circle initiative that aims "to facilitate dialogue and build relationships to confront the Arctic's greatest challenges" (Arctic Circle, 2013). Such forums can provide a valuable venue for both Arctic outsiders and insiders with weaker voices but strategic positions, e.g. the West Nordic Countries.
The West Nordic in Arctic Policies
The West Nordic countries also have their independent Arcticstrategies, the most recent being the Parliamentary Resolution for Iceland's Arctic Policy (Althingi, 2011) and a Kingdom of Denmark Strategy for the Arctic 2011-2020 (Kingdom of Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011). The latter is a joint Arctic Strategy based on an "equal partnership" between Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The Kingdom's aim is to maintain the Arctic as a peaceful, secure and safe region in political terms, whilst promoting both sustainable growth and development economically. The strategy has an international outlook with a strong focus on international cooperation and economic activities, including a positive notion towards the West Nordic Council and other organisations promoting regional or sector-organised interests (Kingdom of Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011). Both Greenland and Faroe Islands also independently highlight the importance of West Nordic Cooperation within their own governments, with the Greenland government's website citing that its "[s]pecial cooperation with Iceland and the Faroe Islands is organised through the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation and the West Nordic Foundation" (Naalakkersuisut, n.d.), while the Faroe Islands encourages that "[a] joint West Nordic approach in Arctic cooperation, together with Iceland, Greenland and northern Norway, should be promoted and enhanced" in their strategic assessment titled "The Faroe Islands – a Nation in the Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges" (Faroe Islands Prime Minister's Office, 2013).
The Icelandic Arctic strategy is more specific in its approach concerning its West Nordic partners, naming only Greenland and the Faroe Islands9 and the importance of strengthening and increasing the cooperation between the three countries with the aim of promoting their interests and political position. There is a special emphasis on economic cooperation, and the issues identified for Arctic cooperation include trade, energy, resource utilisation, environmental issues and tourism. The strategy states that "increased cooperation between the West Nordic countries will strengthen their international and economic position as well as their politico-security dimension" (Althingi, 2011: 8). Iceland's stress on West Nordic cooperation within an Arctic context only seems to be growing. This can be seen in the reports of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Icelandic Parliament in recent years (see e.g. Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011; ibid., 2012; ibid., 2013a) and in a political manifesto of the current Icelandic government, which says: "the Government will work towards making Iceland a leading power in the Arctic and an engaged participant in West Nordic affairs" (Government Offices of Iceland, 2013: 11).
Strengthening the West Nordic: Cooperation and Clear Arctic Vision
It is important to keep in mind that there are some fields where the countries do not have aligned Arctic interests, the most pervasive issue perhaps being the "Arctic Five" (A5) meetings of the Arctic ocean Coastal States. These meetings are promoted by the government of Denmark while Iceland, amongst others, has openly voiced its concern of the A5 exclusive manner by not including Iceland, Sweden, Finland nor the Aboriginal peoples of the Arctic but discussing matters that should rather be resolved within the Arctic The West Nordic Council and Its Arctic Engagement Council (Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 2010). Even though competition possibilities between West Nordic actors in terms of business opportunities such as transhipment-hubs, search and rescue centres, tourism etc. have been making the news in recent times, there are greater possibilities for cooperation than conflict between the various stakeholders in the West Nordic region.
Increased cooperation potential is to be found especially in a field such as energy, where all actors have sovereign rights over their resources and ideas such as a "North Atlantic Energy Triangle for offshore oil exploration and production, covering East Greenland, to the Jan Mayen Ridge and south to the Icelandic Dreki Area" has been proposed by Mr. Össur Skarphedinsson, who served as Iceland's Minister for Foreign Affairs 2009-2013 (Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 2013b), as well as cooperation on renewable energy utilisation in the West Nordic region that shows great potential with the hydro and geothermal energy in Greenland and Iceland (see e.g. Kingdom of Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011; Landsvirkjun, n.d.).
Despite much enthusiasm to get the economies "on track" with the vast number of economic opportunities that lie ahead, the countries can learn from its previous mistakes and not overheat their economies (see Gudjonsson, 2010; VIB, 2013). Although the focus is primarily economic in this briefing it should not be forgotten who the economies are serving, as the Arctic is first and foremost a home for its inhabitants and it is vital that West Nordic cooperation focuses also on cultural, environmental and healthcare issues10 etc. (see West Nordic Council, n.d.). These issues touch strong common interests and show how important Arctic cooperation between the West Nordic countries can be and underline that they have much more to gain from cooperation with each other than playing solo, thus strengthening the voice of West Nordic societies and their increased influence in the Arctic. An important step in this direction could be for the three governments to identify where they can increase their Arctic cooperation, utilising the West Nordic Council and other platforms with potential to reach common goals.
The West Nordic cooperation has taken significant steps in the past few years, with the West Nordic Council establishing itself as a meaningful platform for West Nordic political cooperation - building on strong cultural ties and mutual economic benefits. Judging from the West Nordic countries governments' strong emphasis on the West Nordic Council's further development and international cooperation, which includes a strong Arctic focus, it is likely that the Council will keep on growing stronger. With the Arctic's rising geo-economic and strategic importance, as well as the challenges the region faces due to stressors such as climate change, it is important that the West Nordic region works closer and more intensively together towards becoming a more active player in forming the Arctic's future development in economic, environmental, cultural, legal and political terms. This is no small task and a joint West Nordic Arctic strategy would be an important factor in this process, as the West Nordic countries are and will be local stakeholders in a global Arctic with their livelihoods depending on the prudent development and good governance of the Arctic's resources.
1. The two latter countries are part of the Kingdom of Denmark (which is made up by Denmark, Greenland and Faroe Islands). Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944, after having gained limited home rule in 1874. For the purpose of this analysis the focus will be on these three countries direct cooperation, separate from Denmark.
2. "Relations between Iceland and the Faroe Islands have been close in most areas, particularly in the field of culture and business. The entry into force of the Hoyvik Free Trade Agreement, which is the most extensive trade agreement ever made by Iceland, has been a turning point in relations between the countries for the last three years" (Althingi, 2011: 8).
3. This possibility has been discussed within the West Nordic Council and during the council's annual general meeting in Gjógv, Faroe Islands, 3.–7. September 2012, some of Greenland's representatives declared interest in making Greenland a member of the Hoyvik Agreement (Althingi, 2013a). And the parliament of Greenland is currently an observer of the Hoyvik Agreement's parliamentary committee (Althingi, 2013b).
4. There have also been some interesting debates recently in Iceland on private investment opportunities in Greenland (see VIB, 2013).
5. "Relations between Iceland and Greenland have intensified in recent years through more frequent political consultation and increased trade. Air services between the countries have grown, contracting businesses from Iceland are working in Greenland and cooperation on health care issues has been successful." (Althingi, 2011: 8).
6. All these developments strengthen the possibility of Greenland to join the Hoyvik Agreement, as Gunvør Balle, a representative in the Faroe Islands delegation and former
general consulate of Faroe Islands in Iceland, pointed out during the West Nordic Council's annual general meeting. Claiming that it is important to open consulates in other West Nordic Countries at the same time, or before, Greenland becomes part of the Hoyvik Agreement (Althingi, 2013a). Previously, the Faroe Islands and Iceland both have consulates in each other's capitals.
7. The Nordic Council of Ministers and West Nordic Council convey their meeting time and place.
8. Per Augustsson (2011) offers an interesting take on a common Nordic Arctic strategy in his article: Towards a common strategy for the Arctic: The Nordic countries can lead the way.
9. Not including coastal Northern Norway as a West Nordic partner.
10. That was in the foreground of the 2013 theme conference.
Egill Thor Nielsson is a Visiting Scholar at the Polar Research Institute of China, China.
Natural Resources and Energy Security in the Arctic: Geopolitics and Dialogue In, Across and Beyond the North Calotte
Calotte Academy 2013
Hanna Lempinen and Joël Plouffe
The Calotte Academy (CA), an annual international roaming symposium traveling across borders and communities of the North Calotte (Euro-Arctic/Russia), was organized this year for the twenty-first time, as part of the Northern Research Forum's (NRF) main academic activity. The CA aims to foster dialogue among members of the research community, PhD and graduate students and other northern experts as well as local stakeholders. By bringing together researchers from different backgrounds and countries, as well as regional actors, policymakers and representatives, the Academy aims to initiate, produce and disseminate ideas, debates and outcomes into local and regional planning and policy-making on issues in relation to the North(s).
This year's CA took place in mid-May (16-23) with a thematic focus on Resource Geopolitics – Energy Security. The Academy, with participants from the North Calotte as well as from elsewhere in Europe, Russia and Canada, consisted of altogether 12 sessions/workshops held in Rovaniemi and Inari (Finland); in Tromsø (Norway); and in Abisko and Kiruna (Sweden).
The sessions included about 40 presentations and hundreds of questions and comments and lively discussions between participants which often continued during the long hours spent travelling together in the bus from one location to another in the (record) warm spring weather of the North Calotte1. Alongside the sessions, short field trips and evening cultural events were included in the Academy programme. For example, the international group of participants got a chance to visit a reindeer farm and research station in Lapland where they met with herders and local scientists; explore the stunning nature and landscape of the Abisko National Park in Sweden's Norbotten; and swim in the freezing waters of lake Inari (Finland's third biggest lake) after bathing/sweating in a Finnish sauna by the lakeside after a long day's work!
Not to forget the unexpected delay near Tromsø where a (small) landslide had halted for several hours all traffic coming in or out of Norway's largest Arctic city and home to the Arctic Council Secretariat. As the CA is a very flexible traveling symposium – where unexpectedness is always part of the program – the international group took advantage of their layover in this unique Arctic traffic jam and setting to meet with local residents who were equally stranded on the road.
Energy and Resources
Like every year, presentations in the CA sessions took a holistic view addressing not only the topics of 'resource geopolitics' and 'energy security', but also discussing and problematizing the notions of energy, resources, geopolitics, and security on their own. In the context of energy issues, both hydrocarbons – i.e. oil and gas – and renewable energy sources such as wind were focused on; in terms of other natural resources, especially questions related to emerging mining activities in the Euro-Arctic were high on the agenda. On this issue, North Americans, Russians and Europeans initiated lively discussions on the different mining cultures across the Arctic, and addressed social-economic and environmental issues relating to mining extractive activities in the North. In general, energy and resource questions were addressed on several scales and levels; while some presentations took a case study focus on a particular energy project, mine, municipality or region, others looked at these questions at the broader state level. Other topics covered debates surrounding the growing extractive industries in various areas of the Arctic; social and environmental dimensions of Arctic development, impacts on rural communities and Sámi/indigenous cultures and lifestyles, as well as issues linked to availability and affordability of natural resources.
Geopolitics & Security
While some presentations took an explicit focus on more theoretical discussions on notions such as security and risk, others adopted a more concrete case study approach to the issues. One of the main conclusions coming from these sessions is the inescapable complex nature of the concept of security as well as the need to move away from negative understandings of security as freedom from fear towards more positive articulations of the notion; moreover, the need to look at security issues in different local contexts and case studies and in terms of practical solutions/policy recommendations was underlined. Different case studies that were addressed during the geopolitics and security sessions ranged from search and rescue to food and health security and oil spill prevention, each providing concrete examples of how security issues and different understandings of security and geopolitics are profoundly intertwined into questions of resource development both in local, regional and global contexts.
Governance & Knowledge
It was made clear during the discussions that natural resource developments/projects and security questions in the North cannot be addressed independently from broader issues related to Arctic governance. Indeed, impacts from these economic related activities raise increasing concerns locally and regionally. Questions related to the roles of different "traditional" actors (i.e. Arctic states, Arctic Council) as well as emerging actors such as Asian states like China, state-owned and private corporate actors were either explicitly addressed or briefly touched upon in several of the presentations. In a similar manner, in the roles and rights of indigenous peoples and local populations in decision-making were discussed and addressed at several occasions in the Academy.
Furthermore, many participants also repeatedly raised issues and questions relating to knowledge. In the context of the North Calotte and the Arctic as a whole, knowledge has a crucial role in the decision-making process leading to sustainable development in northern communities. Presenters highlighted the need to explicitly acknowledge the existence and value of different forms and sources of knowledge, both from the 'scientific' community as well as 'indigenous' peoples. Many presentations also implicitly dealt with the question of dissemination of knowledge not only within the political institutions and between decision-makers, but also inside and across communities where locals are living and experiencing the changes and impacts brought on by a wide range of planned resource development (i.e. new windmill projects in northern Sweden or increasing mining activities in northern Finland and northern Québec).
Arctic Dialogue: Method & Conclusion
As a whole, the presentations given during the sessions organized in 4 cities in 3 different countries (Finland, Norway and Sweden) highlighted the need for continued dialogue between different actors and stakeholders, different disciplines and different viewpoints in addressing the existing and future issues and concerns brought up by natural resources, extractive industries and economic developments across the changing landscapes of the North Calotte and the circumpolar north. Sharing knowledge at multiple levels and across borders can certainly have positive impacts on policy making locally and regionally. The Calotte Academy's philosophy is to foster cross-border/international discussions and produce the most suitable environments between different stakeholders to produce ideas by increased dialogue. This goal was attained once again in 2013.
Next year's Calotte Academy will take place in early June 2014 as a travelling symposium in Finland, Sweden and Russia with a focus on "Arctic Sovereingties: Actors, Scales & Concerns" (tentative title). The call for papers for CA14 will soon be online on the Arctic Yearbook website.
More information on the Calotte Academy and the Final Report of the CA13 including abstracts of all presentations and summaries of all sessions, are available at the Northern Research Forum website (www.nrf.is). The CA is an open workshop for participants coming from around the world, having different academic or non-academic backgrounds, wishing to contribute to the ongoing process of Arctic dialogue.
1. For example, the BarentsObserver had reported that "It has been the warmest May on record in the Barents Region with a peak of 29 degrees Celsius in Kirkenes a few days before the Prime Ministers arrives to mark the 20th anniversary of the Barents Cooperation." See Thomas Nilsen. (2013, 31 May). "A very warm welcome to Barents Summit." Barents Observer. Retrieved 9.10.13 from http://barentsobserver.com/en/nature/2013/05/very-warm-welcome-barents-summit-31-05.
Organizers and participants of the 2013 Calotte Academy wish to thank the Nordic Council of Ministers and other major sponsors that offered generous financial and logistical support for this year's edition.
Hanna Lempinen is a Researcher at the Arctic Centre and PhD Candidate at the University of Lapland, Finland & Joël Plouffe is a PhD Candidate at the National School of Public Administration in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Themes and Highlights from the 2013 NRF Open Assembly
Susan Carruth & Julia Martin
"Climate Change in Northern Territories"
Every second year the Northern Research Forum (NRF) holds an Open Assembly aiming to bring together researchers, politicians, educators, business leaders and other stakeholders. These assemblies provide a space and time for discussion and networking across disciplinary and institutional borders. The most recent NRF Open Assembly was held from 22nd – 23th August 2013 in Akureyri, Iceland. The central themes of the conference focused upon territorial challenges arising from the effects of climate change in the Arctic. They invited contributions addressing the territorial socio-economic impacts of climate change, new methodologies for assessing socio-economic impacts, and examples for adaptation strategies responding to climate change in regions and local communities.
The Northern Research Forum has a history of bringing together the arts and the sciences, a priority continued at this year's assembly. This commentary, written by authors from the architectural and artistic fields, has a particular interest in such cross-fertilisation between conventions and disciplines, particularly where such practices can be fruitful in transforming research into action, allowing communication with the greatest audience possible. There were two stand-out highlights from the assembly that pertain to such interests:
The Need to be Interdisciplinary: Working Without Borders
Throughout the conference it was demonstrated that climate change research in the Arctic depends upon interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange. Projects in this field tend to handle research questions of unprecedented complexity, which necessitates opening up entirely new fields of cross-disciplinary research, expanding the perspectives and parameters surrounding a topic of concern. This kind of research asks for unconventional and experimental approaches, borrowing and adapting methods and data from other scientific and non-scientific fields. It crucially involves the permanent challenge of finding common languages in order to communicate and collaborate between disciplines and stakeholders. The majority of contributions to the 2013 Open Assembly actively embraced such blurring of disciplinary and methodological boundaries. This became apparent through their wide-angled research approaches and presentation formats as well as in how contructively these contributions were taken up and discussed in the plenum from the perspectives of other expert knowledges. The value and benefit of interdisciplinarity was never questioned, and fear of crossing disciplinary boundaries seemed to be absent, despite an acute awareness of its challenges. Instead, the participants of the conference actively invited interdisciplinary discourse and sought to connect and compare their key findings to those of other researchers beyond their own field.
Turning Research into Action
Specialist research projects analyzing and understanding climate change are in abundance, however the application and transfer of their scientific findings into plans for action isdifficult and often neglected. Translating theory into practice was one of the main points on the conference's agenda. A desire to act, to respond to climate change rather than to merely evaluate conditions, was noticeable. This was framed by an awareness of the potential danger of 'falling between two stools': broad overarching frameworks on one side, and localized, concrete engagement on the other side. In order to ensure that these 'top down' and 'bottom up' approaches meet in the middle, and do not eclipse one another, it was reiterated that a shared language, or mode, must be sought that can mediate between the natural sciences, social sciences and local communities. To this end it was mutually thought important to find agreement on terms of evaluation and shared goals, carefully considering the use of rhetorics, images and figures.
The more thematically structured parallel sessions gave opportunity to dive deeper into particular questions currently addressed in highly specialised fields. These specialist findings highlighted areas and issues in need of further discussion, evaluation, and action; tasks possibly to be shared with other disciplines.
Socioeconomic Adaptation in Key Sectors: Law, Education, Health and Tourism Research in the specialist field of Polar Law has brought to light a number of legal blind spots regarding the Arctic and Antarctic - territories that until very recently have been so remote and inaccessible that no legal agreements regarding territorial rights seemed to be necessary. In a warming world this situation is fastly changing, and a number of potentially dangerous territorial conflicts are becoming more likely. Improved legal frameworks are needed regarding fishing rights, the territorial rights of indigenous peoples in the North, future Arctic transport routes, and the distribution of licences for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. Law specialists are cooperating here with geologists, biologists, community leaders, energy companies, and governments in order to develop legal frameworks supporting a geopolitically and environmentally safe Arctic region for all the involved interest groups.
Very detailed sociological surveys have been prepared looking at the state of public knowledge about climate change, for example among young people in Iceland. First pilot studies have revealed a significant gap between the current state of scientific climate change research and public awareness and knowledge about the causes and effects of climate change, pointing towards a serious communication problem between institutions of science and education. Measures to improve public knowledge about climate change are necessary on a variety of scales ranging from an adjustment of education policies to specialist teacher training and governmental information campaigns.
Current research has pointed out a variety of climate change effects upon human health, including the psychological as well as physical impacts of a changing environment. While it can be difficult to separate climate change effects from other negative effects on human health, such as socioeconomic factors, their close correlation highlights the necessity to look at environmental and socioeconomic conditions in combination, and not separately. Mitigating measures likewise must consider the socioeconomic reality of people in their communities at the same time as the irreversibly changing environmental conditions they live in. The results of climate change related Health research should influence policy making for short- and long-term responses and oblige decision-makers to be more aware of the complexity of indirect health issues arising from adaptation measures such as depression as the consequence of the resettlement of climate change migrants.
International reporting of climate change has increased attention onto tourism in the Arctic regions. Climate change is expected to improve access to previously isolated territories, which is mostly positively viewed since tourism infrastructures could bring much needed income to these formerly very remote communities. Nevertheless, the problematic impacts of larger-scale organized tourism upon Arctic rural communities have also been thematized. The phenomenon of the "climate change tourist" meanwhile is a controversial topic: It may be productive to provide opportunities to experience the effects and places of climate change first-hand. On the other hand the desire to see glaciers and polar bears "before they are gone" does not automatically lead to climate friendly behaviour at home or civil action aiming to prevent those effects that are offered and consumed as a "now or never more" spectacle.
The exploitation of both living and non-living resources – from fish, reindeer, and seals, to water, energy and forests – was comprehensively discussed during the assembly. Some axioms of natural resource research e.g. ecological baselines, geographic specificities, discrete spheres etc. were challenged and a picture emerged of the complexity of natural resource management and response: some adaptation measures can contradict one another and indeed even undermine mitigation efforts. Underlined in many presentations was another essential entanglement – that in this 'Age of Diminishing Returns' it is very difficult to predict how one change in natural resource exploitation will be affected by climatic change as well as by other shifts in natural resource management elsewhere and in other stocks, as feedback mechanisms and uneven and emerging socioeconomic development unfold in unpredictable manners.
Emerging Directions: Sustainable Planning
In order to address the challenges and opportunities outlined above, an interrogation of what is 'sustainable planning', and how to enable it, was an overarching motive of the assembly, framed by two particular conclusions. Firstly, the dismantling of the local/global dichotomy and an acknowledgement of the multiscalar nature of sustainability was flagged as critical. Rather than focus attention on unpicking and categorizing, drawing lines and frames, there was motivation to see beyond classification and beyond traditional armatures and timescales. Secondly, the notion of uncertainty, of accepting that the future is unpredictable and unknowable, was prevalent. This uncertainty must be taken into account by scientists and researchers. It seems to demand closer communication between those on the ground actively experiencing climatic change in the northern territories and scientists and other professionals who are looking upon the same sites and issues from a distance. Combined these two conclusions – thinking in multiple scales and working with uncertainty – point towards a redefinition of sustainable planning: planning as an ongoing, reiterative, flexible practice rather than a fixed mechanism.
Assembling Open Research Networks
The Open Assembly 2013 was characterised by an open and experimental atmosphere where researchers of all disciplines and experience were invited to freely discuss their work framed only by the indistinct boundary of the circumpolar north. In addition to an Assembly dinner, there was a chance to participate in an organised excursion in the north of Iceland to experience first-hand some of the issues discussed during the conference, specifically the infrastructural and socioeconomic challenges for rural communities in the north. Combined these factors created an inclusive, informal, welcoming environment that is especially valuable for early career scientists and young researchers.
The NRF, the YR programme, and the ENECON ESPON Collaboration
The NRF was launched by Dr.Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the President of Iceland, in 1998. Based in Iceland, the forum is led by a steering committee of international senior researchers since 1999. In its function as research platform the NRF cooperates closely with the University of the Arctic. Its discourses bring to light the challenges and the opportunities faced by communities in the Circumpolar North and the Nordic Region. The NRF acts as a platform for international and interdisciplinary exchange of research and experiences concerning topics that are of specific interest for the Nordic countries but also have a distinctly global significance, such as quality of life, sustainable use of natural resources, energy efficiency, governance, human and environmental security, and climate change.
They regularly include a group of Young Researchers from various fields, whose research projects are concerned with Northern issues and the Arctic, and whose often new and unconventional approaches contribute innovatively to the research forum. The Young Researchers program provides travel funding for up to 25 PhD candidates and recent PhD recipients, giving them the opportunity to present their projects at the Open Assembly, where they enter a dialogue with senior researchers, policymakers, and the public, as well as their fellow young researchers. Training Young Researchers to negotiate the interface of science and politics is one of the central objectives of the NRF. The YRs' tasks during the conference include the presentation of their own scientific paper in a plenary session, taking on the role of "rapporteur" on one or more sessions, active participation in the discussions and roundtables throughout the Open Assembly, and a final brief oral statement reflecting their impressions of the conference. The YR's reports, statements, and scientific papers are published in the conference proceedings. This participatory training, with its emphasis on the social and political relevance of science, is thought to be of particular importance in today's climate of global change, which requires new forms of leadership. The NRF Young Researcher program is undertaken in cooperation with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) and the University of the Arctic.
For the first time in 2013 the NRF Open Assembly was held in collaboration with ENECON (Evidence in a Northern European Context), a research network of the Nordic states within the EU programme ESPON (European Observation Network on Territorial Development and Cohesion).
Representatives of the ENECON steering group were Professor Grétar Thór Eythórsson, (Univeristy of Akureyri, Iceland), Olaf Foss (Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Oslo, Norway), and Professor Heikki Eskelinen (University of Eastern Finland).
The Executive Committee of the Northern Research Forum, chaired by Dr. Lassi Heininen (University of Lapland, Finland), was in charge of organising the conference.
The next NRF Open Assembly will be held in 2015 – for further information please see http://www.nrf.is.
The President of Iceland, Dr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
NRF Young Researchers 2013 and members of the NRF Steering Committee (SC): Amy Wiita (SC), Michal Luszczuk, Noor Jehan Johnson, Lassi Heininen (SC), Patricia Cochran (SC), Hanna Lempinen, Julia Martin, Ilona Mettiäinen, Steven Bigras (SC), Bianca Tiantian Zhang, Susan Carruth, Marguerite Marlin, Nikolas Sellheim, Sigmar Arnarsson
NRF Steering Committee: Steven Bigras, Amy Wiita, Patricia Cochran, Lassi Heininen
Coffee break, University of Akureyri
Final panel discussion
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