No race for the Arctic

Norway sees very little likelihood of conflict regarding the Arctic; on the contrary, there are significant opportunities for cooperation. This was made clear by Otto Mamelund, Senior Adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the Research Council’s High North Conference at the end of November.

"It is essential for Norway to remain a key actor in the circum-Arctic region, as is the case today," said Otto Mamelund (Photo: Brita Skuland)

"It is essential for Norway to remain a key actor in the circum-Arctic region, as is the case today," said Otto Mamelund (Photo: Brita Skuland)

“In general the High North is receiving more and more attention. But despite what is often said, there is very little likelihood of conflict in the region. The potential for cooperation, on the other hand, is extremely high,” said Mamelund.

No escalation of land-based activities

Mamelund also dismissed suggestions that activities in the area are being stepped up. “We are moving from a situation of almost no human activity in the Arctic to a new situation in which activity is also negligible,” he explained. “There will be no upsurge of activity on land in the foreseeable future even if activities at sea increase. The pace of development is extremely slow. No race for the Arctic is currently underway.”

Knowledge boost, not regional policy

This year’s High North Conference also included a large number of presentations of good projects that deserve greater attention, better framework conditions and more funding. When high expectations of regional spin-off effects are met with relatively limited financial investment plans the result can often be disappointment.

“The Norwegian Government’s High North Strategy is not part of regional policy in its traditional sense. We have other instruments for achieving regional policy goals. The High North Strategy is a national effort. Northern Norway is important for the whole of Norway,” stated Mamelund.

“The aim of the increased focus on research on the northern areas is to generate more knowledge, and the research must be driven by research needs. But we are confident that knowledge will also form the basis for future value creation in the region,” he said.

Effects of the research

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also concerned with what Mamelund called the political “side effects” of the research.

“Norway’s relations with Russia are of crucial importance. Keep in mind the effects of long-term cooperation on the mapping and management of marine resources. Think of polar research. Now a common need is emerging for competence building related to offshore activities under Arctic conditions,” he said.

Focus on international cooperation

“It is essential for Norway to remain a key actor in the circum-Arctic region, as is the case today,” said Mamelund. He pointed out that the secretariat of the Arctic Council, the most important international organisation in the region, is still located in Tromsø, despite the fact that Norway no longer holds the chairmanship.

“Unlike some of the other Arctic states Norway seeks a comprehensive international dialogue on the High North. We must avoid protectionism. There is consensus in Norway that effective cooperation in the region is not possible without the participation of Russia,” stated Mamelund. The Russian areas account for half of the Arctic region.

“We must also take into consideration the fact that developments in the Arctic have global significance. Interest in the region will not be limited to the Arctic states, but will come from the international community at large,” Otto Mamelund concluded.

Written by:
Kristen Ulstein/Else Lie. Translation: Anna Godson/Carol B. Eckmann

Source: The Research Council of Norway

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