IAF results confirm countries’ interest in joint projects for Arctic development
24 April 2019. PenzaNews. The participants of the International Arctic Forum (IAF), which ended in St. Petersburg on April 10, signed 45 agreements totaling 69.8 billion rubles.
The event brought together more than 3,600 participants: heads of state, Russian and foreign politicians, scientists, businessmen, public activists and journalists, which is one and a half times more than during the last Forum in 2017. Then the forum was attended by 2,400 people.
The number of countries participating in the event has also increased – from 31 countries in 2017 to 52 countries in 2019. Delegations from China, Norway, Finland, Sweden, USA, Denmark, Iceland, Canada and Japan were the largest.
The forum participants discussed the issues of comprehensive development of Arctic territories, including ecological problems, environmental management, biosystem preservation, transport, protection of northern indigenous peoples’ interests and many other.
“This is the fifth time that International Arctic Forum The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue becomes a platform for an open discussion of the Arctic agenda. We thank our foreign guests and representatives of the Arctic Council countries for their readiness to team up and their understanding of our shared responsibility for the future of the Arctic and its stable and sustainable development,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said speaking at the plenary session of 5th International Arctic Forum.
He also reminded that in 2021 Russia will assume presidency of the Arctic Council.
“The priorities of our presidency are vital for the Arctic development: promotion of sustainable technologies in all areas, including industry, transport and energy. Today we are carrying out our projects in the Arctic, including global ones, based on the latest environmental standards,” the Russian leader added.
Commenting on the results of the International Arctic Forum, Jouko Niinimäki, Rector of the University of Oulu, noted the importance of multilateral discussion of issues related to the Arctic development.
“The dialogue between political, scientific, business and public representatives was needed and the Forum was excellent place for that,” the expert told PenzaNews.
According to him, the event confirmed the countries’ interest in working together and their focus on long-term cooperation.
“The combination of the business program of panel sessions with the plenary session of Presidents and Prime Ministers brought out strong message of joint will to find solutions by sustainable way in present and future challenges of the Arctic region. Important topics, such as digitalization and the future connectivity in the Arctic, living conditions, and black carbon emissions, came out. The main message of the Forum sessions was importance of collaboration, because without that we cannot ensure sustainable development of the Arctic region,” Jouko Niinimäki explained.
In turn, Lassi Heininen, Reserch Director at Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR), University of Helsinki and Senior research Fellow at IIASA, Austria, drew attention to the good organization and atmosphere of the IAF.
“In particular, participants were enthusiastic due to the plenary session of the heads-of-states of five Arctic countries, which can be interpreted as an Arctic summit. This is a good way to show, even manifest, that the Arctic region is with high geopolitical stability and constructive cooperation. Correspondingly, stability and cooperation are much needed due to grand environmental problems and challenges. Indeed, the globalized Arctic with multidimensional changes as new kind platform and exceptional in today’s world politics with uncertainties, disagreement, and regional conflicts,” he said.
“This interest towards a meeting and discussion between more than two heads of the Arctic states in the current international situation of uncertainties was shared by international media – and thus, went beyond the participants of the forum. This is a sign of changes, maybe even a shift in mind-set, in relations between Russia and other Arctic states,” the expert stated.
According to him, the difficulties in the region can be a serious impetus to the development and introduction of new technologies.
“The Arctic region can be interpreted as a victim of change, or it can be a model, first for the resilience and second for capitalizing on the opportunities that change can bring. I prefer the latter option and would like to see the Arctic becoming a region characterized by innovation,” the analyst stressed.
He also added that he was one of the speakers at the Northern Forum Governors’ meeting.
“When taking into consideration how much environmental degradation and climate change impact people and societies, and their societal security, that regions, counties, provinces, as well as cities and towns, should take more active role. Particularly, since they have the legitimacy of people, as well as support, if they are willing to reconstruct their reality and act. Here a change ‘from theory into action’, meaning better ‘ethical’ approaches and more strict environmental regulations, is possible by implementing political ability, which would mean increased societal security,” Lassi Heininen said.
Meanwhile, Timo Koivurova, Research Professor, Director of the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, also called his experience at the forum “very positive.”
“I participated in discussions about the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, which was negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. We the participants of that session were pondering ways in which we can make best use of the agreement that entails possibilities to conduct more multilateral scientific projects in the Arctic,” the professor explained.
According to him, there were quite frank discussions about the Arctic at the political sessions of the IAF.
“[Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov suggested that the chiefs of staffs meetings could be revived between the eight Arctic states. I was also rather surprised of the session where Finland’s, Iceland’s and Russian Federation’s Presidents – and prime ministers of Sweden and Norway – took the stage. The moderator was asking very straightforward questions from each, and this really made it enjoyable to listen and watch,” Timo Koivurova said.
At the same time, the expert stressed that scientific sessions were most important for him.
“I am leading the Arctic Centre at University of Lapland, Finland, which is a national and international hub of information and centre of excellence that conducts multidisciplinary research in changes in the Arctic region. Our researchers are working in different parts of the Russian Federation so it is obviously interesting to me to hear what type of research is being carried out in Russia. The clear niche for IAF is that it shows to the rest of the world the magnitude of Russian scientific research in its vast Arctic regions. Due to the language barrier, we many times do not hear of the cutting-edge research being conducted in Russia,” the expert explained.
Meanwhile, Volker Rachold, Head of German Arctic Office, Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, highlighted the new format of the IAF.
“I attended the first three Arctic Forums in 2010, 2011 and 2013, and I was impressed how the Forum has evolved during the last years. The 2019 Forum was much bigger than earlier Forums and its program was really comprehensive. The conference was really well organized and very efficient. I enjoyed in particular the mobile app which I found very useful,” Volker Rachold said.
The high-level participation in the Forum was very impressive, he said.
“The focus was on the development of the Arctic region and I believe that in this context in particular the dialogue between the Arctic countries was an important outcome of the Forum,” the expert said.
“I am representing a scientific institute and I believe that science should have a bigger role at the Forum. We know that the Arctic is rapidly warming and that this warming will have dramatic consequences. The scientific knowledge should be considered in decision-making and any development of the Arctic should be done in a sustainable way to protect the Arctic environment,” Volker Rachold added.
In turn, Hanna Lappalainen, Secretary General of the Pan-Eurasean Experiment Program, also shared the opinion that the event in St. Petersburg was held at a high level.
“The IAE was well-organized. The exhibition are was nicely introducing different, mainly technological aspects, related to the Arctic demanding weather conditions,” the Finnish expert said.
In her opinion, today countries need to pay special attention to the issue of climate change in the region.
“Climate change is a global challenge and goes beyond politics. We need to find common practical solutions and mindset in the Arctic issues,” Hanna Lappalainen stressed.
“I was happy to see that the Arctic Forum was able to gather together the leaders of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland and President of Russia into the same panel. I'm looking for the continuation of this Arctic dialog towards joint practical actions and projects on connectivity, environmental protection and novel education platforms,” she concluded.