eldrīs Seminar on the Arctic

02/07/2012, eldr newsletter
Speakers at Arctic seminar

Kerstin Lundgren opened the seminar on the Arctic, held on 29 June, by welcoming the speakers and the participants. She gave a brief introduction and regretted that Simo Rundgren, Member of the Finnish Parliament, Centre Party of Finland and spokesperson for Arctic issues in the Centre group in the Nordic Council was, due to sickness unable to speak at the seminar. She also regretted that Lena Ek, Minister of the Environment and member of the Centre Party, Sweden- unfortunately was unable to make it to the seminar but informed everyone that Mattias Johansson would speak on behalf of Lena Ek. She pointed out that she just arrived from Rio, where the arctic questions also was raised among all the big issues raised at the meeting of liberals. After a brief introduction she handed over the floor Mattias Johansson.

Mattias Johansson opened his speech with pointing out that he would give his ministerīs views on how the Arctic council can provide added value by bringing together different initiatives and what role the EU could play. He gave a description of the Arctic council and the history behind the establishing of the council in 1996. "If we continue as present, we will have no ice cap in the Arctic in 30 years," he said. Mr. Johansson endorsed that Arctic region is indeed influenced by a number of global trends, as the transformation of the global economy accelerated by the day. Global warming is one of the biggest challenges. "The change will lead to increased access to mineral s, oil and gas resources and possibilities for new shipping routes." He mentioned the search and rescue agreement which was signed last year by the Arctic council as an important step for the first legally binding agreement negotiated by the Arctic council. Mattias raised important areas for the changing Arctic, such as: The opening of new trade routes, oil and gas exploitation in the Arctic, and the important measure for limiting the effects of climate change. He also addressed the great potential that EU has with helping to address the challenges in the Arctic in different areas.

He concluded his speech by saying: "The Arctic is currently in a period of rapid change- environmentally as well as politically, socially and economically. What we have to ask ourselves is whether we are adapting our ways of cooperating to face the challenges of a changing Arctic? My ministerīs immediate answer would be yes- we are on the right track. We can address emerging issues forcefully. We set the agenda by groundbreaking expert assessments. We show that we are strengthening the Arctic Council by reforming it."

After Mr. Johanssonīs speech discussion and intervention from the audience were scheduled. One question asked was: "How to deal with the accident of an oil ship would break down. The shipping routes could be planned with a step by step plan, which has to be safe. We have to minimize the risk of possible accidents and have a proper rescue plan when the accident is here."

The participants and the panel agreed that this is something that has to be addressed and it should be paid more attention to this question.

Rasmus Ole Rasmussen was the following speaker to talk about one of the many challenges for the Arctic - sustainable business development. What are the main challenges hampering sustainable business development in the Arctic and what are the potentials for a more sustainable business development in the Arctic was the focus of his presentation. He emphasized nine megatrends that have been identified: Urbanization, Economies, Green Economy, Environment, Human capital, Accessibility, Global systems, Demography and public/private factors. He gave a brief describing of how these trends are affecting the Arctic - what are the challenges and opportunities? A question from the audience raised was; what has been done to keep the women and natives in the Arctic? -Mr. Rasmussen answered: Demographic changes, the young and women are leaving. Old people stay put. The re is urgent need for further investment in the human resources. Access to good education may enable people to stay. He re has t he EU played a big part by supporting the Arctic financially to promote higher and better education.

- Renewable energy and green economy are providing an important input into the development in the Arctic. Countries should use renewable energy and that should be the focus in the Arctic.

Tomas Ries gave a presentation of the Security policy challenges in the Arctic and highlighted "We are moving towards Arctic Great game. Extraction of oil, gas, minerals and fish are ongoing activities. We have industrial disaster in the Arctic, Who will pay? Disagreement could lead to major tensions. Mr. Ries pointed out that the Arctic council unfortunately cannot deal with security issues since it was originally limited as demanded by the US. All the estimates on melting ice in the Arctic has been rendered too optimistic, the ice is melting much faster than all predictions and this is something that we have to deal with by finding a solution to the problem.

What has the EU done in and for the Arctic and what should the EU do for the Arctic was the focus of Diana Wallis presentation. She said itīs sad that the European Union had been placed in the waiting room, since EU has three member states that are members of the EU. The EU has granted funding for the arctic research, and that does not necessarily mean that the EU should automatically have a seat at the table- but it shows that the EU has good intent on solving the Arctic issues. She endorsed that people in the Arctic are preoccupied with other concerns than we have for the Arctic. Following up the discussion earlier raised regarding how we can enable people to stay, she stated: "Issues about human development are legitimate- people have the right to move. The European Union tries to balance and help uphold that right. What is the EU about if not the movement of people?ī

Tanja Joona spoke about the Indigenous people in the Arctic and their rights and possibilities. The Arctic areas are inhabited approximately by four million people according to the AHDR (Arctic Human Development Report) definition of the Arctic. The settlement area is divided between eight Arctic countries; Canada, United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark. There are over 40 different ethnic groups living in the Arctic. Mrs. joana said most of the people are surprised by the internet connection in the "closed population" that is very high these days. She said that it is very hard to find people living "isolated" in the Arctic. The internet connections are world spread. Recently, political organization of indigenous peoples has led to international recognition and clarification of human and political rights concerning indigenous populations. She highlighted the UN Declaration on IP 2007 -ILO 169 which Rights to land and natural resources are an important part of the culture and survival of indigenous peoples in the Arctic. She also mentioned the draft Nordic Saami convention which emphasises the unity and homogeneity of the people, the equal treatment of an individual and the principle that national boundaries should not present an obstacle to the community of the Saami people. Mrs Joona said that "one of the big threats today is t he predators coming and killing the reindeers, and something has to been done about that."

Kerstin Lundgren ended the discussion by drawing some conclusions from the issues related to the topic - that were raised at the Rio +20 meeting in Rio among liberals.

There was a big interest for the topic at the seminar attended by ambassadors from Canada, Russia, Finland, and Iceland, research organizations, think tanks political parties and NGO organizations. Given the fact t hat the seminar was attended to a large extent by people involved with, and with knowledge about the Arctic- resulted in an interesting seminar which a lot of different questions and views. All the speakers also gave the presentation from the ir professional prospective which provided the other attendees with a multifaceted, and more informed view on the Arctic and its challenges.