Arctic and Northern Areas Conference 2011:
International focus on the northern areas
Growing international interest in the abundant natural resources in the northern areas is giving rise to challenges as well as opportunities for Norway. Sound knowledge will play a critical role in Norway’s efforts to manage the areas responsibly on behalf of the international community and to the benefit of Norwegian trade and industry.
These were key themes at this year’s Arctic and Northern Areas Conference in Bodø 14-15 November.
More cooperation with Russia
“The pressure on the northern areas is increasing, which makes Norway’s wide-ranging responsibility for resource management even more of a challenge to cope with,” stated Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council of Norway, when he presented the Council’s new Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas at the conference.
The Research Council’s first strategy for the northern areas was published in 2006. This year the strategy was revised and adapted to take account of the new framework for the northern areas. The instruments used to promote research activity and to establish and further advance research institutions in the North have been modified substantially. Moreover, there have been significant developments in Norway’s relationship with Russia since 2006.
“An active strategy for the northern areas involves generating more knowledge in order to further enhance relations and cooperation with Russia. Among other things, there is a need to increase the research aimed at providing deeper insight into conditions in Russia,” Mr Hallén noted.
EU seeks cooperation with Norway in the North
The objectives of the EU’s Arctic Policy correspond with Norwegian strategies: to protect and conserve the Arctic, ensure the sustainable utilisation of resources in the area and contribute to multilateral resource management in the northern areas.
This is a crucial issue for János Herman, EU Ambassador to Norway, who has played a key role in the formulation of EU’s policy on the northern areas and the Arctic. “The EU definitely wants to expand cooperation with Norway in this area,” said Mr Herman, who emphasised that the EU recognises that the Arctic nations have special rights in the Arctic region.
According to the ambassador, despite the current financial unrest the EU will continue to invest in the northern areas.
Knowledge-based industrial development
The wealth of natural resources in the North forms the basis for economic growth, even in times of great economic uncertainty around the world.
“In order to take advantage of the enormous potential in the region, industry must focus more on knowledge and strengthen ties with good knowledge circles,” said Mr Hallén. “This will lead to new opportunities for growth and development for local communities especially in the northern part of our country.”
The need for knowledge is great in all resource-based industries, such as petroleum, mineral extraction, fisheries and aquaculture. Climate change is giving rise to entirely new needs for know-how about building and construction activity that must be adapted to changing, more extreme weather conditions. More understanding is also needed to exploit emerging opportunities for new industrial development based on bioprospecting – that is, searching for active components in plants and marine organisms in the North.
Higher aspirations for international research
During the conference, Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland made a strong appeal for enhanced international research cooperation related to the development of the northern areas.
“There will no doubt be room for research on the environment and climate related to the northern areas in the EU’s next framework programme and in the Joint Programming Initiative Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans,” said Minister Aasland, who was pleased to announce that next year’s national budget will contain designated allocations to promote greater participation in international research cooperation.
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