Sustainable development of the Arctic region to the benefit of all of Europe
The seminar by the Regional Partnership of Northern European Arctic, consisting of northern Sweden, Finland and Norway in the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Arctic Consensus of North Denmark, focused on smart specialisation, innovation and capacity building, taking in the social dimension for sustainable development in the Arctic. It attracted a full venue of participants representing a wide geographical and institutional coverage.
Mike Neilson, Scotland House, and Anna Pettersson, the Lead Partner of Region Västerbotten, welcomed and pinpointed the positive increased regional cooperation within the framework of the EU Arctic agenda.
Alessia Clocchiatti, European Commission DG Mare, was the moderator and made a presentation of the EU report on the Arctic Forum consultation process. The report compiles the messages from the European Arctic stakeholders on needed investment priorities to better utilize the EU's arctic fund programmes.
Jukka Teräs, The Nordic Council of Ministers research institute Nordregio, continued by setting the stage for the discussion. He declared the need of smart specialisation to find competitive advantages as well as looking beyond natural resources to strengthen creative sectors and the social dimensions. The EU play a vital role for the development through collaboration in the Arctic.
Magnus Davidson, University of Highlands and Islands, highlighted in the following panel debate that Scotland sees itself as the closest neighbour to the Arctic with many mutual challenges and relevant academic competence and science to deliver.
Päivi Ekdahl, Regional Council of Lapland, stressed during the debate the reoccurring topic of the importance of the social dimension for arctic sustainable development. It is essential to attract young people to stay in the Arctic.
Lise-Lotte Terp, Arctic Consensus, stated that the local perspective must be the priority. Knowledge and respect for culture contributes to better projects and results. From a Greenlandic perspective it is a challenge to provide youngsters with an education that in turn can contribute to their home society.
Peter Sköld, Center for Arctic research at Umeå University, emphasized the right of the citizens of the Arctic to set the goals and the implementation of regional development processes. Arctic isn't an isolated and exotic place where people from the big cities can go in order to get resources and statistics. The arctic stakeholders must and should take full part in global cooperation.
Willy Ørnebakk, Chair of Troms County Government, rounded off the discussion that also engaged participants from the floor, by stating that the arctic regions are not only seeking for solutions, they can also provide solutions to many of the global challenges.
The seminar was followed by the Arctic Award 2018 prize ceremony by the Arctic Cooperation, the cooperation between the arctic EU programmes.
Take away message
The Arctic regions can foster their own development capacity along with the facilitating role the EU play for needed investments and collaboration. Even if vulnerable societies dependent on nature resources, the unique environment and culture, including indigenous peoples as well as thriving cities, research and climate actions, delivers potential. Smart Specialisation plays an important role in focussing on the Arctic’s assets, the main asset being the people, so, too, from the very local perspective build innovation capacity and sustainable societies.
Peter: The people of the Arctic are the resource of the Arctic! It is therefore important to ask ourselves what is the final goal for projects in the Arctic? A sustainable environment is a precondition, a sustainable economy is the tool, however a sustainable society is the true goal!
Jukka: Arctic is a hot spot and not a per definition lagging periphery, it is sometimes even in the middle of everything! One misleading picture is that Arctic is an unpopulated place for only exploitation of raw materials, when in fact being increasingly a test bed for new solutions!
Päivi: We should to be proud of our northernmost regions and their uniqueness! Sometimes we ourselves talks negative about the possibilities to stay and thrive and why should then the next generation not leave? On the contrary, few regions offer as much as ours and that we need to tell!