Major trends in Arctic development
Took the temperature of the Arctic
The Arctic Human Development Report – Volume II was presented by its contributing researchers, and then discussed by Nordic politicians, at the seminar Taking the Temperature on the Arctic, held on 7 October 2015 at the Secretariat to the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen. Volume I of the report was published in 2004, and 27 lead authors have been collecting data for the past 10 years for the updated volume. The bulk of the work involved was financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the seminar was arranged under the Nordic Region in Focus initiative.
Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, started off the afternoon with a look back at the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, who in 1911 led the first expedition to reach the South Pole. Mr Høybråten pointed out that the Nordic Council of Ministers’ interest in the Arctic is to be seen as an expression of a common Nordic need for knowledge about the region in order to adapt measures to the coming challenges. Journalist Martin Breum served as the seminar’s moderator.
The report’s editors, Senior Researcher Joan Nymand Larsen of the Stefansson Arctic Institute in Akureyri, Iceland, and Professor of Geography Gail Fondahl of the University of Northern British Colombia, presented an overview of the group effort behind the report, whose purpose is to highlight the major trends, challenges and knowledge gaps relating to the Arctic.
One thing is certain: changes in the Arctic are taking place in every aspect of life, not just as regards the climate – although the latter is the most critical. The changes are occurring on demographic, economic, political and cultural levels. At the root of it all is the worldwide demand for natural resources.
Rasmus Ole Rasmussen, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio and one of the report’s lead authors, detailed one major trend, namely that “the ice is disappearing and so are the women.” Arctic women are seeking education to a greater extent than the men, and end up emigrating to larger metropolitan areas, where they have access to a completely different labour market.
The overall policy-relevant conclusions of the report are that we need to learn more about the influence of new stakeholders in the Arctic region, and to ensure that best practice is more widely adopted throughout the area. The changes described in the first volume back in 2004 are still pertinent today, but interest in the Arctic has since skyrocketed, and urbanisation is accelerating as people are choosing or being forced to move for reasons of climate change. Researchers call this emerging phenomenon “climigration”.
The report is a part of the overall structure of Nordic-funded Arctic initiatives. The Secretariat to the Nordic Council of Ministers administers the Arctic Co-operation Programme and NordForsk is currently reviewing applications to the joint Nordic initiative Responsible Development of the Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges - Pathways to Action. Roughly three new Nordic Centres of Excellence are expected to be launched, most likely in early 2016, under a total programme budget expected of approximately NOK 85 million.
Text: Linn Hoff Jensen