The Arctic: A Model for International Cooperation

Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende's address at the opening ceremony for the International Arctic Forum.

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Excellencies. Ladies and gentlemen.

The world has a lot to learn from the Arctic.

Here, in the high north, countries from three continents have found remarkable ways of working together - based on common interest and respect for international law.

We have shown that sustainable resource management contributes to stable economic growth.

We have demonstrated that trade and contact across borders leads to investments and employment opportunities.

And we have proven that respect for international law ensures predictability and regional stability.

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The overall goal of Norway's Arctic policy is for the Arctic to remain a territory of dialogue and legal order - of low tension, peace and international cooperation.

We have long traditions to build on.

More than 400 years ago, the king of Denmark and Norway, Christian the fourth (IV), ventured into the eastern part of the Barents Sea to promote the interests of his kingdom in the High North.

At the time, Arkhangelsk was the main seaport for trade with Moscow.

His voyage resulted in tough negotiations with the English for the lucrative trade with Russia - negotiations that later inspired the development of the Law of the Sea – which today is the very foundation for Arctic cooperation.

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The Arctic is of no less strategic importance today than it was 400 years ago.

Natural resources, modern technology and increased human activity are opening up new opportunities.

The Arctic is mostly ocean - and the blue economy holds great promise for new investments, growth and employment.

For Norway, the ocean is the very foundation of our economy and prosperity.

Seventy percent of the value of Norway's exports comes from ocean-related activities, and most of our sea areas are located north of the Arctic Circle.

We therefore have a strong interest in ensuring sustainable ocean management in this region. In order to achieve this, we must continuously identify greener, smarter and more innovative ways to use Arctic resources.

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At the same time, the impacts of global warming are dramatic:

  • The sea ice is receding.
  • The tundra is melting.
  • Fish stocks are migrating.

These are common challenges that demand collective responses.

We have a shared interest in making sure that our regional institutions are robust enough to address the rapid changes that are taking place; that our decisions are always based on the best available knowledge; and that we manage our resources responsibly.

Most importantly, we must avoid that these changes - and the opportunities they bring along – turn into sources of tension and conflict.

The Arctic Council – firmly supported by member states and observer countries – plays an important role in ensuring continued stability in the Arctic.

We must continue to encourage contact across borders and more trade between the peoples of Arctic.

And we need conferences like this – where we can exchange knowledge, experience and expectations – in order to develop common approaches to common challenges.

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In a time when the value of trade and cooperation across borders is being questioned, the lessons from the Arctic are clear: Respect for international law, sustainable resource management and regional cooperation are exactly what leads to stability, economic growth and human development.

Let's make sure the Arctic remains a global model for regional cooperation and sustainable development.

If we succeed, we can ensure the prosperity and well-being of millions of people who depend on Arctic resources for their livelihoods. And we will be making a contribution to a safer, more stable and more sustainable world.

Thank you.