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The Arctic – An Ocean of Opportunity

Statement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the High Level Panel of the Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg, 9 April 2019.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Prime Minister Erna Solberg in St. Petersburg. Credit: Trude Måseide/Office of the Prime Minister

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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen – friends of the Arctic,

I am thrilled to be here with you to address common issues on the Arctic.

Together we will discuss the many opportunities and possible cooperation the region has to offer.

But as we meet, there is also cause for concern.

The latest reports of new record-breaking temperatures from Canada and elsewhere are alarming.

The fact is, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

This rapid change is having disturbing impacts on the environment and the living resources of the region.

Indigenous peoples are severely affected.

We have no time to waste.

We need more dialogue and cooperation, based on international law, in order to deal with the risks and impacts.

At the same time, we must look for opportunities.   

10 % of Norway’s population live in the Arctic.

The region is therefore a key national priority.

We need a clear vision to ensure resilient societies in the north.

Sustainable use of natural resources based on knowledge and innovation is important.

Norway does not have all the answers, but has a fairly good track record.

One reason is that we make decisions based on scientific findings and expert advice. 

Another is green thinking.

The third reason I would like to underline is the fact that scientists, politicians and businesses talk and consult.

The people who live, work and raise their children in the Arctic deserve to live in modern, resilient societies. 

We need to invest in infrastructure.

We need high quality daycare for children, and good schools and universities.

We also need football fields, concert halls and hospitals.

I know that Russia has always thought this way.

Now we need to adapt this thinking to a green future in the Arctic.

Political leadership is crucial.

The development and implementation of new and greener technologies are driven by political choices.

Green thinking is part of the solution and must be framed as a business opportunity.

Now and then I hear the Arctic described as a geopolitical hotspot.

This is not how we see it. 

We know the Arctic as a region of peace and stability.

But this should not be taken for granted.

It is the result of political decisions and practical cooperation between the Arctic states.

There is a well-functioning legal regime in place.

The Law of the Sea is the most prominent instrument.

Respect for international law and regional cooperation are keys to ensuring peace and stability across borders.

The regional organisations provide a solid architecture for dialogue and practical cooperation in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council is our most important arena for discussing issues of mutual interest in the region.

One of the reasons for its success is the fact that it gathers all key stakeholders, including indigenous peoples.

The Arctic Council makes it possible to find joint solutions to regional challenges and to ensure continued stability and development in the region.

The Ministerial in Rovaniemi in May will mark the end of a successful Finnish chairmanship.

The Arctic Council has done ground-breaking work in documenting climate change in the region.

We want the statement from Rovaniemi to deliver a strong message on climate change.

We hope that all the member states can agree on this.

Norway and Russia are neighbours and cooperate on issues of common interest in the north.

The Incidents at Sea Agreement, our coastguard collaboration, joint environmental initiatives, and the direct hotline between the Norwegian Military Headquarters and the Russian Northern Fleet all demonstrate a well-functioning cooperation between neighbours.

Our cooperation in the north is more than just meetings and documents.

The people-to-people contact is a valuable contribution to our bilateral relations.

It’s about swimmers and wrestlers training together in Murmansk.

It’s about joint Norwegian-Russian orchestras and Norwegians studying in Arkhangelsk.

And it’s about Indigenous people exchanging experiences.

More than anything, this cooperation is about common understanding and respect between different cultures.

The main platform for our close cross-border contacts is the Barents cooperation.

In October, Norway will assume the chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

We will work for a strong and resilient Barents region with particular focus on health, people-to-people contact and knowledge.

The ocean as a way of life is a constant in Norwegian history.

The sea is our gateway to the world.

The oceans economy will continue to be crucial for strong Arctic communities in the future.

Healthy oceans are a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ecosystem-based ocean management and cooperation between coastal states on management of transboundary marine resources are important factors.

As maritime nations, the Arctic states have a special responsibility to take action to ensure healthy and productive oceans.

Norway and Russia have cooperated actively in the field of marine science for 60 years.

During our 40 years of joint fisheries management, we have managed to protect the environment and harvest the fishery resources of the Barents Sea in a sustainable manner.

As a result, the Northeast Atlantic cod and other fish stocks in the Barents Sea are among the best managed in the world.

This cooperation is something to be proud of, and it should serve as an example for other countries and regions to follow.

Marine litter is a growing threat to life in the sea.

Norway and Russia are now joining forces to combat marine litter in the Barents Sea.

All Arctic states need to reduce the threats that could undermine the potential of the oceans.

And we need to make the best possible use of the ocean resources to the benefit of our coastal communities and the people who live there.

Our goal is both to protect the oceans and to optimise their value.

This is why I have established the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which consists of the leaders of 14 coastal states, supported by a global group of experts.

In October, Norway will host the seventh Our Ocean Conference.

We will emphasise the importance of a sustainable ocean economy and knowledge-based management of seas and coastal areas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me conclude by once again underlining the importance of dialogue and cooperation.

I would therefore like to thank our Russian hosts for bringing us all together for these important discussions on the opportunities and challenges in the Arctic.

Exchanging views makes us all a little wiser.

And a wise approach is needed to ensure a responsible future for the Arctic.

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