Speech/statement | Date: 27/01/2020
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide (Tromsø, 27 January)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide's statement at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø.
It is a pleasure to attend the Arctic Frontiers conference again, and to be back here in Tromsø.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Arctic today is a region characterized by peace, stability and international cooperation. This is no coincidence. It is a result of political choices. It is something we have worked hard to achieve. And it is something we will work hard to maintain.
I think it is fair to say that during the last years we have seen an increase in the attention to the Arctic region.
We have heard views that there is a legal vacuum in the Arctic - a kind of a “no man’s land”. Some have argued that a new “Great Game” is taking place in the Arctic, and that we need new structures of Arctic governance, including a new security policy forum for the Arctic.
First and foremost it is extremely important to underline that there is no legal vacuum in the Arctic. On the contrary: An extensive national and international legal framework already applies to the Arctic.
The Law of the Sea provides the basic architecture underpinning all ocean governance in the Arctic. It distributes jurisdiction and establishes clarity and predictability as regards rights and obligations for all States in all ocean and sea areas.
The Law of the Sea also provides important rights and obligations regarding freedom of navigation, marine scientific research, protection of the marine environment, delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf and other uses of the Arctic seas.
Furthermore, a series of treaties and legal instruments apply to the Arctic, as they do to other parts of the world. A concrete example is the new Agreement against unregulated fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean.
So to sum up: national law and international mechanisms are already in place to clearly clarify both ownership, stainable management of the utilisation of the resources in the Arctic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Regarding governnance structures, the Arctic Council has been the primary arena for addressing international issues in the region for more than 20 years. This was reconfirmed by the Foreign Ministers in Rovaniemi, Finland last year. The Council - firmly supported by its member states, indigenous peoples and observer countries - has been instrumental in setting the agenda, developing new knowledge and building trust across borders. I would argue that the Council has served all its members well in the current format discussing the current topics.
The Council provides a platform for addressing cross-border issues in the region. It has been instrumental in developing new knowledge on climate change in the Arctic. And it has been setting the agenda when it comes to discussing the opportunities and challenges in the Arctic.
The Arctic Council has also facilitated the negotiation of three important, legally binding agreements between the eight Arctic states. These agreements – on search and rescue, marine oil pollution preparedness and response, and scientific cooperation – highlight areas where cross-border cooperation is the way forward.
Under the steady guidance of Iceland’s chairmanship, the Arctic Council will help to ensure that the working program of the Council can deal effectively with future demands and challenges.
Barents Euro-Arctic Council
In October last year Norway assumed the chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. This forum has been a cornerstone of regional cooperation in the Arctic since 1993. We will use our chairmanship to develope our relationship with our Nordic neighbors and Russia. The close involvement of local and regional actors in the Barents region will be crucial to achieving these goals.
Together with Governor Magdalena Anderson of Västerbotten, we will later today discuss how the national and regional level can work better in the Barents region, and in particular new policies for the youth. I hope you will join us at that side event.
To deal with the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities in the Arctic, Norway continues to believe in effective multilateral cooperation within the framework of international and national law and well-established governance structures.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is here in the Arctic where we see the effects of climate change most dramatically.
The temperature rises more the further north you come. Last year, 3.3 degrees over average temperature at Svalbard, Norway’s northernmost archipelago. That means 31 consecutive years with temperatures above the average at Svalbard.
Climate changes has implications for ice conditions, sea level and air temperature. However, it is important to underline that this is not directly linked to the activities in the Arctic, but predominantly due to activities and emissions outside the Arctic.
This is why the Paris Agreement is so important. It is the main legal vehicle for cooperation on reducing greenhouse-gas-emissions. Norway intends to do her part. Our current target under the Paris Agreement is to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared with the 1990 level.
Ladies and gentlemen
The government will present a new white paper on the Arctic to our parliament this fall, which will outline our ambitions for a strong and innovative Arctic region. It will confirm our commitment to international cooperation as foreign and domestic policy are very much interconnected in the North. We need to follow closely global and local developments affecting the Arctic region, and we need to be well placed to meet them.
Ladies and gentlemen – in closing,
For Norway, the Arctic is not a remote place. Ten percent of our population live here north of the Arctic Circle. Some of our most innovative industrial areas are located here. Norwegians have lived by and off the sea for centuries. We will continue to utilize ocean resources and to strike the balance between sustainable use and protection. To ensure sustainable economic development in the Arctic, based on the best available knowledge and science. And based on the highest environmental standards.
I wish you all a pleasant and fruitful stay at here at Arctic Frontiers!