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Hello everybody!

It’s a pleasure for me to be here today.

The High North has a special place in my heart. Not because this region has become such a contented topic on the geopolitical scene – but because this region is home to one of the planet’s most spectacular yet vulnerable eco-systems.

It is pure. It is pristine. It is absolutely beautiful.

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In many respects things seem to be changing faster here in the High North than other places.

 Over the course of a few decades, this northernmost region has gone from being an area marked by geopolitical tension towards being a focal point for energy and industrial activities.

The melting polar ice cap and shrinking floating summer ice offer access to precious minerals and new sea lanes. But it also poses grave dangers to the fragile environment of this northernmost region. A region which is home to some of the largest – and best managed - commercial fisheries activities in the world.

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Today I am here not only as the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, but also as acting Minister of Education and Research. And let me tell you – the High North is a highly prioritized area for the Norwegian Government. Both with respect to our foreign and security policy – and with respect to economic issues.

The opportunities for value creation in the High North are great. But so are the challenges associated with operations in this beautiful - yet remote, fragile and cold region.

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Knowledge is at the core of a sustainable development of the High North. Because without more knowledge we will not be able to fully seize the opportunities ahead. Nor will we be able to meet the challenges we are facing. This is why knowledge is a central element of the High North policy of the Norwegian Government.

We would like to see a region where business continue to flourish; where international collaboration is further reinforced and where society offers sustainable opportunities – for all.

A High North characterized by value creation, sound environmental management and the sustainable utilization of resources. With a steady supply of highly competent workers; with access to universities and other sources of higher education and with a reinforced focus on research and development. And not least – a High North where the investment in the development and deployment of new technologies thrive.

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Being the world's northernmost institution for higher education and research, UNIS is a vital stakeholder in the quest to fulfill the inherent potential of this region. You are uniquely positioned – both geographically and with respect to outreach - to make a difference.

In many ways the High North is a mini laboratory for the world when it comes to understanding the changes happening around us. This is where the first evidence of climate change and environmental degradation is visible. Together with other scientists and researchers you spend your days observing and gathering first hand information and data that will be imperative if we – as a global community – are to solve some of the major challenges related to climate and the environment. All the while you play a crucial role as a societal stakeholder here in Longyearbyen and the larger Svalbard community. A role which is becoming more important by the day, as the mining activities at Svalbard are facing a tough global marketplace and an uncertain future.

On behalf of the Norwegian Government I would like to underline that you – the students here – are making a difference as education and research is getting more and more important in Svalbard.

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When it comes to matters relating to climate change and our common future, collaboration is a key word. With students and staff from some 30 nations, UNIS is a great example of how international cooperation can extend the reach of the vital knowledge gathered here. Knowledge needed all over the world – in the many places where environmental degradation and climate change pose challenges to societies and life as we know it.

Regarded as the “extended arm to the Arctic” of Norwegian universities since its founding, UNIS has furthermore extensive collaboration with both business and research institutions – here at Svalbard and globally. Further reinforcing Svalbard’s position as an international platform for Arctic research. In fact scientists from some 20 countries have stations or conduct regular excursions in this pristine region. 

 

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Dear friends,

The High North is changing rapidly – before our very eyes.

The good news is that we have more knowledge about these changes - their causes and consequences - than anytime before. Thanks to the dedicated and tireless research conducted by UNIS and others over the course of several decades.

One area where Norwegian research and business communities together have made great advances is space observation and drone technologies.

Tomorrow I will open the Arctic centre for unmanned aircraft in Ny-Ålesund. The centre, which is based on a partnership between Norut – the Northern Research Institute, the University of Tromsø and Lufttransport – a civil aviation services provider, will use unmanned aircraft to collect scientific data and conduct environmental monitoring in the Arctic.

With this centre the partners are truly succeeding in positioning themselves at the forefront with respect to the development of industrial and Arctic technology.



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The Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen once said “Adventure is just bad planning”.

I suspect this is because he was not fond of the uncertain. The story goes that he started sleeping with open windows as a child in order to prepare for his hazardous adventures to the north. Amundsen was well prepared for his Arctic adventures. So must we be. And with the work you do here at UNIS and in the wider Svalbard community – I am confident that we are.

Thank you for your time!