The Prime Minister's remarks at the panel discussion on “Rethinking Arctic Development” at the Arctic Frontiers conference

'There are eight coastal states around the Arctic. Now, one of those eight states are kept on the outside, for obvious reasons. How do we take that into account? We have done a lot of progress on how we involve indigenous groups, local groups, local communities. How do we take that forward?', said Prime Minister Støre.


As delivered (transcript from the video recording)

(Security policy and the High North)

As we touched upon in this opening session – what has emerged in the Arctic over the last decades is a kind of new system of how you approach cooperation between countries, coastal states, affected groups, local communities, you know, a whole new network. That is security policy – that is international political governance development – under circumstances that were quite inclusive and supportive because the geopolitical situation invited to that kind of approach back then.

The Soviet Union became Russia, we could reach out across borders, we could travel across borders, indigenous peoples could create networks across borders. They have very long lines in their history of those links, then cut by nation states, now again opening up. So, this – I would say – was a kind of a helpful ‘end’ of security politics, you know, it was an inviting environment.

Now, a full-fledged war in the middle of Europe and one of these key actors engaging in a full-fledged military invasion creates a different environment. And as I said yesterday, these ‘cold winds’ blowing in our region have not emerged from our region, they come from somewhere else – but they affect us.

So, what we have to deal with now as a government when we do our planning for our international relations, our security, our defence, is ‘the sharp end of security’, which means that you are closer to an additional danger – which is conflict. And we are, you know, obliged to look into what does it mean to preserve security for our people, today and in the years to come. We have to be cautious and at the same time vigilant in the way we act.

So, in our way of working in international relations in our policy outlook, I use this expression because security policy is a very broad notion and for the last decades, we have been able to address the human dimension of this. – How do we enhance local communities, increase cooperation and lift dimensions that were not there before. It was a conducive environment for that.

But now we live in a more tense situation and that is why I am so focused on preserving what has been created, not letting it be destroyed – and, at the same time being very aware that ‘the sharp end’ is really the prime obligation of any government: It is to preserve the security of its people.

(The development of natural resources)

Well, I think, you know, again, this presentation, could you have given it 20 or 30 years ago? The core of it – how local communities are affected by changes happening – is the same. I believe that we have developed over these years new mechanisms of consultations and involvement. We have the Sami Act in Norway, we have the Sami Parliament been created, we have consultations processes, more inclusive processes in the way we approach the development of our natural resources.

And we are learning lessons from where there have been mistakes. I think that the kind of open focus on this in conferences like this one and in the political debate lift these issues and the interests of local communities, of the indigenous people, of the obligations we have under international conventions – to a new level.

(On local communities, local authorities versus the industries’ needs)

We are living through two or three major transitions. I mean, let geopolitics lie for a while.

We are living through the energy transition. We are going to move from fossil to renewables. That is a major transition in how we create the electricity that is renewable and green. How do we develop that? It cannot be done without any impact in nature. How do we consult from the start, get sufficient buy-in from local communities? We know more about how to do this in an inclusive way. I believe we have enough territory in our country so that we can do that in a way that balances the rights of traditional activities with these new needs.

Then there is the climate transition. We feel the climate change more urgently here in the north. As I said to Dr Young this morning, it was news from the Arctic that really brought to the attention of the world climate change in total. So, we are seeing it here. You know, this is ‘the canary in the coal mine’ being observed.

And the third one is the demographic transition. We are an aging population in our countries. We have to adapt our health systems, our welfare systems to this change.

And I believe these very profound changes can only succeed if you have inclusive processes from bottom-up, top-down. And they will be painful.

But you know, I think the way seen from a government perspective, of neglecting those inputs from the people concerned, may be ‘tempting’ in the way that you can speed up things, but that is really the wrong approach because you are going to be blocked down the road.

So, there is no way around having an inclusive process. It does not mean that you will agree on every matter, but it has to be inclusive. And I think we have come some way, but we still have some more way to go.

(On consultations with indigenous peoples)

There are two sides to this. First of all, consultation is important. You know that you are obliged at an early stage; any matter which has an impact on the Sami population, we bring to the Sami parliament. It is not a co-decision process, but it is an important consultation process, on education, on health, on industrial projects and so on. And then, in addition, we are giving more, and this is a balancing act, decision-power to the local community, to the mayor, on the planning in her region.

But that has to be balanced, because we are, at the end of the day, we are a community, I mean a bigger community than the local community. So, we need to have the right balance between national legislation and the authority of parliament and government to make decisions on behalf of all of us and local decisions.

And I believe that for the transition of energy: the first ‘green steel’ – I think it will come from Sweden – and the first ‘green aluminium’, I think it can come from Norway. And it happens because we also involve the mayors; Sweden will do that and we will do that to get the buy-in to succeed.

(On new narratives and the Barents region)

I'll come back to what Dr Young said in his remarks. You know – we need narratives. We need to develop narratives. What is a narrative? Well, it is a common storyline of where we come from and where we are heading. And, of course, you do not define that we have a narrative that will expire on 31 December and then we have to develop a new one.

This is the fourth transition, in a way. We need the transition of narratives. And I think – since we are in the Arctic now – what will be the narrative of the Arctic for the next decades in the geopolitical situation that we have now?

You know, there are eight coastal states around the Arctic. Now, one of those eight states are kept on the outside, for obvious reasons. How do we take that into account?

We have done a lot of progress on how we involve indigenous groups, local groups, local communities. How do we take that forward?

And one last remark; what we did in the 1990s was to create a new form of an international system in the Barents region. For the first time we gave foreign policy obligations, rights, opportunities to local communities and to regional communities – that is to the counties of the north in our countries, with the Russians on the other side, this was really exploring a new terrain. And the fact that one of these Arctic states, the biggest one, Russia, is now where it is, should not take away our interest in developing this approach further.

I think Norway, Sweden and Finland, with its northern approach here in this region, should take it further. That is why we have in the Barents region now a co-presidency between the three countries. We should highlight and appreciate the role of the regions, all the local communities, and take that forward. Because this is, as I have seen it, you know, this is true innovation of the international system.

And some of the pioneers working on this have been invited to go to other regions in the world to tell – how did you develop this new thing? Since again, some decades ago, the Arctic – in the common global discussions – was for some ‘unknown’, ‘ungovernable’, ‘terra nullius’, but it isn't. And that is why I like very much that approach of developing new narratives that can bring us together and inspire also the decision-making.

(On indigenous communities and development of green industries)

My Minister of Industry has been very focused on how we can, through our industrial policies, support initiatives among the Sami youth, with a lot of entrepreneurial ideas on how you can develop services, products, and these new industries.

So – not only being involved from the fact that you are elected or you matter in terms of numbers, but also – that you matter in terms of ideas and knowledge. And obviously, we as a national community, have a lot to learn from the way the Sami people have lived in concert with nature over the years and to bring that into our decision-making process.

(On the voice of the Arctic communities)

I would agree with the last statements – you know, that there is a future where they (the Arctic communities) have a voice, a decision, where they have a contribution to make. The challenge is that there is no easy, simple answer to it. There is a complex answer.

Climate change is more severely felt in the north, in the Arctic. We know it, it is stated here, we can see it. But it will also matter, you know, will – for example, Vietnam go for more coal-fired plants or go for renewable? Will India succeed in its transition? Will Africa with its growing population go down the road of fossil or will they go renewable? And will we be there to make a difference?

So, perhaps, the biggest difference we can make for the Arctic is when they are made on the other side of the globe. We have known that we will have to live with climate change. It is happening. So, mitigation is one thing. But how we can reverse it is about succeeding in these transitions I have talked about. This will be major global complex decisions.

That is why the COP28 – where there were low expectations – however, we came out of COP28 with a roadmap which gives us inspiration and direction because we are in these transitions. So, this is maybe not a very precise answer, but it is simply to say that in order to succeed on these young peoples’ vision, we need to do our work in the Arctic, as we do at this conference, with the governance, with the involvement, with listening to people. We have to understand – where are the key decisions to be made on the transition. – On the energy transition, I mean, not much energy is spent in the Arctic. The local communities, the indigenous communities do not spend much energy, but it is the way the world consumes energy that will determine what all this will look like. And that is why I think, you know, investing in carbon storage and battery capacity for Indonesia's transition is going to be key to the results you are going to see up here. And this is not to distance our responsibility from our local responsibility, because this is major political engagement. But in order to deal with that, we have to put it on the agenda where it belongs. And that is the global agenda.