Russia Takes Stock of its First Year of Arctic Council Chairmanship
On 20 May 2022, Russia concluded the first year of its two-year chairmanship in the Arctic Council. At his briefing that day, Nikolay Korchunov, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials and Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the achievements of the first year of Russia’s chairmanship and about the events planned as part of the comprehensive programme universally supported by all the Council member states; its overarching subject is “Responsible Governance for a Sustainable Arctic.”
The diplomat stressed that Russia proceeds from the importance of a balanced development of the Arctic and from the conviction that the region’s sustainable socioeconomic development is key to improving the well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, creating new jobs, and increasing the Arctic’s investment appeal.
In addition to official high-level events, the plan of Russia’s Arctic Council chairmanship features forums, conferences, workshops, and round tables, festivals and exhibitions, research expeditions, and professional skills championships. The Roscongress Foundation is the event operator. Currently, 36 events on the core issues of the Arctic agenda have already been held.
“Russia accounts for nearly one-third of the entire Arctic, and Russia recognizes its special responsibility for this region. Our goal is ensuring the Arctic’s sustainable development, which entails creating a state-of-the-art infrastructure, exploring resources, developing the industrial base, improving the quality of life of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, and preserving their unique culture and traditions. Within three years, the legislative framework and a system of benefits for investors have been created, forming the foundation of the region’s accelerated socioeconomic development. Today, 423 investment projects worth a total of RUB 693 bn are being implemented in the Arctic. These projects will create 21,900 jobs in the region,” said Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, Chair of the Organizing Committee on Russia’s Chairmanship in the Arctic Council.
The Council’s plenary session held on 1–2 December 2021 in Salekhard was the highlight of the official event series. It included discussions of the Arctic’s sustainable socioeconomic development and of the opportunities for bolstering youth cooperation in high latitudes, broached the issues of cooperation between the Indigenous Peoples of the North and between the Arctic regions, and the matter of increasing the efficiency of interactions with the Arctic Economic Council where Russia also holds the chairmanship in 2021–2023. The participants discussed the implementation of projects and joint solutions to such matters as forest fires, climate change and its effect on the Arctic ecosystems, the novel coronavirus pandemic and its influence on the health of the Indigenous Peoples and other residents of the Arctic. For the first time, the event featured speeches by special representatives of the Chair of the Committee of Senior Arctic Officials on cooperation between indigenous peoples, maritime activities, by the youth ambassador, and by the Indigenous Youth ambassador.
Russia’s chairmanship programme includes a section on the human dimension which features several conferences such as Human Health Conservation in the Arctic, “The Arctic as a National Megaproject: Personnel and Research Support,” and the “Arctic: Territory of Development” on creating a comfortable urban environment.
The Conference on Waste and Microplastic Problem in the Arctic, the International Forum on Designated Conservation Areas (DSA) in the Arctic, and the Arctic Meteorological Summit will discuss the future of developing nature conservation cooperation in high latitudes and the introduction of nature-saving technologies.
A thematic Arctic booth at SPIEF 2022 will host three events under Russia’s chairmanship, including an International workshop on shipbuilding and ship repairs in the Arctic, a Conference on developing telecommunications and digitization in the Arctic, and the “Creative Industries of the North” event intended to promote the cultures of the small Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic, Northern territories’ brands, and to stimulate cooperation between the state, businesses, non-commercial and public organizations in order to preserve the heritage.
“The core issues of Russia’s chairmanship will enhance the agenda of the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The SPIEF’s business programme will feature the ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ Forum focused on responsible governance in the Arctic with a view to its sustainable development. Discussions will present new solutions for the key issues in the development of the Russian Arctic, such as improving the quality of life for the region’s population, developing the Northern Sea Route and the infrastructure, climate change and environmental protection,” stressed Anton Kobyakov, advisor to the President of Russia, executive secretary of the Organizing Committee on Russia’s Chairmanship in the Arctic Council.
The chairmanship’s core issues will also be featured in the business programme of the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok on 5–8 September.
The chairmanship’s cultural programme includes the Teriberka Arctic Festival to be held on 16–17 July in the Murmansk Region. The Bering Strait Festival will be held in August 2022 in Chukotka, and the 4th Northern Cultural Forum is scheduled to be held in December in Syktyvkar.
In the Council, Russia has spearheaded projects on digitizing the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, on biosecurity issues in the Arctic, on developing renewable energy sources, on creating an international Arctic research station focused on carbonless energy. Project proposals on traditional medicine of the Indigenous Peoples and on developing creative industries in the Arctic are currently in the works, and Russia’s initiative “Digital Museums of the Arctic” is currently being developed.
“The events of Russia’s chairmanship constitute an extensive and diverse agenda that reflects the role and importance of the Arctic both for Russia that is consistently building up its regional presence, and for the entire world. Members of the Arctic dialogue willing to act together thereby excluding competition between states are making a major contribution to the Arctic’s balanced development. This approach rests on international research, cutting-edge technologies, and close attention to the ecosystem and to the people who live and work in the North,” said Alexei Chekunkov, Russia’s Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic.
In March of this year, western member states of the Arctic Council temporarily suspended their participation in the Council’s official events and in the activities of its auxiliary bodies. Nikolay Korchunov says that this decision “will inevitably result in the mounting risks and challenges for the ‘soft’ security in the Arctic that the Council has theretofore been successfully handling.” The current “hiatus” in the Council’s activities is fraught with negative consequences for the well-being of the population of the Arctic, including its Indigenous Peoples.
“The speediest resumption of the Arctic Council’s full-fledged activities is in the best interests of the entire international community. Russia is ready to resume the dialogue in the high latitudes. The emphasis is on the fact that western member states putting a ‘freeze’ on their involvement in the Council’s activities is a temporary development that does not entail reformatting membership in the organization. At the recent ‘Arctic Borders’ conference in Tromsø, different speakers stressed that the Arctic Council is particularly valuable with the participation of all the eight Arctic states and that western member states are not interested in changing the structure or the membership lineup and are committed to preserving the Council as the key forum for making collective decisions. In this sense, our western colleagues’ stance on the Arctic Council has not changed,” Nikolay Korchunov said.
The speakers also noted that the overall course outlined in Russia’s programme aligns with the goals and objectives included in the Arctic Council’s 2030 Strategic Plan adopted in May 2021 at the ministerial meeting in Reykjavik. Nikolay Korchunov expressed his hope that Russia and Norway, the next Arctic Council chair, will ensure continuity of the Council’s activities.
The complete recording of the briefing of Nikolay Korchunov, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials and Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affair, is available at: http://pressmia.ru/pressclub/20220520/953662753.html
Official accounts of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council:
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