Growing international interest in the Arctic and in Norway’s neighbouring areas in the north forms the backdrop for the Government’s High North Strategy. The extent of the Arctic sea ice is shrinking as a result of global climate change. This dramatic development is attracting a great deal of attention from international climate researchers.
As the ice melts, the Arctic is also becoming more accessible. There are major oil and gas deposits under the northern seas, particularly in Russian areas. New, shorter shipping routes will open up across the Arctic between Asia, Europe and North America. The rapid pace of change poses considerable challenges in the management of the High North, but also opens up new opportunities.
Norway considers it important to maintain a low level of tension in the area, and to cooperate closely with other countries. Developments here must benefit both North Norway and the country as a whole, which is why our strategy has a domestic policy dimension.
New building blocks in the North
To chart a course for Norway’s efforts in this region, the Government drew up its High North Strategy, which was presented in December 2006. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the main responsibility for its follow-up, but because of the domestic policy dimension, a number of other ministries are also involved.
Most of the 22 action points in the strategy had been carried out or started when the Government presented its plans for the next stage of its High North efforts in March 2009. This is called New Building Blocks in the North, and has a time horizon of 10–15 years. It is a basis for a dynamic policy and should not be seen as a hard-and-fast action plan.
Both documents are available on the Government’s High North portal, along other information on the Government’s efforts in the High North, the latest developments, and various other documents for download.
Seven main political priorities
The Government’s High North Strategy sets out seven main political priorities: exercising authority in a credible, consistent and predictable way; developing knowledge; stewardship of the environment and natural resources; development of petroleum activities; safeguarding the livelihoods of indigenous peoples; developing people-to-people cooperation; and strengthening cooperation with Russia. The strategy lists 22 action points that cover a wide range of fields and involve a number of ministries.
New Building Blocks in the North lists the following specific action points for Norway’s continued efforts:
- Develop knowledge about climate and the environment in the High North;
- Improve monitoring, emergency response and maritime safety systems in northern waters;
- Promote sustainable development of offshore petroleum and renewable marine resources;
- Promote onshore business development;
- Further develop the infrastructure in the north;
- Continue to exercise sovereignty firmly and strengthen cross-border cooperation in the north;
- Safeguard the culture and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.
A number of specific projects have also been launched. These include setting up a centre for climate change and environmental research in Tromsø, considering whether to acquire a new ice-class research vessel, developing an integrated monitoring and notification system for the northern sea areas, and a national initiative for marine bioprospecting.
Priorities between the action points and the order and speed of progress will be considered on an ongoing basis, and will be discussed in the annual government budget proposals. The resources allocated will need to be adapted to activity in the other priority policy areas and to the economic situation in each budget year.
The High North will continue to be important to Norway in the years ahead, and international developments are reinforcing this. By taking an active approach, we can ensure close cooperation across national borders. We are providing a foundation for economic development that will benefit people in the area and in Norway as a whole.