Does The Arctic have the Capacity to Bounce Back When Meeting Challenges?

PhD Andrei Mineev, Assistant Professor Erlend Bullvåg, and Professor Bjørn Olsen at the presentation of the preliminary results from the 5th Business Index North report at High North Dialogue 2021. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)
"We can observe a very strong business growth. At the same time, we do not see any response in the Arctic societies when it comes to growth in the number of people", said Erlend Bullvåg. 

On Thursday morning preliminary results from the annual Business Index North report were revealed at the High North Dialogue in Bodø. 

Business Index North measures, analyses, and compares the level of sustainable development for 14 regions in Arctic Europe, which includes Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The index is soon to also include Iceland, Canada, and the USA. 

The Arctic Resilience Paradox

The theme of this year's report is resilience. Is the Arctic resilient? Does the Arctic have the capacity to bounce back when meeting challenges? What are the right policies?

"In the Arctic area, we can observe a very strong business growth. The activity is mostly from minerals, energy, and food production. At the same time, we do not see any response in the Arctic societies when it comes to growth in the number of people, and the number of workers. This is a great concern", says Erlend Bullvåg. 

This trend can be observed all over the Arctic, and the authors of the BIN report call this phenomenon "The Arctic Resilience Paradox". This development creates a great divide between the south and the north when it comes to job creation and will make the Arctic less attractive over time. 

Ten percent of Norway’s population lives above the Arctic Circle and more than 5.5 million people live in the BIN region. The BIN region stands for 138.4 billion euro in value creation. Illustration: Business Index North

Is there a cure?

In the panel debate, the participants discussed remedies and solutions to this paradox. 

The moderator for the discussion, Bjørn Olsen, Professor, Nord University Business School, asked the panel: "It does not seem that the old political medicine has resulted in any cure, what new political medicine can be prescribed?"

"The medicine that we should prescribe should be long-term investments in building competitive cities in the Arctic. If do not do that, people will move out of the region, and the most valuable resource is the people living there. We have to invest in infrastructure, and in invest especially in knowledge and universities, so the Arctic can be competitive in what is driving economic growth, namely knowledge-based industries", said Eirik Sivertsen politician from the Norwegian Labor party, and member of the Standing Committee on Local Government and Public Administration

The medicine that we should prescribe should be long-term investments in building competitive cities in the Arctic
Eirik Sivertsen (Labor)
Anders Oskal, The Secretary-General at the Association of World Reindeer Herders, and the Executive Director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

Anders Oskal, The Secretary-General at the Association of World Reindeer Herders, and the Executive Director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry said that the solutions have to be based on the indigenous peoples' own terms. 

"I think it is an essential challenge for any society to use their own knowledge to develop their own societies and communities. We have a knowledge base that is very old, and I think that should be a part of the foundation for building our resilience for the future. A part of that heritage has been lost to assimilation, but we need to look ahead, and there are some possibilities. One example is food production, we have very special food resources in the north. Institution-building is also important, building the capacities of the indigenous people's communities. We would like to see active societies and knowledge building for our youth", said Oskal. 

The full 5th Business Index North report will be available later this year. 

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