- I want to underpin the regional development potentials in the Arctic, and the importance of overcoming challenges by streamlining policy. It is essential to highlight the High North rationale, says Norway’s Minister of Local Government and Modernisation Jan Tore Sanner.
- Interrelated challenges demand context specific responses. Vast natural resources on land and sea, combined with the knowledge, skills and experience of the people and industry in the North, is essential unlocking the development opportunities, Sanner wrote in an opinion piece recently published in The Parliament, a European magazine about developments in EU politics and policy.
- Major opportunities
Fundamental and accelerating changes in the Arctic bring on new challenges and opportunities, Sanner writes:
- Our ability to manage climate change and bring on sustainable development are key for northern regions. Natural resources and people living in the North offer major opportunities for business development and value creation. The importance of the Arctic as a driver for both transnational and regional cooperation is increasing.
The Norwegian Minister says Norway is a committed partner in several European territorial cooperation programmes, and that these offer great possibilities for regional actors to join Arctic partnerships to create innovation, share knowledge and develop sustainable business in the High North.
- It is my opinion, that there is additional value to be gained from more systematic collaboration among the many stakeholders, networks and programmes – to obtain smarter, more sustainable and inclusive regional development in the High North. Development of an Arctic regional collaboration mechanism, to mobilise, synergise and strengthen the efforts of regional Arctic stakeholders, thus would profit regional development in the Arctic, he says.
Regional and local actors are key agents
The Minister says regional and local actors, such as the industry, are key development agents and entrepreneurs.
- Many are already partners in international networks and programmes. More systematic collaboration will mobilise, synergise and strengthen the efforts of Arctic stakeholders, and thus add value to the societies, people and businesses. Regional and local ownership secure the basis of real needs and demands. The different regional programmes and initiatives in the High North may benefit from, and also complement each other, through a collaborating mechanism.
In March 2013 the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation initiated the Bodø-process. Further discussions and cooperation with European and High North national and regional partners and stakeholders, concluded in a seminar in Tromsø in January 2015, to continue the process.
The report from the preparatory project under the ETC Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) was delivered in September 2015.
- It describes and demonstrates more clearly the potentials of a regional collaboration mechanism in the High North, Sanner says.
The report was discussed among regional, national and EU stakeholders in September 2015 in Brussels, and Sanner says the discussion supports the need for an Arctic regional collaboration mechanism to facilitate collaboration, strengthen strategic thinking and improve knowledge sharing between different programmes, initiatives and projects in the High North.
- Facilitators should be located in an existing organisation
- I expect a collaboration mechanism to include and make the best possible use of the specific and unique resources in the different geographical areas of the Arctic. Different hubs in a network would complement each other, and contribute and develop their specific strengths and themes into the network system.
The Minister says local businesses are crucial to achieve smart growth in the region, and that he would like the private sector to be more included in the projects.
Some ideas on project cooperation and clustering, and possible common thematic/strategic issues are already being discussed by the ETC Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, as a follow up on the preparatory project report.
- I think a facilitating micro-hub will be important in setting off the collaborating mechanism. This will be the "heart" of the mechanism, linking Arctic regional programmes and networks, cooperating with regional actors, Universities, enterprise organisations, SMEs and so on, Sanner says.
He stresses that the facilitiators need to have "hands on" knowledge and skills on regional programmes and networks in the High North, and securing the delivery of tangible results to the stakeholders.
- Facilitators should be located in an existing organisation, avoiding the need for any new institutional structures, Sanner says, adding that be believes Norway will be able to contribute to pilot the arctic regional collaboration.