International cooperation and the institutional dialogue between the Arctic states are key features of the High North and will most likely also dominate “The New North”. With the Arctic Council (AC) celebrating its 20th anniversary, its future is currently as much under consideration as its successful past.
In an interview with High North News, Russia’s Senior Arctic Official Vladimir Barbin reflects on the future of the AC and lays emphasis on a particular area of cooperation that needs to be strengthened and promoted: the economic angle.
HNN: Could you describe Russia’s “Arcticness” in a sentence or a paragraph? What makes Russia eventually an Arctic country?
Barbin: Russia has the longest Arctic coastline – more than 20 thousand kilometers. In addition, Russia is home to many Arctic indigenous peoples, and the contribution of the Arctic to the gross domestic product of Russia exceeds 15%.
HNN: What’s the dominant issue that needs to be tackled by the AC or the Arctic states in the next few years?
Barbin: Russia is in favor of ensuring sustainable development of the Arctic region based on the responsible development of its natural resources and maintenance of the unique Arctic ecosystems. In this regard, more attention is needed to the promotion of economic cooperation in the Arctic region, and to support for the activities of Arctic Economic Council.
HNN: Interest in the Arctic will only increase in the years and decades ahead. How can the AC ensure that the interests of local stakeholders come first, while simultaneously offering Observers a place at the Arctic governance “table”?
Barbin: The Arctic Council invites its Observers to cooperate, and it welcomes their contributions to sustainable development in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council is setting rules and shaping the agenda for cooperation in the region, but not establishing any Arctic governance. The Arctic states execute governance only in the areas under their sovereignty, where this responsibility is solely their own.
HNN: The Council is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. Where do you think the Arctic Council could go in the next 20 years?
Barbin: The Arctic Council will strengthen its role as the main forum for cooperation in the Arctic, and will address almost all spheres of intergovernmental relationships.