North-Eastern Federal University has signed an agreement with the Arctic Development Project Office (PORA) on the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation. The parties agreed on cooperation within the framework of the Northern Sustainable Development Forum (September 24-28, Yakutsk).
As indicated in the agreement, the university and the project office will work on joint research, the creation and development of scientific and education centers and laboratories.
“Our center of expertise begins active work with leading Russian universities that deal with Arctic issues,” said PORA expert Alexander Vorotnikov.
“The agreement with NEFU is very important because it is one of the most important universities in the eastern part of the Arctic.”
According to Alexander Vorotnikov, Arctic studies of NEFU must be used for the entire Arctic zone of the Russian Federation.
“For example, the university has a very strong school on permafrost – it needs to be promoted, since during the times of perestroika the sphere ceased to receive proper development,” the expert added. – NEFU also has an excellent testing ground for testing equipment in winter conditions. In my opinion, the theme of the site must be expanded and tested all the equipment that is used in the Arctic. The university’s road department is to become a pioneer in this matter.”
The PORA expert also noted the importance of creating a scientific and education center for the development of the Arctic and Subarctic “North” on the basis of NEFU. “The University has every opportunity to study the Arctic, for example, in the field of improving the quality of life of the region’s population. This work needs to be strengthened,” said Alexander Vorotnikov. It should be recalled that on September 17, the head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Aisen Nikolaev signed a decree on the creation of a scientific and educational center (REC) for the development of the Arctic and Subarctic “North”. The center will be created through the integration of Northeastern Federal University and other scientific institutions and organizations of higher education.
Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Plenipotentiary of the President of Russia in the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev sent a greeting to the participants and guests of the Northern Sustainable Development Forum. He expressed hope that the forum would become an annual event, and noted that Yakutia could become a bridge connecting the Arctic and Asian countries.
Yuri Trutnev noted that the topic of sustainable development is becoming one of the most relevant and, without exaggeration, key topics of our time. Especially, according to the plenipotentiary, the issues of sustainable development in the extreme conditions of the North and the Arctic are significant.
“Throughout its history, the Northern Forum international organization of the northern regions, under whose auspices the forum is held, has made a huge contribution to the development of cooperation between the Arctic and northern regions. Now we have to solve new problems and meet new challenges,” said Yuri Trutnev and expressed confidence that the meeting of experts will help to expand cooperation between the regions of the North and the Arctic to solve economic, social and environmental problems.
He also expressed hope that the forum will become an annual international event that will unite the regions of the North and the Arctic in solving problems of sustainable development.
“The development of the circumpolar territories is our common task related to the development of the Arctic, preservation of its unique nature and cultural traditions of the people living here. Our partners also show interest in the development of the Arctic territories from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. In this regard, it is especially gratifying that the first forum takes place in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), which, due to its unique geographical location, can become a bridge connecting the Arctic region and Asian countries, ”Yuri Trutnev emphasized and wished the participants productive work.
At the opening of the Northern Sustainable Development Forum State Councillor of Yakutia Mikhail Nikolaev made proposals for its work. The Honorary Chairman of the Northern Forum put forward the idea of transforming the Northern Forum Academy into an Arctic scientific forum for students and youth in the scientific and technical field.
As Mikhail Nikolaev noted, the forum’s goal is to strengthen the international prestige of the Arctic region countries by achieving the leadership of children and schoolchildren in the scientific and technical field
“The forum can be held in the form of discussions with leading scientists of the world, research competitions, and the creation of express projects by international teams. The result should be equality in scientific and technological development in all the Arctic regions.”, he says.
In addition, Mikhail Nikolaev sees the need to create an international forum for the development of the Arctic.
“More than 100 international organizations are involved in the problems of the Arctic countries. The Northern Forum is one of the authoritative venues that deserve international trust. It would be nice if the Northern Forum made such a proposal to the Arctic countries. The forum needs to support the enthusiasm and initiative of the northern territories and effectively use the potential of the northern region,” Mikhail Nikolaev emphasized.
“Northern peoples have long been forming their consciousness, spirituality and worldview based on relationships with nature. We are all Norwegians, Icelanders, Finns, the Sakha people are northerners. Despite our differences, we are representatives of a unique circumpolar civilization, we occupy our rightful place in the modern space,” concluded Mikhail Nikolaev.
At the opening of the Northern Forum, Consul General of China in Khabarovsk, Cui Guojie, said that the People’s Republic of China is actively involved in the Arctic issues. In addition, the country intends to develop, preserve and contribute to the development of the Arctic.
According to Cui Guojie, China is an interested party in the issue of Arctic relations. He also added, “China is always committed to the Charter of the United Nations and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. By adhering to the basic principles of respectful cooperation, we will achieve sustainable development. By participating at the forum, we hope to draw attention to scientific research, to emphasize the importance of environmental protection.”
Consul General emphasized that the future of the Arctic touches interests and well-being of all people who live in the Arctic zone. “China is pleased to take part in this historic moment with all the other participants and interested parties and to contribute to the important mission by bringing Chinese intelligence and strength towards Arctic sustainable development. On behalf of the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China, Consul General of China in Khabarovsk, Cui Guojie, expressed his appreciation to the authorities of the Northern Forum for invitation and warm welcome.
The world struggles to reach by 2020 the agreed target of securing 17% of its terrestrial surface, covering the different ecosystems, as a protected nature area. The Sakha Republic (Yakutia; the largest region of Russia) has already more than doubled this figure with 38% of its entire territory protected in different kinds of nature reserves. Yakutia’s Minister of Ecology, Nature Management and Forestry, Sakhamin Afanasyev, presented this enormous achievement September 26 at the “Ecotourism and Protected Area” event of the Northern Sustainable Development Forum (NSDF) in Yakutsk. Co-organised and -chaired by the Yakutian Government and LT&C, this event was one of many quite different ones at the 4-day’s Forum. Much of the credit for achieving the extensive network of nature reserves were given to Sakha’s first president, Mikhail Nikolaev. The present Government is building further on his foresightful nature conservation policy in the 1990s, once titled and awarded by WWF as a “Gift to the Earth“. The protected area network grows further. Only recently, the entire New Sibrian Islands were declared a regional nature reserve.
How can eco- or sustainable tourism help to preserve these impressive and vast natural landscapes and ecosystems for future generations? This was the main question, raised, e.g. by the initiator of the Ecotourism and Protected Areas round table from the Yaktian Government and Northern Forum, Vladimir Vasiliev. The understanding of the term “sustainable tourism” was clarified right at the beginning of the round table by Olga Zakharova from the State University of Tyumen: Tourism, which supports the UN-defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She further described what could become a common perspective: “Our idea is to introduce a new concept of sustainable tourism in the Arctic at those territories which are home to northern indigenous peoples to make tourism a means of teaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Each part of the tourist route starting from preparatory activities and finishing with farewell words to the northern land can be designed through a prism of Sustainable Development Goals. This can be achieved by studying traditional values of northern indigenous peoples, their perceptions of humans’ place in the world, their traditions and economic activities.”
Tourism, which supports nature conservation, today in the Russian Arctic remains embryonic. There is certainly potential to attract nature lovers or bird watchers to experience and getting engaged in protecting the vast wilderness areas and unique wildlife of the Russian Arctic. Still, speakers in other events of the NSDF were focusing on quite different forms of tourism. Classical cruise tourism on the Lena river was marked, and the new hope and focus of Yakutia’s tourism business are on extreme tourism. The two coldest settlements in the northern hemisphere on earth, where temperatures of minus 67,7 respectively -67,8 C have been measured, are in the Sakha Republic. Now expeditions will be offered, where participants compete to find the coldest places of the year. Costs per person: 25 000 US$ and more. Target: 25 tourists/year.
It is high time for Arctic people, communities and governments to decide and prepare for what kind of tourists and tourism they want and what is beneficial for a sustainable future. As a representative from China mentioned, “we can easily bring you 20 million tourists, just let us know”. – China was altogether very present and active at the Northern Sustainable Development Forum. The Northern Sea Route and other transport routes between East Asia and the EU were a dominant topic. That 30% of the world’s so far unused resources are in the Arctic was another top and geopolitical issue, which provokes many different speculations and activities.
Right at the beginning of the NSDF, the Expert Center for Arctic Development, PORA, presented what they call the first two sustainable development ratings of the Arctic, the Polar Index. They developed a sophisticated methodology to define sustainable development. On their company rating for the Barents region, Norwegian and Russian oil companies are ranking among the first 4. It is, of course, justifiable that also oil- or other mining companies are rated according to their sustainability efforts. However, today, it is highly questionable, whether additional definitions of sustainability make sense, especially if they cater for a specific purpose. Since 2015 we are living in times, where the entire world has agreed to make an effort to achieve by 2030 the 17 defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 very concrete and measurable targets.
As Peter Prokosch presented in the plenary session of the Forum as “a vision for the Arctic”, no other region on earth has better conditions and a higher potential to reach all 17 SDGs by 2030 than the Arctic. To explain this in more detail and promote related activities, could become a primary focus of the educational institutions, organised within the University of the Arctic (UArctic). Representatives of UArctic and own events on education played an essential role in the entire NSDF. The Northern Forum announced to host the NSDF from now on an annual basis. More focus on making the Arctic regions forerunners for sustainability in the world, measured by the SDG-index, could then be the goal.
This year’s Northern Sustainable Development Forum culminated in a fulminant gala show, “Lights over the Arctic”, performed in the colossal sports stadium of Yakutsk. One of the main messages was: “we can’t let the Earth down”. With a mix of indigenous-, classical- and modern cultural elements, the show tried to illustrate the need and value of international- and cross-cultural cooperation — the Arctic as a region of hope and sustainability lead.
How much Linking Tourism & Conservation can contribute to this commitment, the future will show. That we have been invited to co-organise the Ecotourism and Protected Areas event at the Forum, indicates at least that the LT&C mission is taken seriously and can compete with or complement others. It also connected to the 30-year old German-Russian environmental agreement and cooperation, which LT&C-member Professor Hans-Dieter Knapp from the Michael Succow foundation highlighted at the round table. The first German-Russian biological expedition in 1989 to Taimyr was the starting point of significant development of establishing new protected areas in the Russian Arctic. WWF was involved since the beginning as a driving force, as Vladimir Krever from WWF-Russia described. Today the organisation runs a systematic and comprehensive protected area programme for the Russian Arctic, supported by the German Government. Tourism does not play a concrete, supportive role in it yet.
Meanwhile, the LT&C-Taimyr national park initiative, which Natalia Malygina from the Ural university presented, may gain ground. Russia and the Taimyr region could show up with its first example of a protected area supported by tourism. Or this year’s NSDF has encouraged someone in the Sakha Republic to present the first LT&C-Example at the next Northern Sustainable Development Forum.
More than a hundred experts, among whom fifty are foreign, will exchange experiences and ideas with the participants of the Northern Sustainable Development Forum. Within five days, an intense educational program awaits delegates: master classes, lectures, round tables. The organizers of the event held a press conference in the republican media center.
“The idea of this discussion platform was born last year, when we talked about the possibility of organizing meetings of the Northern Forum working groups. Yakutia leads four of them – groups on climate change, the environment, human resources and education, and science in the Arctic. We expanded the format and tried to invite the maximum number of experts from the Arctic and Asian countries”, said Vladimir Vasilyev, First Deputy Minister for External Relations and Ethnic Affairs of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
More than a hundred experts from different countries will take part in NSDF, meanwhile more than 200 experts from various fields will represent Yakutia. The main result of the forum should be the launch of international projects for the development of the Arctic.
“The Northern Forum focuses on inter-regional and international cooperation on the development of the North and the Arctic. Initially, we announced that eight sub-polar countries, which are members of the Arctic Council international organization, as well as three Asian countries, will take part in it. Among them there are such countries like China, Japan, Korea, as well as the USA, Canada, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden. We tried to ensure the greatest representation of the states, so a considerable number of world experts comes to us. There will be 117 guests, more than fifty of them are from foreign countries,”said Dariana Maksimova, the Acting Executive Director of The Northern Forum international organization.
As part of the business program, numerous round tables, master classes, lectures and project presentations will be held.
“The Northern Forum is a large platform, thus it will include a number of venues. We provide conditions for communication between people at the inter-regional and international levels. Any conference is a way to attract specialists who can share their experience, talk about their achievements and projects. Many famous people with an extensive knowledge base and a large number of interesting ideas will gather together during the Forum,” said Alexander Kugaevsky, Deputy Rector of NEFU for Analytical Activities.
Deputy Minister for Arctic development and Northern peoples Affairs Mikhail Pogodaev drew attention to the fact that courses on fishing and reindeer husbandry have begun. It is worth to mention that traditional economic activities that need to be preserved and developed with the help of modern technologies should remain the economic basis for the indigenous small-numbered people of the North.
“We invited representatives of the University of the Arctic and the Northern University of Norway to conduct educational courses, they have a business school, which occupies a leading position in the European ranking. There are world-class experts in the development of entrepreneurship and innovation. They will teach our specialists how to conduct business more efficiently. At the end of the lectures, students will receive appropriate certificates”, – summed Pogodaev.
The educational-advisory session “International experience in doing business in the field of reindeer husbandry and fishing” started within the Northern Sustainable Development Forum. Participants there acquired professional competences, which are necessary in order to open and develop their own businesses; they also got acquainted with the real practices of successful entrepreneurship.
As the press secretary of the Arctic Research Centre of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) reported, the main topics of a two-day seminar were characteristics of reindeer husbandry and fishing, products of these industries in the market, features of sales. More than 30 students of universities and colleges as well as people who directly work in these fields learnt how to identify potential business ideas, how to form and apply them to the current market and how to prepare business-concepts. Seminar participants got knowledge about the organization of the creative process in the development of business ideas, they were also taught to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of a particular business idea, which will help to make a basic description of business concepts and sales plans. For instance, there was an experience of Norway, where 40% of the country’s territory was allocated for reindeer husbandry, the livestock is 212 thousand deer, and the industry itself is highly innovative. Today, participants were told about the unique possibilities of food innovation. As we know, traditional food products of the northern peoples are in demand in the pan-European market. The goal of the seminar is a qualitative change in professional competencies, and the program of it included presentations by representatives of recognized international business schools and entrepreneurs who successfully implement their projects in Yakutia. During the session, the audience were addressed by Kjell Stokvik, Managing Director of the Centre for High North Logistics (CHNL), Bjorn Willy Amo, professor at the Northern University Business School (Norway), Erland Bulvaag, representative of Bodo Graduate School of Business, Egor Makarov, owner of the “Muus Haya” LTD, Nikolay Gabyshev, owner of the “RekaOzeroLes” LTD and others.
On 23 September, Yakutian Vice Premier Kirill Bychkov met with Bruno Nordeste, the leader of the Canadian Embassy’s Political Division in Russia. Guest arrived to the city to participate in the international conference “Northern Sustainable Development Forum”. The issues of cooperation between Yakutia and Canadian regions were discussed.
“It is one of the most important directions of Yakutian external relations. During 20 years we have built partnerships in the directions such as mineral resources, construction sector, production of building materials etc. We also implement the program of Canadian bison’s recovery and return to the historical areas in Yakutia.” – said Bychkov.
Deputy Minister announced that the discussions are devoted to problems and prospects of the sustainable development of the North and Arctic. In addition, Kirill Bychkov said that Yakutian government plans to visit Toronto and Ottawa with business operation. Yakutian mission will present investment possibilities of region and will take part in the building material exhibition.
Bruno Nordeste responded that he looks forward the discussions of the Northen Forum for a development of Arctic cooperation.
“We are interested in the scientific collaboration in the field of changing climate, cultural preservation, Northern people’s traditions and lifestyle, solving social problems. Also we want to establish opportunities for the future cooperation. Now we organize the 4th bison’s transfer to Yakutia in 2020.” – claimed Bruno Nordeste. Parties discussed projects for preserving northern indigenous languages, population sustainability, exchanging the experience in construction and road building.
The cultural program of the Northern Forum on Sustainable Development includes a gala concert of the Union of Musical Figures of Yakutia “We are from the Arctic.” The concert will take place on September 25 in the Cultural Center “Sergelyakhsky Lights”.
This concert is also one of the key events of the IX International Arctic Music Festival “Northern Lights”, which will be held from September 21 to October 31, 2019 in Yakutsk and St. Petersburg.
Aisen Nikolaev, the Head of Yakutia, and Nikolai Korchunov, the Special envoy for International Cooperation in the Arctic of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, who is the representative of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Council, have met in Moscow on July 31, 2019.
They discussed a number of issues related to the sustainable and integrated development of the Arctic territories, the establishment and development of international and interregional cooperation in there. In particular, they talked about the project of creating a center for digitalization of the linguistic and cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples. It was noted that Yakutia has all the necessary scientific, technical, intellectual and expert potential to promote this international project, which is aimed at preserving the culture, local knowledge, and traditions of the indigenous peoples of the North.
The Northern Sustainable Development Forum (NSDF) which will be held in Yakutsk on September 24-28, 2019 was discussed on this meeting. It was emphasized that on the fields of the NSDF will be discussed issues of developing and strengthening international and interregional cooperation between the Russian Arctic territories and the entire world. Within the framework of the agenda of the NSDF there will be events related to the prospects for the region’s interaction with the Association of World Reindeer Herders and further promotion of the project “Children of the Arctic”, implemented under the auspices of the Russia’s Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs on the territory of five subjects of the Russian Arctic zone, including in Yakutia.
Special attention was paid to the future meetings and events of the Arctic Council at the Permanent representative of Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in Moscow
under the chairmanship of the Russian Federation in 2021-2023, as well as the formation of the Arctic agenda on the fields of the fifth Eastern Economic Forum, which will run on September 4-6, 2019.