1st Conference on the economic development of the Arctic (within the framework of the SPIEF 2016)

The Arctic Welcomes Other Regions panel session took place as part of the Conference on the Economic Development of the Arctic. The Arctic’s environment calls for specifically designed technologies, products, and services, as well as a special template for cooperation between the various regional players. Cooperation between different regions of the Arctic and beyond must play a central role in this process. The economic and scientific potential of Russia’s regions must be used to their fullest extent in order to meet the challenges facing the Arctic.

Key issues discussed at the session: 

· Inter-regional cooperation for Arctic development

· Investment prospects for non-Arctic regions contributing to Arctic development

· The scientific and industrial potential of non-Arctic regions in relation to Arctic exploration

·  Arctic projects in business development strategies

The sessions participants noted that Russia is the leading power of the Arctic region and it historically faces the strategic task of the Arctic’s comprehensive exploration.

The key factor in the successful Arctic exploration is the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the corresponding sea port and aviation infrastructure from Arkhangelsk to Chukotka.

Currently, the NSR lacks a unified systemic management which in the future will make it difficult to fit the NSR into international transportation corridors (North–South, the Silk Road, the Trans-Siberian Railway, Central Asia – the Black Sea). Today, the NSR is inefficient, but we must think about the future and look beyond the horizon through the prism of geopolitics.

Recently, the Arctic infrastructure has not been renovated, and it is rather obsolete. It has a negative impact on living in the high altitudes, and, as a consequence, population of one-company-towns and settlements continues drain away. What must be created is a modern environment-control system which takes into account the experiences of Norway, Denmark, and Alaska. Support provided to native minorities is also decreasing.

Given the strategic interests of the Arctic nations, they put forward the “No population – no territory” slogan and get their “ecological troops” ready.

Another negative factor is Russia’s lacking the coordination of all the incredibly huge work that needs to be done on the socioeconomic development of the Russian Arctic. Other Arctic countries do not have such a common instrument either.

The lack of a unified long-term state policy in the Arctic does not allow for a systematic and focused solution to the problem of renovating the entire Arctic zone infrastructure such as the Arctic aviation, Arctic sea ports, electric power (floating NPPs), modern living accommodation (modular housing).

Problems of the native minorities are a separate issue. We must look forward for 30–50 years to understand the best ways to develop their traditional economy and education. Such systemic managerial recommendations do not exist.

There are no doubts that a federal executive body in charge of developing the entire Arctic region must be formed. It will allow to significantly increase coordination and efficiency of the work done. The government of the Russian Federation should appoint a special Prime Minister for the area.

Currently operative individual laws, strategies, concepts, and regulations on the Arctic do not meet today’s challenges and Russia’s strategic goals in the region. We need a special Arctic zone law, or, better yet, “The Polar Code” to maintain the balance of interests of all the people employed in the Arctic.

It is wonderful that these days, the St. Petersburg Plant launched the world’s most powerful ice-breaker which can break the ice of up to 2.8 metres thick, and in the future, 35 more ice-breakers of different classes will be built.

Of particular importance is the issue of training the necessary personnel and employing them long-term in the Arctic zone. Already today it is clear that we must create centres for study and research and regional educational centres in all of Russia’s northern regions. We must shape our young generation’s both educational and intellectual potential. Enthusiasts go to work in the North. These issues must be solved via multilateral international cooperation and via cooperation between Russian regions.

It is necessary to enhance Russia’s information presence in the Arctic by creating an investment projects map.

To implement large-scale projects, it is also necessary to create the Arctic Bank for Reconstruction and Development.