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Analytical digest
14.10.2019

Outcomes of the ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ International Arctic Forum 2019

The ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ 5th International Arctic Forum was held on 9-10 April 2019 in St. Petersburg under the theme ‘The Arctic. An Ocean of Opportunity’. The Forum agenda was devoted to discussions on the comprehensive socioeconomic development of Arctic territories and the development of mechanisms for the discovery and effective exploitation of the region’s resource potential. The Forum was attended by more than 3,600 representatives of the political, scientific, and business communities and leading media outlets from Russia and around the world.

The Arctic is full of potential for investment. There are a number of macroeconomic problems that are barriers to harnessing the economic potential of the Arctic. The foremost of these is the significant cost of operations, which is related to increased spending on transporting fuel, materials, and equipment; the cost of labour; accelerated technological depreciation; the need to compensate for ecological risks; and underdeveloped infrastructure.

The Russian government is paying particular attention to the development of the Arctic region. New government bodies have been created to manage the territory: the Arctic is part of the purview of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East. The Russian Federation has developed government programmes in six strategic development areas related to the Arctic: aviation, shipbuilding, special technologies, navigation, oil and gas technologies, and special materials.

According to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, special attention should be paid to the development of transport and other support infrastructure in the Arctic Region: «We are well aware that this is a necessary foundation for future investment and business initiatives.» The Russian Federation is currently implementing a number of large-scale projects aimed at the creation of transport infrastructure on the continental portion of the Arctic zone. A key project is the construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway (NLR). According to the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, the NLR will significantly shorten (by up to 1,000 km) transport routes from deposits in Western Siberia’s northern districts to the Baltic, White, Barents, and Kara seas. The project will also help solve the issue of congestion on the existing southern route, which connects to the Trans-Siberian Railway. When it comes to isolated energy networks in isolated Arctic areas, the most promising options are integrating small power units that use fossil fuels; small nuclear power reactors; small mobile power units; and renewable energy technologies.

Climate change is the most important factor that needs to be considered when developing the Arctic. Global warming, caused by increases in greenhouse gas emissions, is a threat to the region’s fragile ecology. Arctic research needs to be stepped up and the situation in the region needs to be monitored continuously. International cooperation is the foundation to solving environmental issues. During its chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021, Russia will prioritize advancing environmentally friendly and nature-inspired (biomimetic) technologies across all areas — in industry, transport, and the energy sector. The national projects are meant to serve as the primary instruments for social development in the Arctic regions. However, Forum participants proposed a number of additional mechanisms that would help improve the situation when it comes to healthcare, housing construction, and education. Most importantly, the needs and unique characteristics of each region must be taken into account in the development of these areas.
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