Experts: Political consensus needed to drive Arctic progress

04-12-2014
At a recent roundtable meeting in Oulu, Finland, Arctic experts agreed that infrastructure development in the Arctic region hinges on cross-border political consensus rather than on technology.
Market Director Malcolm Sjödahl, Ramboll Sweden, shares his insights during the Arctic roundtable in Oulu, Finland, in December 2014

Market Director Malcolm Sjödahl, Ramboll Sweden, shares his insights during the Arctic roundtable in Oulu, Finland, in December 2014

Future development in the European part of the Arctic largely depends on large-scale infrastructure investments such as ports, rail, road, airports and power grid connections. However, while proper infrastructure technology is readily available for deployment in the Arctic, financing has not yet been forthcoming. Many of these projects are transnational in nature, making it difficult to find common ground on funding across borders.

Political leadership is key

According to Nils Arne Johnsen, Arctic Director at Ramboll, the region needs to consider new measures such as international public-private partnerships to drive infrastructure progress.

- Technology is not the main challenge in the Arctic. The need for political leadership and willingness to finance cross-border projects is the main issue. In particular, the planning processes for these projects have historically been conducted without a sufficiently international scope. Public-private partnerships were discussed as a possible solution to financing these initiatives, but this is a complex area that calls for cross-border collaboration, says Nils Arne Johnsen.

Hosted by Ramboll in Oulu on 2 and 3 December 2014, the roundtable was attended by 33 key stakeholders including financiers, key policymakers across the Nordic countries, transportation authorities, contractors, and community leaders.

- The roundtable discussions concluded that we need to define a coherent vision for future Arctic development. The societies in the Arctic are small, and the suggested new sea routes as well as rail and road connections are expected to contribute to the development of these societies. We will follow up with relevant government bodies to present the main findings from the roundtable and help facilitate progress in this region, Nils Arne Johnsen adds.

First stepping stone

Mikael Anzén attended the roundtable as Vice Chairman of the Arctic Council's Sustainable Development Working Group on behalf of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He agreed that the roundtable was an important first step.

- It was great to meet a wide range of regional stakeholders with different backgrounds, interests, and challenges for a serious discussion about medium- and long-term Arctic development ambitions. The roundtable was the first stepping stone for achieving a common mindset and a much-needed shared approach, Mikael Anzén explains.

Leading the way in the Arctic

With over 30 years of Arctic project experience, and 470 professionals on the ground, Ramboll is the leading engineering and consultancy company in the Arctic. Based on this professional expertise, Ramboll is committed to setting the public agenda and facilitating open dialogue between Arctic stakeholders to drive growth across the region.

This latest event follows a Ramboll-hosted roundtable discussion in Tromsø, Norway in October 2013 which focused on sustainable Arctic development.

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