The necessity for establishing a stable governance and dialogue mechanism for the Arctic was highlighted at the seventh Arctic Circle Assembly opened in Reykjavik on Thursday.
The Arctic Circle Secretariat has convened its annual assembly every October since 2013 with an aim to offer a broader platform for various Arctic partners to interact and reach the public in an efficient way.
The assembly is reportedly the largest Arctic event, attended by heads of state and governments, ministers, members of parliaments, officials, experts, business leaders, environmentalists and others, who are interested in the future of the Arctic. This year’s gathering has attracted 2,000 participants from 60 countries.
Speaking at the Opening of the Assembly, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir emphasised the importance of setting up a specific Arctic forum that could deal with hard security, territorial disputes or the exploitation of natural resources.
Iceland is currently the chairman of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body established in 1996 that includes eight countries within the region.
Joining her Icelandic counterpart in the opening, Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne underscored the importance of adopting a multilateral approach to the Arctic. “Like elsewhere, the logic of power balance and spheres of interest creates tensions and we do not want this in the Arctic,” he said.
China’s Special Representative for Arctic Affairs Gao Feng expounded on the vision of a Polar Silk Road that could be developed jointly to “together contribute to the brilliant future of the Arctic and Asia.”
At a Questions and Answers session, Gao and South Korean Ambassador for Arctic Affairs Kwon Sei-Joong both highlighted the need for a stable Arctic governance system, which should include all Arctic stakeholders and be able to discuss security and strategic matters, the Arctic Circle official Twitter account said.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry was quoted as saying that tomorrow belongs to the North and “the future belongs to the free.” He also highlighted the importance of technological development.
Swedish Crown Princess Victoria emphasised the role of science in decision-making on the Arctic. She stressed the need to make the right decisions and to base them on knowledge and to “act accordingly.”
Chairman of the Arctic Circle Assembly and former Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said that the future of the Arctic cannot be determined “unless we have an open, democratic and transparent dialogue on the future.”