This week started for me in a very Arctic way and I don't mean the cold winds and snow which have reached also Helsinki during the last weekend. On Monday I participated in the meeting of the Advisory Committee of Arctic Region in the House of Estates situated in the heart of Helsinki. The main task of the members of Committee appointed by Finland's Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen is to follow, comment, evaluate and support the purposes and measures addressed in Finland's Arctic Strategy 2013. The Committee contains three kinds of delegates:
1) officials of all ministries, 2) representatives of private business, civic organizations and northern municipalities, 3) and ten specialists working at universities and research centers. I suppose that I had a double role; as a professor and specialist of Arctic social, cultural and historical issues, and as a Lapland-born citizen who is living in Helsinki and working at the University of Eastern Finland. At least I have a nationwide view to the issues in question.
On Tuesday I continued my Arctic path and participated in the meeting of the Arctic Society of Finland which has been established last year. That meeting took place in the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) in Helsinki. The most exciting moment of the session was the publication of the logo of our Society: The logo contains a symbolic blue A and black Polar Circle around it. In addition we heard two presentations; the Arctic Ambassador of Finland Hannu Halinen opened the main lines of Finland's new Arctic Strategy 2013. He stressed that we do have many challenges and much work to do before we will achieve the goals which Finnish Government (with the strong support of the President) has set to authorities, reference groups and researchers.
After Halinen's presentation, PhD Harri Mikkola from the FIIA gave a slightly cynic view on the recent position of Finland in the global Arctic playground. Because we are not a shore state of the Arctic Ocean, our fate will be to catch only tiny crumbs from the table set of The Bigs, that is to say, the most aggressive Norway, new energy sources searching Russia and Arctic Canada. Maybe, after 20-30 years, Finland has a good position as a connector - but we will get this niche possibility only if we are working in a very proactive way.
From my expert point of view, I would say that our present strategies and plans dealing with the Northern/Arctic regions have, so far, not emphasized enough - on the changing living conditions and wellbeing of local peoples in the North facing global and increasing demands for natural resources. It is also unclear to regional actors how they will benefit from all these new efforts and developments. If the huge multinational companies which are already present in Lapland (mines), strengthen and broaden their activity, will Lappish peoples - but also Finland as a state - loose the possibility to define what is good for us and what is undesirable for our unique environment, and our cultural and historical values as well.
So, let's be more active and take apart discussions on the European and Finnish Arctic before it is not too late!
See the Finland's Arctic Strategy and discussions: www.arcticfinland.fi
Join to the Arctic Society of Finland here: www.arktinenseura.yhdistysavain.fi