Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 474

474       Arctic Yearbook 2014 in both offshore and onshore resources. Many of the economic opportunities in the West Nordic Arctic are based on tangible value-creation drawing on raw materials and expertise in industries of global relevance. Potential exists for the further expansion of sectors such as energy, mining, tourism, R&D, transportation, infrastructure, services and seafood. Resource utilization and future societal development in the West Nordic Arctic comply with the Arctic House Rules (a term coined by H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland), which provide for open dialogue, scientific knowledge and indigenous peoples’ participation in the development of Arctic affairs. Regional cooperation between the three West Nordic countries has strong roots. They are each other’s closest neighbors and share many fundamentally similar historical and cultural bonds and natural and economic conditions. In the face of harsh living conditions in small and isolated communities that are highly dependent on their natural surroundings and maritime resources, they have, thanks to the resilience of their inhabitants, built modern societies with high living standards. The West Nordic Council was established in 1985. It is among the oldest pan-Arctic multilateral cooperation mechanisms, spanning three decades of parliamentary cooperation between the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. Arctic affairs have risen to the very top of the West Nordic Council’s agenda and in recent years the Council has focused on important regional issues such as search and rescue, welfare, health, gender, youth, infrastructure, transportation, hunting, tourism and natural resources, including seafood and energy. Increasingly these core issues for the West Nordic area have been coupled with a more outward-oriented vision with regards to the geostrategic importance of the West Nordic Arctic and the vast natural resources of the region. During the last few years, concrete measures have been taken to further the West Nordic Council’s Arctic agenda. These include a recommendation to the national governments to strengthen their co-operation on Arctic issues and to design a common West Nordic Strategy for the Arctic. Next year’s annual theme for the Conference of the Council will be devoted to this topic. A report on Arctic economic cooperation between the three countries has also been produced and the West Nordic Council recently urged the three governments to conclude a West Nordic free trade agreement, thus creating a common economic area to strengthen the regional economy and its export capabilities to global markets. An Arctic push is taking place and it is up to the people in the West Nordic Arctic to decide what we want to do with the vast opportunities in our own area and respond to the prospect of the region’s increasing importance in an evolving world order. As the Arctic Council continues to define its own role and welcomes new partners in the Arctic region, it is of the highest importance that new and old global Arctic players respect the existing Arctic House Rules and that both opportunities and challenges are met in a cooperative and constructive manner. The West Nordic Council has contributed to this process and will continue to do so. This includes welcoming outside partners to the region, while honoring the principle of prudent development of Arctic resources on which the livelihood of the communities depends. Konradsdóttir & Nielsson