Security, Governance and Geopolitics in Arctic Extractive Industries
From October 13th to October 19th, 2017, the Uarctic Thematic network "Arctic Extractive Industries" held a masters/Phd course on the topic of Security, Governance and Geopolitics in relation to Arctic Extractive Industries. This time the organizers invited participants to Iceland. The course brought together students and faculty from Arctic universities and research centers from 10 different countries. The program came in three stages:
Firstly, everybody had the chance to participate in the Arctic Circle Assembly, a large international forum which took place in Reykjavik. The students had assigned sessions according to the course topics, which then in the second part of the course formed the basis for discussion, analysis and exchange of opinions on security, governance and geopolitics in the Arctic. The Arctic Circle Assembly was perfect 'raw material' for these debates, with its multiple presentations from government officials, science, industry and international organisations. The goal was to form the participants knowledge and opinion through the presentations of different players in the Arctic.
Secondly, the students presented their own work and exposed it to scrutiny by the present staff and fellow-participants. We were pleased to see how the work of participants who had completed two or three courses at the post-graduate school had evolved, showing that the programme in general was beneficial.
As a last wrap-up, we held discussions under the leadership of faculty to see how this ties in to the current tendencies in Arctic governance, security and geopolitics on all levels from the local village in the Arctic all the way to the United Nations.
From a scholarly point of view, it was most interesting to follow topical issues such as: what is security in all its facets in the Arctic, the role of science in Arctic geopolitics, track one and track two diplomacy, the role of China in Arctic governance, the future of the Arctic Council and the role of state and non-state actors in it. But, also how good scholarship can help solving specific problems of the indigenous and local people in the Arctic, as well as how industry can take better into account the interests of indigenous people.
In past courses, this programme had set itself not only professional tasks, but also social ones. We continued this line also in Iceland, facilitating the meeting of the future scholarly elite in Arctic Studies with each other, to exchange ideas and make friends. Excursions are particularly useful for this, especially when you can tour the stunning Icelandic North and bath in the famous hot springs. Of course, the excursion was not just entertaining: it was a great idea to organize it around a visit of the Chinese-Icelandic Aurora observatory "CIAO" close to Akureyri under construction. This facility is being built in Iceland with Chinese money, for scientific research in the Arctic. Marc Lanteigne's lectures on the bus set this in very good scene as an example of Chinese track two diplomacy in the Arctic. Afterwards in the waters of hot springs we actively discussed the role of non-Arctic states in Arctic geopolitics, and how honest is Chinese scientific investment for the sake of science and not just for getting access to Arctic resources or transport routes.
Course participants shared the view that both in the classroom and beyond, courses like this are a good opportunity to get a broader understanding of Arctic issues beyond your own narrowly defined topic, expose your work to colleagues and get comments by experienced faculty not only from your own university but all across the Arctic. Now it's up to the students to live up to the expectations and hand in their assignments for the credits :)
Many thanks to our Icelandic hosts at the University of Akureyri, who provided an opportunity to conduct courses in their classrooms and learn and travel in northern Iceland, and the Centre for Peace Studies at UiT The Arctic University of Norway for organizing the course content and programme.
Dr. Gunhild Hoogensen Gjřrv