Event summary: The Arctic — a Discussion Event on Topical Matters, 3 May 2016

On 3 May 2016 the students of the CBIR programme at the University of Tampere organized a discussion event on the topic of the Arctic. The event was intended to encourge discussion on the Arctic — a complex and dynamically changing region that has recently received significant international attention.

Mr. Futa Ito opened the event to the audience. He was followed by Mr. Reyver Serna, who conducted a quiz to actively engage the audience and test them on their own knowledge of the Arctic. Mr. Ito then returned to the mic to introduce our panelists and open the stage to them.

Dr. Juha Käpylä, from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, first enlightened the audience on the geostrategic aspects of Russia in the Arctic. He discussed external and internal factors that affect Arctic cooperation. He used Russia’s involvement in Ukraine as an example for how external factors can affect Arctic cooperation. For instance, the sanctions regime has limited the ability of Russia to cooperate with Arctic partners.

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On the other hand, there are internal factors as well. Russia’s interests in the Arctic do not always appear to match the interests of other Arctic nations, and thus, cooperation can again be limited.

Next, Dr. Teemu Palosaari, of the Tampere Peace Research Institute, introduced the audience to the environmental issues of the Arctic region. His presentation worked around the question of whether we have the right to infect the region in a pursuit of resources.

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He described the “Arctic Paradox”: by burning oil we get more oil. Meaning, that as we continue to burn oil all around the world, the region most affected by climate change will be the Arctic, and as a result of that, more and more Arctic ice will melt, opening new sources of oil and gas to extraction. Dr. Palosaari concludes that there must be a connection between global problems and climate problems.

Finally, Dr. Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen, of the University of Lapland, covered the topic of indigenous people in the Arctic. She, like Dr. Palosaari, highlighted the effects of climate change on the region. For instance, herding, flooding, and nutrition have all become difficult issues in the north. She argued that the best way for the indigenous peoples to have a say in these issues is for them to have more than just a seat at the Arctic Council table, but to have a voice as well.

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Dr. Sinevaara-Niskanen argued that Finland’s coming presidency in the Arctic Council could be used to give more voice to the indigenous peoples in the Arctic. However, she also reminded that the Finnish state has declined to ratify the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO 169), which would guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples at the level of international law.

Following these presentations there was a short question and answer session where a few members of the audience were able to ask questions to the panelists directly. Finally, the winners of the quiz were announced. The Bears were the winning team, and they were presented with some delicious chocolate bars as a reward.

Summary prepared by Josh Rose
Photos by Jessica Diepenbroek

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