Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 473

  Commentary THE WEST NORDIC COUNCIL AND THE ARCTIC Unnur Bra Konradsdóttir & Egill Thor Nielsson The global Arctic has arrived. At the Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Sweden last year it was decided to welcome new observer states, so from now on China, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, together with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, are in concert with the United States, Russia and other Arctic countries in a constructive dialogue on the future of the Arctic. The Arctic has, in economic and political terms, truly become a new frontier. Its development will increasingly have implications internationally with regard to globalization, economic progress, environmental protection, energy exploration and international security. This year alone, the historic transformation of the Arctic is discussed at conferences focused exclusively on Arctic affairs in locations as diverse as Prince George, Washington D.C., Reykjavík, Brussels, Murmansk, Shanghai and Seoul. The Arctic is a huge region, covering more than 1/6 of the Earth’s landmass and estimated to hold about 1/5 of the planet’s remaining natural resources. Its inhabitants form an important Arctic identity. However, it embraces many separate areas with their own set of local priorities and issues. One such Arctic unity is the West Nordic region, consisting of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which has, at times, been somewhat overlooked by Arctic observers. The West Nordic region is considerably significant in Arctic terms. Due to Greenland’s vastness, it covers over 20% of the Arctic’s landmass and is home to 10% of the over four million Arctic inhabitants. The three nations all have well-educated and young workforces, as well as being rich Unnur Bra Konradsdóttir is President of the West Nordic Council (2013-2014) and an Icelandic Member of Parliament. Egill Thor Nielsson is Special Advisor to the West Nordic Council and Executive Secretary of the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center