— Why are you at Arctic Circle?
I am the busy bee here – I am doing about six interviews with participants and I observe what takes place at this arena for my PHD. I off course therefore try to go to as many sessions as possible, hopefully meeting new people to interview for my PhD which I am one year into.
— What is the talk on town about this years Arctic Circle?
There are no breaking news, but this years hype is how to govern an ice free Arctic ocean.
— Are there things you can’t miss?
The US-Russia break-out session is a ‘must go’ for anyone interested in regional cooperation and development. These two states are known to disagree, but they find common ground for cooperation in the Arctic. It is quite impressive how this remains a region of peace and stability. Secondly - developments in ocean governance. With today’s emphasis on the Blue Economy and the talks about potential changes in international law as a result of the melting polar ice, these are sessions might have an impact on policy-developments.
— This is a lot! How do you make sure that you get notes from everything?
I actually brought my own research assistant to make SURE I can cope with the tight time schedule.
— Klaus Dodds and Duncan Depledge talk about Arctic Circle as an “unregulated marketplace”. Do you agree with them that Arctic Circle blurs the line between governance and dialogue?
Yes! What often happens at such informal forums can have broader significance because people are not constrained with formalities of what can and cannot be discussed. Another benefit is that these conferences are arenas that are open for everyone. There are no excluded parties, compared to Arctic Council meetings. Everyone can participate in debates and discussions at Arctic Circle, which is you can see in the program.
Also, Arctic Circle and Arctic conferences is a marketplace in the sense that different states and actors compete for attention, the best session slots, and are eager to promote their view on their Arctic. That’s why I talk about it as a show in my blog.
— There are many discussions ‘behind the scenes’ where Arctic Circle is compared to the Tromsø-based Arctic Frontiers. Are we talking real tensions here or is it just rumours?
Yes, I think there is a real tension between these two conferences. They are obviously very similar in both their format and the speakers they wish to attract, as well as participants. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these are competing arenas to be the largest and most important gathering on Arctic issues.
— So what are the main differences between Arctic Circle and Arctic Frontiers then?
In my research, one hypothesis about the conferences main function is that Arctic Frontiers is more a channel for the Arctic states. In particular for Norway. Also, Arctic Frontiers is supportive of the workings of the Arctic Council. It can therefore be said to be an arena for those on the ‘inside’ of the Arctic political system, or established actors if you will. The Arctic Circle on the other hand, was established as a democratic platform for all with an interest in the region. In political science we would call this a pluralistic arena, with the co-existence of a variety of actors, interests, principles, and ideas.
— Final last words before Arctic Circle begins?
I am super stoked and ready to network!
PhD candidate in political science at UiT – The arctic university of Norway
Research fellow in the Arctic Governance research group.
Explores the role of Arctic conferences within the Arctic governance system, as a hybrid between policy, science and dialogue.
Photo: Bjørn Hatteng