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Permafrost summit, more navigation on the North Sea Route, and better living standards: what to expect for the Arctic

10 декабря 2020

Russia is to take over the rotating chair of the Arctic Council in May 2021. In the next two years, our country will be spearheading the effort to improve the quality of life and tackle environmental issues in the region. The other priority will be to promote navigation on the North Sea Route. Among the ideas on the table, there is the proposition to stage a World Permafrost Summit in 2023.

Russia is slated to take over the rotating chair of the Arctic Council in May 2021. Established pursuant to the 1996 Ottawa Declaration, the Arctic Council is a ministerial-level intergovernmental forum tasked with promoting cooperation in the region with a special focus on environment protection. The eight Arctic Council members rotate chairmanship of the organisation every two years. The current members are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

Russia is taking over from Iceland. The Ambassador of Iceland in Russia Arni Thor Sigurdsson thinks the Arctic chair will be in good hands. 'We have a long history of working together successfully. We look forward to seeing Russia's ambitious programme in action. We expect Russia's chairmanship to be an exciting time for all of us on account of Russia's strong role', Thor Sigurdsson said, speaking at the international forum, Days of Arctic and Antarctic in Moscow.

For its part, the Russian side has promised to resolve a broad range of issues, the primary concern being the quality of life in the region.

'As part of our chairmanship on the Arctic Council, we plan to emphasise the body's socio-economic agenda. <...> It is the agenda dedicated to raising the quality of life and improving longevity in a region with unique natural and climatic features that impact human health directly. <...> Medicine is an important part of all this. One lesson we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that international cooperation and mutual assistance are essential in these matters. During Russia's chairmanship, we will have to try and find ways to strengthen collaboration in healthcare by any means available, including the promotion of telemedicine', said Alexander Krutikov, First Deputy Minister of the Russian Federation for the Development of the Far East.

One of Russia's ambitious aspirations is to raise the profile of the Arctic Council during its time as its chair. A number of initiatives are in the works to achieve that objective. One of them concerns further development of the North Sea Route. Russia will be working to make the North Sea Route a more appealing navigation option. According to Krutikov, the North Sea Route (NSR) requires colossal investment in infrastructure. But when it comes to investing, much depends on international partnership. 'We hope that the Arctic Region nations will join us on the NSR project', the Deputy Minister added.

Russia also plans to come forward with the initiative of strengthening the role of the Coast Guard forces. There are also plans to build an international research station in the Arctic, which Russia intends to build on its own account. 

Russia will be promoting the idea of an International Development Fund for the Arctic. The contributory fund would help to finance economic improvements in full compliance with the environmental protection requirements.

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