The Seminar entitled “Strengthening Region-building through Multilevel Governance and Interregional Cooperation: Urban Sustainability through the Arctic Mayors Forum: Part 1” was jointly organized by the UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Hokkaido University Arctic Research Center, Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, ArCS II (International Relations) project, the Human Resource Development Platform for Japan-Russia Economic Cooperation and Personnel Exchange (HaRP), UArctic Thematic Network on the Arctic in Asia, Asia in the Arctic, and UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Law. The seminar was organized as a pre-event to the Arctic Spirit Conference 2021.
The Seminar was inaugurated at 10 a.m. and consisted of two parts. The first part was an academic session, and the second part was a roundtable discussion joined by academics and stakeholders, including mayors and representatives from key Arctic cities. First, the inauguration speech was given by Dr. Aileen A. Espiritu (Researcher at the Barents Institute and the lead of Thematic Network on the Arctic in Asia and Asia in the Arctic) and Juha Saunavaara (Assistant Professor, Hokkaido University Arctic Research Center). After that, five academic presentations followed by a roundtable discussion were held.
The first presentation was given by Professor Kamrul Hossain (Director of the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre), where he focused on issues related to Arctic governance from legal perspectives. He analyzed how informational, cooperative, and regulatory frameworks contribute to a broader approach to meaningful and effective Arctic governance. He highlighted the existing institutional structures within the Arctic, from global to local, and their potentials for addressing diverse challenges facing the region.
The following presentation was given online by Ms. Nadezhda Filimonova (Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Massachusetts). The title of her presentation was: “Making Local Voices Heard in the Arctic Council: Lessons from Municipal Networks and Sister City Partnerships in the Arctic.” She emphasized the level of Arctic urbanization among Indigenous communities and the characteristic features of Arctic cities. She also discussed polar city networks and sister city partnerships as an effective tool to promote friendly cooperation in the urban regional governance in the Arctic. She ended up with recommendations concerning the need for increased interactions and dialogues with the Arctic Council and sharing knowledge through the existing networks for a better life for the local and Indigenous people inhabiting the region.
The next speaker Ms. Kat Hodgson (a Ph.D. Research Fellow at the UiT- The Arctic University of Norway) gave her presentation on “Human security and the Arctic cities.” In her presentation, she pointed to climate change as an international human security threat for the Arctic. Her recommendations suggest that a bottom-up approach, making sure that those most affected are given the space to participate in the decision-making and have their voices heard, is the way forward to better tackle regional challenges.
The fourth presenter was Prof. Agatino Rizzo (Chair Professor of the Architecture Luleå University of Technology), whose presentation title was “Urban development in territories of Extraction,” where he discussed current urban policies in the Arctic cities. He explained the territorializing, de-territorializing and re-territorializing of the Arctic cities from a social perspective. Additionally, in his talk, he integrated an analysis of smart city discourse, and by using the example of Kiruna (Sweden) city, he elaborated the concept of moving city syndrome. Finally, Professor Robert W. Orttung, (Research Director at the George Washington University Sustainability Collaborative and Associate Research Professor of International Affairs at GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs) spoke on Arctic Urban Sustainability. He discussed the Arctic cities analyzing several indicators to measure their sustainability. In addition, he showed the characteristics of sustainable cities in the light of ISO certification. At the end of the academic session, an interactive discussion with questions and answers and insightful remarks took place, offering much food for thoughts to be further discussed in Part II of this conference to take place in Tromso, Norway, in January 2022.
The roundtable discussion took place in the afternoon for approximately two hours, where among others, the following representatives actively took part: from Arctic Mayors Forum Secretariat in Akureyri Ms. Ásthildur Sturludóttir; Rovaniemi ex-Mayor Mr. Esko Lotvonen; Oulu Ms. Anne Rännäli-Kontturi; Umeå Ms. Cathrin Alenskär; and Vice Chair of the AC SDWG from Iceland Ms. Sólrún Svandal). The roundtable was inaugurated by video messages from Arctic and northern cities. The participants engaged in dialogues under four themes, and provided their valuable opinion on strengthening local and city governance frameworks to tackle many distinct challenges facing the region's population, non-comparable with other populations in the non-Arctic areas of the Arctic countries. In addition, they highlighted issues related to strengthened cross-border collaboration through the Arctic Mayors’ forum, people-to-people engagement, exchanges and participation of stakeholders and local communities in international forums, building relationships with the Arctic Council to share local voices, etc. The event was successful, as it was an endeavor offering insightful information for participants and the audience on various aspects for strengthening region-building through multilevel governance and interregional cooperation. In addition, the event created an avenue to continue further discussions on this crucial theme.