– To make you stay - you should also have something to say

– We are talking about human lives. It's just not business and energy. It's the future of humanity and the world.

Arctic Connections in Rome 2021Arctic Connections: The opening panel during Arctic Connections in Rome in October 2021. From left: Norwegian Ambassador to Italy, Johan Vibe, Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of State - Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, President of SIOI and Arne O. Holm, Editor in Chief, High North News. Photo: Hogne Bø Pettersen/High North Center

These were the words of Franco Frattini, President of SIOI during his welcome speech at the end of October when he opened the conference Arctic Connections at the end of October. 

United Nations​

SIOI is the Italian Association for the United Nations​ (UNA Italy). Thanks to an agreement between the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Rome and the High North Center, and with the sponsorship of Eni Spa, SIOI organized the International Symposium, “Arctic Connections: Italy and Norway in the Arctic between cooperation and future challenges”, on September 18th, 2018. The conference also took place in 2019 and now this October. The theme of this year’s conference was “Sustainable Development in the Arctic how do we succeed?”

During the opening panel we had presentations from Frattini, Johan Vibe, Ambassador of Norway to Italy, Bernedetto Della Vedova, undersecretary of state – Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Morten Høglund, Norwegian Senior Arctic Official and Arne O. Holm, editor in chief at High North News. 

– Nothing about us, without us​​

– We must not exaggerate the potential for conflict, said Høglund about the relationship between Norway and Russia. 

– We have common interests that can only be met in cooperation with the Russians. And the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt and her Russian colleague is meeting right now. 

"The EU said they want Arctic nations to stop their search for oil, coal, and gas"

Arne O. Holm said that he had just returned from an Arctic conference in Iceland where 54 nations were present. 

– The catchword was "Nothing about us, without us", he said. 

Industrial competence: Monica Paulsen of Helgeland Kunnskapspark talked about industrial presence in the High North is a great addition to geopolitical stability​. Photo: Hogne Bø Pettersen/High North Center

– This goes to show important the Arctic is for the whole world. However, the dialogue between the EU, USA and Russia is now close to non-existent. Last week the EU said they want Arctic nations to stop their search for oil, coal, and gas. This means they will have to buy more oil and gas from Russia in the future. At the same time, the US is now more involved with Arctic affairs than they they've been in a very long time. This shows how important dialogue about these issues are.

The Northern Sea Route a new Suez?​​

This panel was followed by another panel called “The Energy Transition in the Arctic Towards a Greener Future”. It was moderated by Bård Borch Michalsen, Vice Rector at The Arctic University in Tromsø and the panellists were: Manfred Hafner, Geopolitics and the Energy Transition – Get Programme Director, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Monica Paulsen, General Manager of Kunnskapsparken Helgeland, Matteo Chiesa, Professor, Arctic Centre for Sustainable Energy (ARC), Arctic University of Norway. 

The panel talked about the possibilities of sustainable economic development. Monica Paulsen highlighted that the High North has a rich access to renewable energy, a high industrial competence that is already using renewable energies and that our presence in the North is a great addition to geopolitical stability. 

Hybrid: The Arctic Connections conference was attended both physicall at SIOI's HQ as well as online. Photo: Hogne Bø Pettersen/High North Center

Manfred Hafner pointed to how the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal in their days had revolutionised cargo transport. He said that now that the Northern Sea Route would be ice free, the amount of cargo being transported there would quadruple. It will also shorten transportation time from Japan to the West with 40%. 

Tribute to the common man​

The second day of the conference started with an introduction from High North News editor in chief, Arne O. Holm, who showed a video that summarised his High North Tour from last winter. 

– I wanted to meet the people in the High North of Norway. I wanted to move away from sterile press conferences held in Oslo. The Arctic is about the people living there. And I wanted unfiltered opinions from the common man. 

This resulted in Arne interviewing over 50 people, who Arne described as “the cogs that move the machinery”. 

And as Arne said: – We do not lack jobs, we are lacking people.​​


​The EU impressed by Norway​​

Bård Borch Michalsen returned as the moderator for the panel “Youth: The future of the Arctic”. The panel boasted Michael Mann, EU Ambassador at Large for the Arctic, Massimo Mapelli, Journalist, La7, Ingvild Brox Kielland, Advisor at Sparebank1 Nord-Norge, Tromsø, Nicole Natalie Furnes, Bodø, student, member of the government’s youth committee for Norway’s High North strategy and Tommaso Murè, Advisor, G7/G20 Office, Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

"I wanted unfiltered opinions from the common man​"

Michael Mann picked up on Arne’s words from the day before about the EU and its role in the Arctic.  He said EU is in the Arctic and has high stakes both in the European Arctic and other areas of Arctic. 

– And we were impressed on how Norway included the youth in the work on the new High North Strategy. We in the EU did not do this but did use ad-hoc outreach to the youth. And we will do this more concrete in the future, in the dialogue with indigenous people and the population in the Arctic. Our Arctic policy will be to put people first

– This is real life 

Masssimo Mapelli talked about Greta Thunberg and her trip across the sea in a sailing boat, and talked about all the criticism she gets. He was also in the Arctic a few years ago to do a documentary about the region. 

– We did it long before a lot of the EU started to care about the Arctic. The polar regions show beforehand what will happen when the climate changes in the rest of the world. It’s like a litmus test.  

His documentary was about the people of Greenland. They are not only losing nature and resources, but also their culture and their social fabric. 

– Global warming for these areas is not a concept. It's real life and it's happening right now 

Ingrid Brox Kielland talked about why a bank should get involved in conferences like this. 

Voice of youthNicole Natalie Furnes, Bodø, student, member of the government’s youth committee for Norway’s High North strategy. Photo: Hogne Bø Pettersen/High North Center

–We hired researchers and sought out 100 regular young adults between 18 and 34. We wanted to know what matters to them. Our customers must stay in in the North. Over 300 wanted to take part and they came from all walks of life, professions etc. We found that while young people are proud of our nature, they are very urban. And they are proud of our technological advances.  

Nicole Natalie Furnes, Bodø, student, member of the government’s youth committee for Norway’s High North strategy reminded us that Arctic is more than oil, natural resources. 

– It’s people. And it’s through people and culture that we harness our assets and become attractive. The northern most counties are lacking a work force, but the economy is great.  

​​The Elders don’t know any longer

The last panel was moderated by Carmine Robustelli, Special Envoy for the Arctic, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. It was called “Climate Change, environmental issues and new business opportunities in the Arctic.” 

"It’s through people and culture that we harness our assets and become attractive"

The panellists were Raphaël Goulet, Head of Unit in DG MARE for Ocean Governance, Law of the Sea and Arctic Policy, European Commission, Bruno Versini, Direttore Generale, e-Geos, Grammenos Mastrojeni, Senior Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Carlo Barbante, Director, Institute of Polar Sciences, National Council of Research and Ola Gråbak, EO Application Engineer in the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, ESA

The panel’s focus was on the fact that over 4 million people live in the Arctic and that there are untapped resources. And the phrase “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic” was repeated quite a lot.

This was really underlined by Ola Gråbak, who gave a very impressive demonstration on how to use satellites to see what's going on in the Arctic. 

Ambassador's residence: The Norwegian Embassy invited the conference participants to the Ambassador's residence in Rome. From left: Monica Paulsen, Helgeland Kunnskapspark, Johan Vibe, Norwegian Ambassador to Italy, Benedikte Kosmo Underland, advisor High North Center, Arne O. Holm, Editor in Chief High North News and Marianne Krey-Jacobsen, diplomat at the Norwegian embassy. Photo: Hogne Bø Pettersen/High North Center.

– The natives can no longer rely on the expertise of the elders, because things are changing so fast that the old signs in nature of when it’s time to fish, when it’s time to harvest and so on no longer exist. Satellites can also be used to monitor the ice, both for iceberg warnings as well as monitoring the reduction of ice. 

The conference displayed how important it is to keep developing a sustainable living for people in the Arctic. It also emphasized how important it is to keep the young engaged and involved in the development of the region.

Nicole Natalie Furnes even created a slogan for this:

– To make you stay - you should also have something to say.

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