Decisions on the development of the Arctic should be given increased attention as its environmental, socio-economic and political circumstances are being significantly influenced by major trends that reinforce and support each other and together are causing long lasting transformations in the region.
Increased strategic interest in the Arctic combined with rapid technological advances and climate change are leading to growing economic activities and natural resource extraction that challenge regional sustainable management and governance practices and international collaboration.
Furthermore, environmental transformations risk being insufficiently accounted for in adaptation planning as environmental assessment application in the Arctic has been limited and monitoring of key environmental parameters has declined or is poorly optimized just when better information is a strong need.
In an effort to better understand the forces behind rapid Arctic transformations and to support key development decisions, a collaborative research project between the Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University has been established.1
The aim of the project is to combine recent frontline research on strategic governance with quantitative analysis of environmental monitoring to develop decision making tools and assessment processes and explore and improve the preconditions for and links between environmental management, policy-relevant monitoring and climate change adaptation strategies in the Arctic.
A context analysis of Arctic institutional and governance frameworks is being carried out, where policies, sustainability objectives, environmental assessment practice, actors, and the effects of climate change are compiled, systematized and synthesized.
Furthermore, a transboundary and participative strategic environmental assessment for information and skill exchange is being developed. Focus is placed on identifying conflicts of interest, gaps of knowledge and uncertainties, and on developing inclusive scenarios of future development possibilities that could be used by different stakeholders to discuss and arrive at shared development visions and objectives for the Arctic.
Results and Discussion
The collaborative research will enable Arctic actors to interact, increase and share information, skills and knowledge, build networks and, by this, develop their capacities. Moreover, experience will be gained in developing transboundary and participative assessment approaches that can be used to arrive at accepted and inclusive scenarios, visions and objectives for the Arctic, facilitating an improved understanding of climate change impacts on sensitive and unique Arctic ecosystems. Most importantly, it is thought that the research project will support decision makers to consider sustainability issues when deciding upon the measures and choices that will shape the future development of the Arctic.2
The proposed collaborative research project serves to develop transboundary and participative assessment approaches and tools to identify strategies towards sustainable development in the Arctic. This is done by creating platforms for stakeholder participation and dialogue where inclusive and accepted development objectives are formulated to address the rapid and profound changes that confront the Arctic. Depending on the results of the Arctic case study, similar transboundary approaches can be applied in other regions where there is a need to involve a plurality of stakeholders to take fair, legitimate and sustainable decisions.
International Polar Year Conference (IPY 2012), "From Knowledge to Action"; Montréal, Canada 22-27 April 2012