International Cooperation for Arctic Prosperity
By Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation
Today, the Arctic is a region with well-established fruitful interaction that is progressively developing despite the international complexities. None of the Arctic Council’s eighty projects have been closed, and we have much to be proud of.
The financial mechanism of the Arctic Council Project Support Instrument has been launched, an agreement to establish the Arctic Coast Guard Forum has been reached, the dialogue among the Supreme Audit Institutions of the Arctic states has commenced, the drafting of an agreement on international scientific cooperation in the Arctic is underway. In addition, the Arctic Economic Council has been established recently which also contributes to effectively addressing the pressing issues facing the region.
The Arctic states have managed to combine their efforts in elaborating and implementing a positive, unifying and future-oriented agenda largely due to the constructive work performed by the Arctic Council, a unique forum which is not divided into “clubsˮ. Its decisions are adopted by consensus and take into account the vital interests of all Arctic states with no exception. We are convinced that the experience of the Arctic Council can be also applied successfully in other regions of the world.
Russia has always considered the Arctic as a territory of mutually respectful dialogue. We are convinced that all the necessary conditions for enhancing this dialogue have been established: international law clearly defines the rights of both coastal and other states. We are strongly committed to resolving any disputes through civilized negotiations.
We hope that our Arctic Council colleagues are aware of the danger of assuming confrontational approaches and importing tensions as well. Effective solutions for preserving the unique Arctic environment, improving the well-being of the inhabitants of the Far North, including that of the indigenous peoples, ensuring the responsible use of rich natural resources for the benefit of all Arctic states can be, apparently, found only on the basis of true partnership. In this regard, we note with satisfaction that the Arctic Council Ministerial Declaration of April 2015 in Canada reaffirmed our countries’ commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation, and to respond jointly to new opportunities and challenges in the Arctic.
We are open to joint implementation of large-scale projects in the region, including in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation. This refers, in particular, to the development of oil and gas fields, the use of the Northern Sea Route as the shortest cargo transit route between Europe and Asia, and the development of industrial, transport and tourist infrastructure. We have always believed that the economic development of the Arctic should be pursued in compliance with the highest environmental standards, and with due respect for the people living in that region and the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous peoples.
We are pleased to acknowledge the first important steps taken in this direction. We have concluded the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, and adopted the Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic as well as the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan that provides a framework for protecting Arctic ecosystems. Intensive work on preserving biodiversity is being continued.
“Effective solutions can be found only on the basis of true partnership.” The Arctic states bear the primary responsibility for the situation in the region. At the same time, in order to ensure sustainable development of the Arctic – first of all, through addressing trans-regional issues – it is necessary to engage other international actors as well. Both Arctic and non-Arctic states have taken part in the implementation of the Arctic Council’s Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions, which is an example of successful joint efforts aimed at finding the best ways to address the challenge of global warming. We should actively encourage such forms of international collaboration in the region.
Russia will continue to provide comprehensive assistance to strengthening mutually beneficial and equal partnership in the region and expand it to new areas of international relations. The Arctic is our common home, so it is our direct responsibility to preserve it for the present and future generations.