Picture of the midnight sun at Nordkapp, the Northernmost point in Norway. - Photo:Karl Thomas/Visitnorway.com
Karl Thomas/Visitnorway.com

What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic

What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic – and what happens elsewhere affects the Arctic.

We see this every day in the concern expressed about rising sea levels and marine littering, or the prospects for new shipping routes and economic opportunities.

Norway and Singapore have stepped up their cooperation on Arctic issues ever since Singapore and four other Asian countries – China, India, Japan and South Korea – became observers to the Arctic Council in 2013.

Norway appreciates Singapore’s active contribution on issues ranging from migratory birds to sustainable energy. Watching these birds at Sungei Buloh two weeks after taking up my post as Ambassador of Norway was a moving experience.

We can all benefit from reflecting on how the natural world connects us, and what we individually and collectively can do to protect our planet.

Tromso is the home of the Arctic University of Norway, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment, the secretariat of the Arctic Council, and several other institutions.

Norway, like Singapore, believes in the power of knowledge. When the annual Arctic Frontiers Conference takes place in Tromso this month, Singapore representatives will join 3,000 politicians, business leaders, journalists, researchers, experts, students and non-governmental organisations from all over the world in discussions on the state of the Arctic.

The Arctic is characterised by peace and stability. For decades, the eight Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States of America – have successfully cooperated on specific issues based on common interests and respect for international law.

It is a region where people have lived with and off nature for centuries, where communities have thrived, and where we will continue to make sustainable use of resources, based on the best available science and the highest environmental standards.

An extensive legal governance framework already applies to the Arctic, where most resources and activities fall under the national jurisdiction and sovereign rights of one of the Arctic States.

In all sea areas, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea applies. Unclos – the Constitution of the oceans – establishes clarity and predictability with regard to duties, rights and jurisdiction for all countries.

Non-Arctic states take part in the management of activities in international waters through forums such as the International Maritime Organisation, the International Seabed Authority and regional fisheries mechanisms.

Norway welcomes activities in the Arctic from all countries within this established legal framework.
It believes in effective multilateral cooperation as well as forging bilateral links with longstanding friends such as Singapore.

As climate change opens new prospects for human activity, Arctic states have strengthened cooperation in areas such as search and rescue, marine oil pollution preparedness and response, scientific collaboration and unregulated fishing.

Norway believes that knowledge is essential for sustainable stewardship of the Arctic. This is how we can make use of opportunities while guarding against risks.

In fact, Knowledge For Ocean Sustainability was the theme when we brought together officials, business leaders and academics for the Arctic Conference at the National University of Singapore (NUS) last October. One of the most notable contributions was Professor Benjamin Horton’s warning that we risk seeing even higher sea levels in South-east Asia than previously thought.

Norway is prepared to step up the cooperation based on more than 30 agreements between our universities and research institutes. Promising areas are climate research, innovative technologies for ocean sustainability, maritime engineering and sustainable energy solutions.

In April, the Arctic University of Norway and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology will explore these options together with NUS, Nanyang Technological University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Our respective ocean space centres will also work together, and our decades-long cooperation on maritime technology will continue.

In a few months, the 295m-long “Johan Castberg” oil production and storage vessel currently under construction by Sembcorp Marine will leave the docks in Tuas for the harsh winter conditions in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea.

Here, at 72 deg north, it will be the northernmost offshore oilfield in the world.

Given the fragile environment, it must comply with the highest technical and environmental standards.
In Singapore, Norwegian companies have found competent partners able to build for Arctic conditions.
This illustrates the benefits of working together, developing knowledge and creating value for both our peoples.

No wonder that Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, when she visited in 2016, called Singapore one of Norway’s closest friends in Asia.

We will continue to work closely together in the future based on a shared interest in upholding a rules-based international order, respect for international law and multilateral cooperation.

Written by Ambassador Anita Nergaard.

This op-ed was originally published in the Straits Times, 25 January 2020. Link to article.