Reykjavík 2015

Engaging cultural heritage when building resilience

Northern Research Forum’s 8th open assembly held in Reykjavik, 14-15 October 2015

The NRF 8th open assembly was held in co-operation with the third annual Trans Arctic Agenda seminar focused on how the Arctic communities can engage their cultural heritage when building resilience.

The seminar consisted of three plenary sessions according to the following themes:

  • Cultural heritage and human resources as part of ´industrial civilization´- case studies of
    para-diplomacy and Indigenous / local knowledge;
  • Representation of Arctic stakeholders and their internal communication;
  • The interplay between science diplomacy, material and immaterial values: How can the
    Arctic be a space / model for peace, sustainability and innovation?

Scientific Highlights of the Discussions in the Seminar

An important precondition for, whether it is possible of slowing down and stopping fossil fuel-based development, particularly when it comes to offshore-drilling, is to redefine cultural heritage, including Indigenous / local (environmental) knowledge, and ‘paradiplomacy’, as part of ‘industrial civilization’. It should also be included ‘sustainable development’, which has lost a part of its credibility as being interpreted as synonymous with economic growth. Instead ‘resilience’ is more valid and flexible meaning situations where institutions are capable of learning and fixing problems by themselves as problems emerge;

There are multiple actors, including extremely important non-state local and regional ones (e.g., the scientific community), directly affected by the results of regional and global processes happening in the Arctic. On every level of the Arctic development, one can hear the voices of these actors, and this multitude of voices found in the Arctic and beyond is crucial. The question is how the voices of different communities are being heard, or not heard, in the public and political discussions. As well as, how do the various stakeholders, such as scholars and scientists, participate in the building of the Arctic futures, and how does this building influence the other actors in the region. It seems that various stakeholders ought to be not only heard, but also carefully listened to by both policy-makers and researchers, and thus, they will participate in the future building;

It is important, even critical, to maintain and further develop the interplay between science and politics, that between scientific knowledge and Indigenous / local knowledge, as well as the interplay between material and immaterial things and values. This supports and promotes high political stability in the Arctic, which is beneficial for science and academia. And other way round, geopolitical stability is a “precondition for sustaining Arctic research”, as the Toyama Conference Statement (2015) states. Following from this, an open trans-discipline and inter-sectoral dialogue, where participants focus on issues, are committed to inclusivity and engage each other is valid and valuable, when there are grand challenges and wicked problems. Early career scientists, such as the NRF Young Researchers, and students are potential forerunners to apply this discourse and academic behaving, which is not necessarily new per se but much needed. Here the Arctic with high political stability can be (re)defined, or interpreted as a common ground or model for (peaceful) international relations, and a global metaphor for (environmental / human) security and regional governance.

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