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Dorothea Wehrmann: The Arctic Council will continue to play a leading role in arctic governance

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Dorothea Wehrmann, Researcher at The German Development Institute

Dorothea Wehrmann is a researcher at The German Development Institute. Her current research project is "Collaboration across Borders", focusing on aid effectiveness, the 2030 Agenda, networks of international and transnational partnerships and private sector engagement.

The Arctic Council will continue to play a leading role in arctic governance

1. As the Arctic permafrost further melts, diseases hidden under the permafrost may gradually appear in human society. What preventive actions and response measures can we take?

While the current pandemic may cause a greater focus on the origins of diseases, melting permafrost is for various reasons a problem in and beyond the Arctic (e.g. sealed methane is increasingly released and thereby heavily contributing to global warming and due to soil erosion, villages in the Arctic need to be relocated). Preventive actions foremost need to focus on the causes of melting permafrost and thus on the fight against climate change. Response measures – in terms of adaptation investments – should focus primarily on those that are already directly affected (the people living in the Arctic).

2. In the future, what role will the Arctic Council play in Arctic governance, especially in the governance of non-traditional security?

Will the Arctic Council play a leading role in Arctic governance?The Arctic Council is widely considered a success-forum, the number of actors contributing to the AC constantly increasing and its output (especially the scientific reports of its working groups) is informing policy making at all levels. At least in Europe, much media attention is paid to this years’ Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting. Yes, I think, the AC will continue playing a leading role in Arctic governance. Hard security questions will most likely continue to be discussed elsewhere.

3. As the pandemic has brought huge economic and social impacts to mankind, to what extent will the scientific research work in the Arctic be affected?

During the pandemic, what are the opportunities and challenges of working in the Arctic?Research in the Arctic has been heavily affected by the pandemic. Due to the travel restrictions, social scientists, for example, could not conduct qualitative on-site field work. Even researchers living in Arctic countries could not travel from the southern parts to the northern parts. E-meetings worked in some cases and are in general a good opportunity to minimize the number of flights. E-meetings, however, require a functioning technical infrastructure and trust, which are not always a given, especially not in projects that just started. As a consequence, some research projects had to adjust their research questions, worked with existing data (did more desk research) or postponed their field work. This caused that research objectives were not achieved and the respective knowledge gaps continue to remain.

4. Arctic affairs is one of the important concerns in Europe. In the future, what role should Europe play in Arctic affairs , especially in pandemic and developmental issues?

The EU should continue its existing work in the region – especially its support for research activities, which are vital for gaining a better understanding of the complex regional processes of change and represent a major contribution by the EU to transnational cooperation in the Arctic. The EU should also promote forums that contribute to a pan-regional dialogue involving local actors and institutions in order to advise on challenges on a transnational basis and devise potential solutions to problems in an inclusive way.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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