The 14th Northern Forum General Assembly, held on April 28-29, 2021 in Naryan-Mar (Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia), unanimously elected Mika Riipi, the Governor of Lapland (Finland), the new Chair of the Northern Forum.
The Governor of Nenets Autonomous Okrug Yuri Bezdudny and the Mayor of Akureyri (Iceland) Asthildur Sturludottir were elected the Vice-Chairs.
For objective reasons, since 2011 the NF chairmanship has rotated among the Russian regions: Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Krasnoyarsk Krai, Nenets Autonomous Okrug. In 2009-2012, the organization went through a rather grave crisis, when its membership shrank considerably. The relocation of the NF headquarters from Anchorage (Alaska, USA) to Yakutsk (Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Russia), as well as the measures taken to ensure its financial stability and boost project activity, stabilized the situation, which allowed a number of regions to resume their membership.
Quite predictably, most of the NF current members are Russian regions. At the same time, we are very grateful to the Municipality of Akureyri (Iceland) and to Gangwon Province (Republic of Korea) for their commitment to the mission of the Northern Forum and supporting the organization both in its best years and during the crisis, and to the State of Alaska (USA) and Lapland Province for resuming their membership in the NF in 2016.
Electing Lapland the chairing region in the year of the Northern Forum’s 30th Anniversary breaks new ground in the organization’s history. Lapland played a key role in the elaboration of the Northern Forum Development Strategy until 2030 and, as the chairing region, gets an excellent opportunity of implementing it, taking into account that the 14th General Assembly adopted the Action Plan for the Strategy’s implementation.
Most likely, Lapland’s chairmanship in the Northern Forum will prioritize the expansion of membership and business cooperation, strengthening the structure and securing the stability of the organization, creation of a financial instrument to support project activity, development of youth movement and stronger regional voice in the global international agenda.
Work to strengthen the Northern Forum’s appeal to the interested regions and businesses and to involve most, if not all, regions of the Circumpolar Arctic and the North in international cooperation will continue, which will allow the Northern Forum to become a true partner of the Arctic Council and to make a significant contribution to the sustainable development of the Arctic.
Since 2009, Lapland Chamber of Trade and Commerce has held the Arctic Business Forum, which can become an excellent platform for the interaction of the Arctic business circles with the world.
When elaborating the NF Development Strategy, it was proposed to form the new elements in the organization’s structure, such as the institute of the Northern Forum Ambassadors, the Association of Interregional Cooperation Pioneers, the Expert Council, the Project Office. The implementation of these initiatives has begun, and major efforts will be required in the nearest future to create an extensive network of growth points and strongholds, and to significantly strengthen the Secretariat.
12 working groups have been established for project activities, but their work primarily depends on the available funding. Despite its tight budget, the Northern Forum announced two Calls for Projects and allocated small grants to support the projects. A permanent financial instrument is required - the Northern Forum Foundation, as well as the Project Office and the Expert Council, which will allow to take the project activity to a new level and develop projects beneficial to the engaged regions.
Youth movement is expanding in almost all international organization of the Arctic. New generation is coming, new leaders are entering the arena, who will assume responsibility for the destiny of the Arctic and the North. Extensive and diversified efforts are required in specialist training; interregional cooperation within the international organization may facilitate the consolidation and coordination of combined efforts, create quality information and education environment in collaboration with such partners as the University of the Arctic, the Association of North-East Asia Regional Governments, and other.
Established in 2020, the Northern Youth Forum may become one of the major associations to support and select gifted youth from different regions.
Previously, the Northern Forum had larger focus on the interaction with major interregional associations of the world, bringing the voice of northern regions to the highest level. Restoration of the UN Observer status, partnership with the Forum of Regional Governments and Global Associations of Regions, establishment of cooperation with UNESCO, signing agreements with international organizations interested in northern regional cooperation also make the organization’s short- and mid-term tasks.
We welcome the chairmanship of Lapland and express our confidence that all plans will be implemented ahead of schedule.