The Arctic has attracted increasing attention over the past 20 years or so on a global scale. There are several reasons for this. Two of the most prominent are the climate change that has had a significant effect on living conditions and the living environment for people, animals and biological production in the Arctic area. Changes in air and sea temperatures alter the conditions of life for many inhabitants of the Arctic. The other reason relates to the economic exploitation of the natural resources of the Arctic. The warming of the seas and the reduction of the ice cover over the polar area have paved way for new opportunities. Extraction of known and less known biological and mineral resources is one dimension, but transportation opportunities are also significant enough that many global and regional actors are investigating them.
In the midst of all this global interest and the race for opportunities, are the local inhabitants and local and regional governments. Being “rich and famous” related to all economic and strategic opportunities is, however, not automatically a guarantee for success. Exploitation of resources and opportunities may have many motives and may also take many different forms. The challenge is, thus, to balance different goals, aims and intentions among the different parties.
One of the greater challenges that Russian governmental bodies at different levels are facing is the decreasing population of the Arctic. Populating the area and securing a positive social and economic development for its inhabitants is a critical issue in all respects. Development may take many different forms, depending on the opportunities, institutional environment and other considerations. One of the key challenges for the Russian government is therefore to prepare for different possible scenarios.
The main aim of this document is to stimulate a debate that addresses this important question. In order to generate interest and engagement, the authors have developed a set of possible scenarios that may eventuate. Some may look extreme, or perhaps unlikely. But it will be important to bear in mind while reading the text that the scenarios are presented mainly to stimulate more open thought around “what if...” rather than locking the mindset around a few issues, positive or negative.
The good, positive and sustainable development of the Arctic is in any case important, and it is my hope that this document will contribute to that.
Frode Nilssen DSc and Professor in Marketing Nord University Business School