Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North, Reykjavík 29 January 2009

On 29 January 2009, NATO and the Government of Iceland jointly organized a seminar in

Reykjavik to discuss the challenges facing the Allies in the High North. The participants

agreed that the confrontation of the Cold War belongs to the past and nations now face a

completely new security environment. They underscored that it remains a priority to preserve

the current stability in the High North as a region of low tension by managing the ongoing

limited increase in military activities in a transparent, deliberate and measured way.

The participants recognized that global climate change and ice melting, growing accessibility

to significant energy and marine resources and the potential opening of new trans-arctic

shipping routes, create new challenges and opportunities and increases the strategic

importance of the High North. Non-traditional threats such as risks to the environment caused

by potential pollution and large-scale accidents due to increased shipping and other economic

activities, as well as the need to preserve economic and energy security, merit close attention,

while respecting the sovereignty and initiatives of all Arctic states.

The participants agreed that the rule of law in international relations is a prerequisite for

peaceful regional development. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

provides the essential legal framework for activities and cooperation in maritime areas.

The participants pointed to the importance of further strengthening the cooperation between

all relevant actors in the High North. This includes the eight Arctic states: the United States,

Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden; institutions like NATO, the

EU and the IMO; regional organizations like the Arctic Council, with its non-Arctic observer

states, and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council; and the Nordic countries through their increasing

security co-operation. The participants acknowledged and welcomed the interest in High

North issues from other European countries and countries beyond the region, including Japan,

South Korea and China. Attention should be given to involving them, as appropriate, in

further work with High North issues.

The participants agreed that the High North is of enduring strategic importance for NATO

where NATO continues to have legitimate security interests. Ensuring regional security is an

integral part of NATO and transatlantic cooperation. Thus, risks and threats in the High North

affect the security of NATO Allies and its partners. Participants also emphasised the

indivisibility of security for all Allies and concurred that regionalisation within the Alliance

should be avoided.

At the same time the participants recognised that not all security risks and threats are best

addressed by NATO. Close cooperation with other key stakeholders a comprehensive

approach - is needed to address the complex and nonlinear set of existing and emerging

security challenges. To achieve this, dialogue with key stakeholders is crucial. NATO, and

other organisations, will therefore need to emphasise confidence-building, transparency and

partnership in its approach to the High North. The participants agreed that strengthened

cooperation between NATO and the Allies and Russia, within the existing frameworks,

including the NATO-Russia Council when appropriate, is particularly important.

The participants agreed that a renewed NATO situational awareness in the High North should

concentrate on where NATO can provide added value to regional security and maintain low

tension in the region. Developing a relevant response to some of the High North challenges

should be part of the ongoing transformation of the Alliance.

The participants underscored that security in the region requires practical, cross-border cooperation

on surveillance and response capabilities such as search-and-rescue at sea and

disaster relief operations. In that regard, NATO could have an important role to play. NATO

air surveillance and maritime situational awareness in the High North is important and already

contributes to regional security in the widest sense. The aim should be to create concrete

synergies with other actors, and pool civil and military resources for the benefit of common


Finally, the participants agreed that security prospects in the High North warranted further

analysis and discussions, within relevant NATO bodies and committees, and welcomed

Norway’s intention to arrange a follow-up seminar in Norway in 2010.


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