Statements and speeches by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement at the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Reykjavik, May 20, 2021
This year we will mark the 25th anniversary of the Arctic Council, which remains the leading intergovernmental platform for a depoliticised dialogue in the high latitudes. It is gratifying that today we are holding an in-person meeting. We regard this demonstration of unity on issues related to the development of the Polar region as very timely. We would like to thank our Icelandic hosts for their hospitality and excellent organisation of this event.
Iceland is concluding its extremely eventful chairmanship. A great deal has been accomplished despite the pandemic. Our biggest achievement was the coordination of the Arctic Council’s strategic plan, its first ever document of forward-looking planning, which reflects our common vision of the tasks our countries will face in the next decade.
Russia, which is taking over the baton from Iceland, intends to maintain the spirit of cooperation, strengthen constructive interaction among all the member states and reinforce our readiness to search for the best possible solutions for the Arctic and the people who live there. We consider it crucial to ensure the continuity of the council’s agenda in the upcoming period and to carry on the ongoing projects and initiatives.
All of us agree that the council’s member states bear special responsibility for the developments in the region. We support the idea of holding a summit of the Arctic states when the necessary conditions are created for this. If this happens during Russia’s chairmanship, we will be ready to convene this summit. In any case, a summit, if prepared properly, will be a major factor for outlining the long-term strategic goals of Arctic cooperation.
Russia, as the largest Arctic power, believes that its priority at the Arctic Council is to promote the region’s balanced and sustainable social, economic and environmental development. We believe that the council should play a greater role in the collective efforts to ensure a responsible management of the region and the solution of its problems. At the same time, it is important to promote synergy with other regional platforms.
The Arctic is a territory of peace, stability and constructive cooperation. We are pleased to say that our partners support this view. I have no doubt that cooperation is the only path towards prosperity in the Arctic. It is vitally important to extend the member states’ positive interaction experience to the military sphere as well, first of all through the relaunching of the multilateral dialogue of the Arctic states at the level of general staffs of their armed forces.
Russia calls for applying our common efforts primarily to improve the well-being and the quality of life for the Arctic peoples, enhance the accessibility of education and healthcare, increase humanitarian exchanges, including among our young people, and support initiatives aimed at preserving the identity and heritage of the indigenous people of the North in keeping with the goals and objectives of the UN International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032.
I would like to point out in this connection the project that has been proposed by Russia and approved by all members of the Arctic Council: the digitalisation of the language and cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of the North. This platform is scheduled to become available online next year.
Russia intends to make every effort to promote the region’s further adaptation to global climate change. This requires continuously improving the environment monitoring system, striving to minimise anthropogenic impact on nature, and working to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is important to focus on preserving the biodiversity of the Arctic and its unique ecosystem, and to prevent pollution at sea and on land. We are ready to practice hands-on interaction in jointly responding to these and other challenges; we consider it important.
Ensuring sustainable and safe maritime activities in the Arctic is of particular relevance in the context of climate change. Shipping is rapidly developing here, contributing to the diversification of transport routes between the Atlantic and the Asia-Pacific region. There is a growing role for the Arctic in ensuring global energy security and in the overall effort to transition to a climate-neutral economy.
I would like to underscore the need to place emphasis on efforts to implement the Polar Code and the agreements reached by the International Maritime Organisation as part of the Arctic Council bodies. We support further cooperation at the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, expanding its ties with the Arctic Council in order to strengthen the overall capacity to respond to emergencies.
We consider it important to make a decision on the modalities of the mechanism for financing project activities aimed at reducing environmental pollution in the Arctic and at expanding environmental cooperation between the Arctic states.
We also support an expeditious enactment of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated Fishing in the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean signed three years ago. We regard this as a serious step towards promoting an ecosystem-based approach to the management of marine resources in the region.
The key to a more complete unlocking of the Arctic’s economic potential is the creation of a favourable environment for investment. At the same time, development of the Arctic should meet high environmental standards and take into account the local specifics and traditional lifestyles. It is important that business representatives working here show social responsibility and contribute to the strengthening of relations with the indigenous peoples of the region.
We support further cooperation between our forum and the Arctic Economic Council. We support the expansion of ties between the Arctic regions of our countries, and the establishment of contacts through local chambers of commerce and industry.
We place emphasis on the promotion of scientific cooperation, including through the expansion of joint high-latitude marine research projects.
Russia has consistently advocated strengthening the Arctic Council as a key format for intergovernmental cooperation in the Arctic, continuing the practice of regular contacts between the council and other organisations operating in high latitudes.
I would like to reaffirm that Russia is open to constructive cooperation with all Arctic Council member states, permanent participants, and observers, as well as other interested non-regional partners. We are confident that the strong spirit of cooperation inherent in the Arctic Council will contribute to strengthening trust and mutual understanding in the region as a whole.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you for the kind words addressed to the Russian chairmanship and for your support for the Programme approved by the Government of the Russian Federation and containing more than a hundred events. The slogan of our biennium in the Arctic Council will be Responsible Governance for Sustainable Arctic.
A more detailed presentation of our Programme can be found in the handouts, so this concludes my report, and I will assume you all have the presentation.
We are grateful for the appreciation of our proposals from the Russian Chairmanship Programme, for the support of Russia’s efforts we have heard from all delegations today. We will try not to disappoint our partners.
The presentation has been distributed in hard copy. We will make it public.