Denmark’s Arctic Strategy invites industry to partner in development

“Private funding is seen as a possibility” to build ports, airports


Gitte Lillelund Bech, Denmark's minister of defence, and Peter Mackay, Canada's minister of defence, stand together Aug. 18 on an iceberg outside of Resolute Bay where the two spent a day at Operation Nanook — reflecting the two countries' intent to work more closely together. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Gitte Lillelund Bech, Denmark’s minister of defence, and Peter Mackay, Canada’s minister of defence, stand together Aug. 18 on an iceberg outside of Resolute Bay where the two spent a day at Operation Nanook — reflecting the two countries’ intent to work more closely together. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Denmark wants to network in the Arctic — and it’s eager for resource developers to kick in money for the infrastructure they need to work in the Arctic.

That’s one of the messages from Denmark’s “Strategy for the Arctic 2011-2020,” launched last week, which is intended to guide the future of Greenland and the Farøe Islands “to the benefit of the entire Kingdom, to the peoples in the Arctic and to our businesses.”

The goal of strengthening Denmark’s “status as global player in the Arctic” means working with neighbouring nations, like Canada, and also with industry, says the 60-page strategy, which deals with with oil and gas exploitation, mining and trade opportunities, as well as security issues.

“We are facing big new challenges but also great new opportunities, and we want to strengthen our common engagement in the development in the Arctic,” said Lene Esperen, Denmark’s foreign minister in a news release on the strategy.

Developers of the rich oil, gas and mineral resources in Greenland must respect the” Arctic peoples’ rights to utilise and develop their own resources,” and the “indigenous Arctic culture, traditions and lifestyles, and the promotion of their rights.”

But industries should also be ready to put money into airports, ports and power-generation projects in the Arctic, the strategy says.

“These projects will be costly and therefore private funding is seen as a possibility, just as mining projects located near urban areas could be included in potential funding of larger local infrastructure projects,” it suggests.

Denmark also wants to see more international training and exchange opportunities for Greenlanders — with the backing of industry — to prepare locals for jobs connected with the boom in resource development.

But Denmark also wants to set the rules for working in its Arctic backyard.

“Given the clear correlation between the rise of maritime activity and economic development in the Arctic,” Denmark wants to see a stiff Polar Code, under the International Maritime Organization, that will fix binding global rules and standards for ships navigating in the Arctic.

Again, the burden will fall on the shipping and cruise industries to observe that code and make arrangements to get themselves out of trouble in the Arctic.

“Ships should first and foremost use their own rescue equipment if an accident should occur, until the resources offered by the authorities responsible in the area can be deployed to assist,” the strategy says.

As well, Denmark wants to see more involvement from people in Greenland on jobs connected to maritime safety, “such as surveying, buoying, and search and rescue at sea, perhaps by establishing a voluntary coastal rescue service.”

Denmark says it will continue to work to safeguard its various interests in the Arctic “with established and new partners.”

This means working to reduce pollutants brought by sea and air to the Arctic and to implement the joint Arctic co-operation agreement on search and rescue, signed last May at the Arctic Council meeting in Nuuk.

Denmark also envisions more co-operation between Denmark and Canada.

In May 2010 Denmark and Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding “on enhanced operational defence cooperation in the Arctic,” focusing on joint military exercises, staff exchanges and cooperation in rescue operations — which led to Denmark’s participation this August in Operation Nanook and brought the head of the Danish Armed Forces and the Danish defence minister on short visits to Resolute Bay.

The strategy also says Denmark plans to be involved in a new “Arctic Command” for Arctic defense — which could involve Canada, although nothing has been said about this yet —and build up its own Arctic Response Force, similar to what Canada is already doing, with its Arctic Response Company Group, which was at Op Nanook in Resolute Bay.

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