The Week Ahead: Erna in the reindeers’ den

Norway’s prime minister travels to the heart of reindeer territory. She should shouldn't be surprised to encounter cold shoulders.

By Kevin McGwin - April 30, 2018
Reindeer in Northern Norway. (Lawrence Hislop / GRID Arendal)

Seen from a national perspective, reindeer herding in Norway makes a marginal economic contribution. But, for the estimated 3,000 people who make a living off reindeer, it is an activity whose importance goes beyond simple economics.

As part of its recognition of the importance of reindeer herding to the Sámi in particular, Oslo accepts, for example, that reindeer herding has existed in Norway’s northern regions since long before national borders were drawn up, and thus allows Swedish herders to cross the border with their herds to reach traditional grazing areas.

Oslo’s largesse towards reindeer herding extends beyond the symbolic, however. The 2018 national budget earmarks 123 million kroner ($15.5 million) to support herders and promote their industry, a 3.5 percent increase on last year. Extra money was also set aside for things like helping more young people and women make a living off herding.

Officially, the NRL, the national organization of reindeer herders, welcomes such measures. But, when Erna Solberg, the prime minister, and Jon Georg Dale, her agriculture and food minister, visit reindeer herders in Finnmark on Monday, they should not expect their hosts to be all smiles.

This is because many of those NRL represents are convinced that the wind farms, railways and other development plans Oslo supports disrupt grazing areas, or make the summer and winter migrations more difficult.

Tempering herders’ gratitude towards the financial support further will be a supreme court decision, handed down in December, ordering a young herder to slaughter half of his herd.

The decision came despite Jovsset Ánte Sara winning the initial case, brought by the agriculture and food ministry, and then the first appeal. He has lodged an appeal of his own, with the European Court of Human Rights, but, even if the case falls out in his favor, it has become clear that Oslo’s support for reindeer herding does know some boundaries after all.

When and where
April 30; Finnmark, Norway

For more information
Reindeer husbandry in Norway (official government page)

Further reading
Sámi concerned about Arctic railway plans


Eighth High-Level Dialogue on the SDGs in the Arctic
Nailing down exactly how sustainable development goals should best be used can sometimes prove elusive. That flexibility, say proponents, is their strength.

In the Arctic, Finland has made the SDGs a priority of its chairmanship. Following their lead, others with an interest in the region have begun working them into their Arctic thinking, including, most notably, a day-long event this past autumn sponsored by the Danish foreign ministry.

Arctic insiders suggest the SDGs will form the core of thinking about the region for the foreseeable future. Some organizations have already sought to put them into practice: the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Arctic cooperation program, published in January, is built up around them.

This week, UiT/The Arctic University of Norway, hosts the latest in a series of discussions that seek to take some of the vagueness out of the SDGs by looking into how they can be applied towards specific activities.

Previously the series has asked how the SDGs tie into things like transport, investment and regional development. This time around, it turns to tourism, asking in the process whether more boots on the ground needs to result in a larger footprint.

When and where
April 30; Tromsø, Norway (The meeting will also be streamed live.)

For more information
Sustainable Arctic Tourism: How might Arctic Tourism tie in with the SDGS?
Sustainable development goals
The SDGs in the Arctic

Further reading
The Week Ahead: Sustainable fisheries, sustainable seal hunting, sustainable development goals


Mineral Development in the Arctic
Billed as an economic development summit for the region, this three-day event will take up the matter of responsible mining. Organized by the Institute of the North, together with the Arctic Economic Council and local partners, the gathering aims to explain national and Alaska priorities and perspectives on Arctic mining, as well as present the experiences from other countries in the region.

An important part of this last will be the release of an Arctic Economic Council report on responsible mineral development. The report looks at topics such as human capacity, infrastructure, governance and regulations and financing. Participants will also be asked for their input. No nugget of wisdom is too small.

When and where
April 30-May 2; Kotzebue, Alaska

For more information
Mineral Development in the Arctic

Further reading
Miners upbeat ahead of Toronto rite of spring
After years of decline, mining appears to be on rebound in Alaska
Is Arctic mining poised to make a comeback?


Transportation Infrastructure Engineering in Cold Regions
Most discussions about Arctic development begin with infrastructure. That’s also where they often end. Like any place else, good transportation infrastructure is essential for communities in the region, but when communities are essentially islands, lacking land connections to other communities, getting things people need in, or things they can make money on out, places a special burden on seaports and airports.

This year’s biennial Arctic technology conference, hosted by ARTEK, a Danish-Greenlandic Arctic technology institute, will seek to address the challenges that are connected to planning, construction and maintenance of infrastructure in the Arctic and other cold regions. For practical experience, participants can take part in a field trip to Kangerlussuaq, currently the site of Greenland’s main, if out of the way, international airport. The airport, however, is slated for closure, when new airports open in 2022, meaning the discussion may also turn to the rare topic of how infrastructure in the Arctic can be wound down.

When and where
May 1-3; Sisimiut, Greenland

For more information
ARTEK International Conference 2018

Further reading
Planes, boats and automobiles
Building for better days
Arctic denominators


Arctic Security Forces Roundtable and Northern Flanks Conference
An annual event, created in 2011 by the U.S. European Command, and the Norwegian Defense Staff, the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable and Northern Flanks Conference is a collaborative forum that seeks to promote regional understanding, dialogue and cooperation among the 12 member nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.

When and where
May 1-3; Halifax, Nova Scotia

For more information
US, Norway co-host 4th annual Arctic Security Forces Roundtable

Further reading
In Arctic, no sign of cooling Russia-West relations
Canada should discourage Arctic NATO operations, experts say

The Week Ahead is a preview of some of the events related to the region that will be in the news in the coming week. If you have a topic you think ought to be profiled in a coming week, please email [email protected].