The Northern Forum is an international organisation of northern regions founded on 8 November 1991 in Alaska, USA. Under the auspices of the Northern Forum, the Northern Sustainable Development Forum is held annually. In 2024, the V Northern Sustainable Development Forum will take place in Yakutsk, Russia.
In 1990, at the Third Northern Regions Conference "Cooperation in a Changing World", participants proposed the establishment of a permanent regional organisation called the Northern Forum. They hoped that the Northern Forum would "offer opportunities to exchange ideas, solve common problems, and plan cooperative initiatives regarding issues that are unique to the North."
Is the Northern Forum fulfilling its original purpose now - to serve as the primary means of communication to enhance the effectiveness of international cooperation throughout the North?
Currently, the Northern Forum has 12 member regions: Russian regions such as the Jewish Autonomous Okrug, Kamchatka Krai, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Magadan Oblast, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Khabarovsk Krai, Khanty-Mansyisk Autonomous Okrug - Yugra, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, as well as the State of Alaska (USA), Gangwon Province (Republic of Korea), and 9 business partners from the Russian Federation, Iceland, Norway, USA, and Japan.
The role of the Northern Sustainable Development Forum, which takes place under the auspices of the Northern Forum, cannot be overlooked. The Northern Sustainable Development Forum (the Forum) is a permanent international expert platform for discussing the issues and prospects of sustainable development of the Arctic and the North.
The themes of the Forums are selected based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals defined in 2015 at the UN General Assembly meeting, with Goals 8 and 17 being present at all Forums.
The first Forum was held in 2019 and discussed a wide range of regional sustainable development issues in the Arctic and the North to identify the priority directions and themes for the next years.
In 2020, the main theme of the Forum was the development of transport infrastructure in the Arctic and the North (Goal 9). The main theme of the 2021 Forum: Climate Change and Permafrost Response (Goal 13). The main theme of the 2022 Forum: Energy of the Arctic: New Challenges – New Solutions (Goal 7).
The theme for the 2023 Forum was "Arctic Resilience: Regions, Cities and Communities" (Goal 11). However, the Forum did not take place. It was decided to postpone the Forum "due to the difficult international situation."
The chairmanship of the Northern Forum for 2023-2025 has been transferred from the Lapland region (Finland) to the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug — Ugra (Russia). Unfortunately, at the moment the Northern Forum is not fulfilling its original goal of bringing together all northern regions to address pressing issues. The Forum is seen in the West as a structure under Russian supervision, which makes its status "dubious" in the eyes of the Arctic neighbours. Accordingly, there is no full-fledged activity with Western counterparts now.
In this regard, there has been some reorientation of the Northern Forum towards non-Arctic states.
Expansion of membership in the Northern Forum by involving countries interested in cooperation in its work, as well as interaction with the regions of non—Arctic states [primarily BRICS and SCO countries -ed] is one of the most important areas of our joint work for 2023-2025, Governor of Ugra emphasised.
In addition, the Northern Forum has increased its focus on cooperation with Asia. The Uvurkhangai aimag (province) of Mongolia has confirmed its intention to join the Northern Forum in 2024. Mongolia plays the role of a buffer zone between Russia and China. The entry of the Northern Forum into this country strengthens cooperation between Russia, Mongolia and China, acting Executive Director of the Northern Forum said. Also, the Northern Forum plans to hold a gastronomic week of Russian regions in Mongolia in August 2024.
Thus, the Northern Forum continues its activities, although primarily non-Arctic countries are considered as partners for the implementation of projects and the achievement of the organisation's goals.
The editorial board of The Arctic Century