Report summary: Russia has identified the Arctic as both a strategic priority and a resource base for the 21st century. Against a backdrop of expectations about the opportunities available in the Arctic, Russia has primarily pursued a policy focused on strengthening national sovereignty in the region. However, despite the considerable attention given to the development of the Arctic by the Russian leadership, progress in achieving Russia’s goals in the Arctic has been slow.
While debate has increased in the media and research community with regard to China’s potential as a partner for development of the Arctic, significant challenges stand in the way of a major reorientation of Russian Arctic policy
towards China. The success of Russia’s recent energy cooperation with China will depend on solving previous problems, developing mutually acceptable forms of cooperation and increasing mutual trust.

The report was authored by Ekaterina Klimenko as part of the Mistra Arctic Futures: Managing Competition and Promoting Cooperation project. Ms Klimenko will continue her research into Russian and Chinese policies, investments and other activities in the Arctic as part of the Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development programme.

The full report is available for free download from SIPRI.

The Arctic is changing rapidly, and has become a focal point in geopolitics. Sweden, one of eight Arctic states, needs to increase its knowledge base to support political decision-making that acknowledges political, strategic and environmental issues. From a global perspective, we must work towards Arctic change that is politically, economically, socially, and environmentally viable. Today, we face major environmental challenges that cannot alone be solved by existing science, policy and economic approaches.

The need to invest in social sciences in the Arctic was becoming evident in the 2000s, and in 2011, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) made a three-year investment of 38 million Swedish crowns in the programme “Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context.” The programme consisted of five distinct projects, each with its own internal project management, involving researchers based at universities, independent research institutes (non-governmental organization ‘think-tanks’) and consultancies, and rooted in the social sciences and the humanities.  From 2011 to 2013, 61 researchers based in 10 countries – including 7 Arctic nations– participated in the Mistra programme. Participants included 35 women and 29 men, with an equal gender distribution in leadership positions.

The Mistra Arctic Futures final report is now available for download. It contains overviews of the projects, examples of the research output and a detailed inventory of the publications and other knowledge products resulting from the programme.

Mistra Arctic Futures Final Report

Scott Cole, Sergei Izmalkov and Eric Sjöberg published an article based on their work in the Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context project ‘Arctic Games’ in the well-respected open access journal Polar Research.

In the article they illustrate the benefits of game theoretic analysis for assisting decision-makers in resolving conflicts and other challenges in a rapidly evolving region. They review a series of salient Arctic issues with global implications—managing open-access fisheries, opening Arctic areas for resource extraction and ensuring effective environmental regulation for natural resource extraction—and provide insights to help reach socially preferred outcomes. They provide an overview of game theoretic analysis in layman’s terms, explaining how game theory can help researchers and decision-makers to better understand conflicts, and how to identify the need for, and improve the design of, policy interventions. They believe that game theoretic tools are particularly useful in a region with a diverse set of players ranging from countries to firms to individuals. They argue that the Arctic Council should take a more active governing role in the region by, for example, dispersing information to “players” in order to alleviate conflicts regarding the management of common-pool resources such as open-access fisheries and natural resource extraction. They also identify side payments—that is, monetary or in-kind compensation from one party of a conflict to another—as a key mechanism for reaching a more biologically, culturally and economically sustainable Arctic future. By emphasizing the practical insights generated from an academic discipline, we present game theory as an influential tool in shaping the future of the Arctic—for individual researchers, for inter-disciplinary research and for policy-makers themselves.

The full article can be accessed here

Mistra Arctic Futures and Mistra Arctic Sustainabilities are co-presenting a plenary panel at the International Congress of Arctic Social Scientists VIII. The purpose of this panel is to present insights from some of the projects in the initial Arctic Futures program, as well as goals for the subsequent initiative, in order to provoke discussion of lessons from the role of social sciences and the humanities in Arctic sustainability research. The presentations will highlight the theoretical and empirical outcomes of the initial Mistra program and how these will inform research in the new initiative. It will also address two challenges with considerable relevance to the future of the Arctic – working in an interdisciplinary program in the context of the increasing importance of ‘strategic environmental research’, and working in a situation where the funder has expectations on results being directly useful for policy processes and stakeholders. A livestream is available at and we will also upload the presentation afterwards.

Av Kristoffer Gunnartz:  Efter tre års arbete har det tvärvetenskapliga forskningsprojektet Mistra Arctic Futures gått i mål. Förhoppningen är att resultaten ska hjälpa morgondagens makthavare att fatta klokare beslut kring en av världens känsligaste miljöer – Arktis. Mer här.

The first set of research positions related to Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development: New Governance for Sustainable Development in the European Arctic has been released, including doctoral, post-doctoral and research assistantships. More positions will be released later. Researchers will work with rural land use in northernmost Europe. The general research foci target the relation between natural resource uses (forestry, reindeer husbandry, tourism, mining, oil and gas, fishing) and municipal planning. A shorter term position, which could be extended or combined with work in the programme, will also be placed within an existing research project and focused on forest and invasive species. For more information see here–228-14.html

Photo: Dag Avango

Photo: Dag Avango

A humanities and social science perspective to bridging science and policy in a changing Arctic

För svensk sammanfattning, se nedan.

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) initiated the Arctic Futures in a Global context programme in order to stimulate research that contributes to the sustainable development in the Arctic. The research addressed tensions between economic, environmental and social aspects of development of the Arctic. Interdisciplinarity and stakeholder integration are increasingly important in research programmes focusing on the Arctic. The final event will focus on the outcomes of the research and communicating the main recommendations from the projects in dialogue with stakeholders and policymakers.The event is structured to include both plenaries and small-group sessions, and participating in the event means contributing to, and shaping its output.

At the nexus of science, policy and journalism

During the day you will have the opportunity to:

  • Work hands-on with the results of the research conducted in the Mistra Arctic Futures, and how best to communicate it to policy makers and other stakeholders, in a way that acknowledges the co-production of knowledge.
  • Work with perspectives from academia, policy makers, other stakeholders, as well as utilizing the logic of journalism.
  • Discovering and discussing the interactions and processes between science, policy and journalism.

The projects you will be working with include:

  • Assessing Arctic Futures: Voices, Resources and Governance
  • Arctic Games: Interactive development and application of a trans-disciplinary framework for sustainable governance options of Arctic Natural Resources
  • From Resource Hinterland to Global Pleasure Periphery? Assessing the Role of Tourism for Sustainable Development in Arctic Communities
  • Arctic Futures: Managing Competition and Promoting Cooperation
  • Preparing for and responding to disturbance: Arctic lessons for Sweden.

One week before the event you will receive a detailed agenda, including background material, as well as questions for the workshop and a list of other participants.

Please register by 24 February 2014 by sending an e-mail to or using this link:

You can also download an invitation here Mistra Arctic Futures Final Event Invitation.

5 mars 2014 arrangeras en avslutande workshop för forskningsprogrammet Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context. Forskningsprogrammet har pågått sedan 2011 med Polarforskningssekretariatet som värd. Mistra Arctic Futures får nu en efterföljare i forskningsprogrammet Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development, som ska vidareutveckla forskningen om hur en hållbar utveckling kan ske i Arktis.

Det finns möjlighet att delta på svenska.

Registrera dig här:

Flags outside the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, where the conference was held. Photos by Jani Kärppä (Lappi-kuva), Arto Vitikka (Arctic Centre)

Flags outside the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, where the conference was held. Photo by Jani Kärppä/Lappi-kuva, Arto Vitikka/ Arctic Centre.

Gerda Kinell, a researcher in the Arctic Games project at  Enveco Miljöekonomi AB reports on a high-level conference she attended in December, and the avenues for exploration opened up by Mistra Arctic Futures: Arctic Games.

- The conference “In spirit of the Rovaniemi process – Arctic cities, global processes and local realities” took place on the 2-4th of December 2013 in Rovaniemi, Finland. It was a very well organized and urgent Arctic conference that covered several themes such as extractive industries, tourism and indigenous people (see also the conference website). The conference was inaugurated by prominent speakers such as the Finnish Prime minister Jyrki Katainen and the former Norwegian Defense- and Foreign minister Thorvald Stoltenberg. I had the honor to give a presentation on “Arctic Games - Interactive development and application of a transdisciplinary framework for sustainable governance options of Arctic natural resources”, one of the research projects within Mistra Arctic Futures. The session was called “The Arctic in the global economy” and chaired by Professor Monica Tennberg. The presentation on Arctic Games was well received and the audience showed interest in the project’s approach of applying e.g. economic valuation and game theory in an Arctic setting.

The session on the Arctic in the Global Economy. Photo by Arctic Centre / Arto Vitikka

The session on the Arctic in the Global Economy. Photo by Arctic Centre / Arto Vitikka

It was however obvious from the presentation in the session that Arctic Games has a different and more analytical approach than the descriptive research that is common in Arctic social sciences. For example, social and economic research presentations often describe the social and economic status and development of the Arctic by presenting descriptors such as GDP numbers, human development indexes, various statistics and ratios. Another presentation in the session “The Arctic in the global economy” covered e.g. transport infrastructure, strategic planning for Arctic cities, potential for gas and oil extraction and associated investments as well as associated environmental effects. Sustainability is a concept that is often used in this context but it is apparent that the interpretation of this word is very different between presentations. A sustainable investment is often interpreted in a financial context perceived as a long term source of income for the related region. Environmental and social effects are not primarily included in this assessment. Arctic Games however, is aiming at identifying development of Arctic natural resources that is sustainable from an economic and social perspective. The economic perspective in Arctic Games involves not only a financial analysis; it also includes effects on ecosystem services and distributional impacts. This is done by applying a cost benefit approach and economic valuation of Arctic ecosystem at risk. Such economic analysis has a broader view on effects of a given project, also covering changes in human well-being due to e.g. a changed provision of environmental services and changes in health. Sustainability is also brought in from a social perspective in Arctic Games by applying governance tools by e.g. analyzing decision-making structures and mapping of constitutional conditions. Game theory is another important tool in the project that is providing knowledge on how a decision is made and incentives for different outcomes. This provides information on the potential and conditions for reaching decisions that are sustainable for the region. The goal of Arctic Games is to build an analytical framework for assessing sustainable governance options of Arctic natural resources by using the components described above. My impression is that this kind of approach; to build theoretical models for explaining and analyzing Arctic social and economic issues is somewhat new and rare in the context of Arctic social sciences. I also think that a broad view on sustainability and effects affecting sustainability is crucial for reaching a desirable development of the region. This most likely will always imply a need of interdisciplinary and/or trans-disciplinary research.

Cover: When the Ice BreaksWelcome to a seminar and the launch of When the Ice Breaks, a book on media and the politics of Arctic climate change 21 January 2014.  The Arctic sea ice reached record lows in 2007, and again in 2012. In the international news media, these moments were reflected via striking images of polar bears and crumbling ice chunks but also by maps of new shipping routes across the North Pole. Through these stories, a sharper narrative of climate change has entered the public discourse: a new global reality where the future is no longer a given. Going beyond scientific accounts of the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, Media and the Politics of Arctic Climate Change explores how historical and contemporary mediations, scientific narratives and satellite technology simultaneously capture and reconstruct this new reality of the Anthropocene, where human activities shape the planet. This book launch/seminar features some of the contributing authors and invites discussion about the linkages between science, media, environmental change and geopolitics, and about what is local and what
is global in today’s connected mediatized world. More information and registration details (for a lunch sandwich) is available here: Invitation book launch 21 Jan 2014

Mistra reached a decision to invest 30 million crowns over four years towards a new Arctic research programmme, Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development. The research will focus on providing a nuanced picture of local and subnational governance challenges in the European Arctic mainland. The aim is to increase the capacity of local and regional decision makers to make informed decisions related to sustainable development.

Drawing on the social sciences and humanities, the programme will study the challenges facing the European Arctic. The aim is to sketch pathways for sustainable development in this sensitive region with its diverse stakeholders and opportunities. The programme, New Governance for Sustainable Development, will be led by Umeå University.

Kick-off on 1 April 2014

The new programme follows on the Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context, which commenced in 2011 and was recently extended to March 2014. Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development will be launched following the final event for Mistra Arctic Futures, early March 2014.

The call for proposals for the programme Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development opened in December 2012. The applications were reviewed by an international panel including Kim Holmén (International Director: Norwegian Polar Institute), Anna Kerttula de Ecvhave (National Science Foundation), Igor Krupnik (Smithsonian Institutions) and Lars Anders Baer (Sami  Parliament) and the winning application was thoroughly revised before the Mistra board reached a final decision.

To read the full press release (in Swedish) see ARCUM.

Questions can be put to:

Peter Sköld, director of ARCUM at Umeå University

Carina Keskitalo, professor in political science at the Institution for Geography and Economic History