Security Prospects in the High North

Security Prospects in the High North

The High North is one of the key priority areas of Iceland's foreign policy. Important changes are under way in the High North which will have a broad impact on international affairs. The shrinking of the Arctic ice cap and technological advances are making the region's energy resources more accessible. At the same time, new trans-arctic shipping routes are opening and are expected to alter global transportation patterns.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs put forward a proposal for a Parliamentary Resolution on Iceland´s Arctic Policy in January 2011, approved by Althing in the end of March 2011.  It aims at securing Icelandic interests with regard to the effects of climate change, environmental issues, natural resources, navigation and social development as well as strengthening relations and cooperation with other States and stakeholders on the issues facing the region.

Iceland is against the remilitarization of the High North while emphasising the importance of increased civilian cooperation with neighbouring countries, both within and outside the Arctic, to prevent and respond to civilian and environmental crises. Long term security in the High North will depend on close cooperation between all the Arctic states, including both NATO and Non-NATO countries and other relevant stakeholders.

The Arctic states are enhancing their cooperation on civilian and environmental security in the Arctic under the auspices of the Arctic Council. A Search and Rescue agreement between Arctic states was signed in May 2011. The agreement will improve the way Arctic countries respond to emergency calls in the region. It is the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the Council and is an important example for other similar instruments for the Arctic Region.