Improving the digital infrastructure in the Arctic region is one of the objectives that parliamentarians representing the eight Arctic countries and the European Parliament set in their conference in Inari last week.
The Arctic region lags behind in digital services. The Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region took up the need of improving the digital infrastructure in the conference statement.
“Communications are a security issue. There are more and more people navigating the Arctic waters, but the current satellite network is not comprehensive enough to provide them with up-to-date information on weather conditions”, says the Secretary General of the Standing Committee of the Arctic Parliamentarians, Mr. Samu Paukkunen.
Arctic parliamentarians proposed an Arctic Council meeting between the ministers responsible for communications and digitalization to address the issue.
They also gave their support to President Sauli Niinistö’s initiative on an Arctic Summit.
“Naturally, we hope that we can have the summit here in Finland, during the Finnish chairmanship in the Arctic Council. But the most important thing is that Arctic questions are discussed at the highest levels”, remarked Katri Kulmuni who chairs the Finnish delegation. The Finnish delegation to the Conference of Parliamentarians has six members and a secretariat in Parliament's International Department.
Indigenous peoples are permanent participants to the Arctic parliamentary cooperation. The Inari conference took place in the Sámi cultural centre Sajos, which also houses the Sámi Parliament. In her opening speech, the President of the Sámi Parliament in Finland Tiina Sanila-Aikio brought up controversial projects and said that rights over lands and resources are a prerequisite for the indigenous peoples to continue to exist.
“Free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples should be obtained when approving any project affecting our lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”, Tiina Sanila-Aikio noted.
The conference statement lists several objectives regarding environmental challenges, corporate social responsibility as well as the social well-being of people living in the Arctic.
The themes put forward in the conference statement will be included in the working programme of the Standing Committee, which is responsible for the work between conferences. Parliamentarians will gather in their next conference in Norway in 2020.