As Greenland moves towards closer ties with Iceland, it is scientific co-operation that will form the cornerstone of their relationship, representatives from the two countries said last week. The focus on research comes after Greenland and Iceland have repeatedly stated that it was one of several areas the two countries wanted to do more to work together on. As part of an agreement reached in May, they said they would “seek to create opportunities for closer co-operation and joint funding of activities and projects that promote scientific and educational co-operation”.
“There is a genuine interest on both sides in seeking and supporting future collaborations around shared research interests and priorities,” Josephine Nymand, the chair of Nunatsinni Ilisimatusarnermik Siunnersuisoqatigiit, Greenland’s research council, said at the time. “At the same time, in terms of research-policy development and investment, Iceland is doing a lot that Greenland can learn from.”
Much of the interest stems from the two countries’ modest size; as small countries, Greenland and Iceland, according to Tove Søvndahl Gant, Greenland’s representative in Iceland, have only limited budgets to conduct research. Those budgets can go a little further if they pool their resources to conduct research in areas like fisheries (a key economic activity for both countries) and mitigation of natural hazards (something Greenland is increasingly facing and hopes to learn from Iceland’s experience in dealing with them). But, the two countries are also keen to work together on research into social issues and “science for science’s sake”, Ms Gant said during a webcast about the topic (below) .
The expectation is that successful collaboration will benefit, first and foremost, Greenland and Iceland themselves, but Ms Gant reckons that it also has potential benefits beyond the countries’ borders, particularly in an area like climate research.
Partnering with Greenland, according to Ágúst Hjörtur Ingþórsson, the head of Rannís, Iceland’s national research council, is an important part of the country’s Arctic strategy, and working with its closest neighbour, he said, will allow it to make the most of a range of economic, scientific and educational opportunities. “There are ample opportunities for institutional collaboration in areas like sustainable development, climate adaptation, marine research, environmental monitoring and ‘common societal challenges’.”
As Iceland has taken a greater interest in the Arctic — and, in particular with the publication last year of a foreign-ministry review of relations with Greenland — Greenland has become “firmly rooted” its foreign policy, Mr Ingþórsson said.
Such attitudes — coupled with the research deal signed this May — signals, Ms Nymand said, that Greenland is “on the right track” to make the most of the emerging research collaboration with Iceland. Successfully doing so, according to Þorbjörn Jónsson, Iceland’s representative in Nuuk, would make it possible for Iceland and Greenland to “tackle some of the challenges that both countries are faced with together rather than individually”.
Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
Featured image: Dr Michael Wenger
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