The importance of the Arctic as a driver for both transnational and regional cooperation is increasing.
Therefore, there is a lot to gain from developing a more systematic and collaborative approach in the High North region that could potentially drive smarter, more sustainable and inclusive regional development.
An Arctic regional collaboration mechanism could mobilise, synergise and strengthen the efforts of the Arctic's regional players, and profit regional development in the region.
Norway is a committed European Territorial Cooperation Partner (ETC) within the EU's cohesion policy framework, and an active participant in several different programmes and instruments.
The Bodø-process - on exploring a more systematic, regional collaboration in the High North - was initiated in 2013 by Norway's local government and modernisation ministry.
In 2014, conclusions from a seminar pointed at developing an Arctic regional collaboration mechanism in the form of a multi-nodal network; building on existing institutions, strengths and competences in the different regions. Norway expressed readiness to establish a collaboration facility, a key node in Tromsø, as a part of this nodal network.
A few year's cooperation with European and High North partners and stakeholders, concluded in a seminar in Tromsø in January 2015, to continue the process as a preparatory project within the ETC Northern Periphery Programme. The aim was to detail the shape and scope of an Arctic regional collaboration mechanism, to involve more stakeholders, and to further investigate European, national and local interests.
The preparatory project was to be followed by a pilot that would test the collaboration concept in practice.
Findings from the preparatory project were delivered in September in Brussels, and set out the potential for a more systematic and collaborative approach among regional programmes, initiatives and projects in the High North.
The proposed new collaboration mechanism should be demand-led and tailored to stakeholder needs. Key participants in the process are regional and territorial policymakers and programme/policy practitioners and cooperation project/policy participants and applicants.
I believe that there is a real need for an Arctic regional collaboration mechanism, that can help streamline funding and simplify cooperation, strengthen strategic thinking and improve knowledge sharing between different programmes, initiatives and projects.
Highlighting the potential of the High North, and the importance of overcoming challenges and streamlining policy for regional development are key goals for Norway.
An Arctic regional collaboration mechanism will add value to the societies, people and businesses in the region, and will be based on real needs and demands.
I believe that the different regional programmes and initiatives in the High North may benefit from, and also complement each other, through a collaborative mechanism.