"The need for knowledge and competence on Arctic issues is greater than ever," says the White Paper on Svalbard that was presented on Wednesday. Research and higher education will also be prioritized to maintain Norwegian activities and presence in Svalbard, as coal mining is greatly reduced from April 2016.
The White Paper, which is the most important document on Norwegian Svalbard policies, states that the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) will be developed further, and that the SSF mandate will be revised. The Research Council of Norway, which maintains an office in Longyearbyen that also serves as a secretariat to the SSF, will also be assigned new tasks relevant to Svalbard.
According to the White Paper, the Research Council of Norway will be asked to take a lead in developing an overall strategy for research in Svalbard. The Research Council will also be tasked to develop a research strategy for Ny-Ålesund, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders.
Measures will be taken to improve the utilization of resources, clarify academic priorities, strengthen scientific quality and management, and to set clearer expectations for scientific merit, cooperation and data sharing, the White Paper says.
The White Paper clarifies that the 1920 Svalbard Treaty does not regulate research in the archipelago. Hence, the nationals of the contracting parties do not enjoy a right or an equal right to pursue research in the archipelago. However, the White Paper confirms that the Norwegian government has actively facilitated international polar research in Svalbard for decades and will continue to do so.
The White Paper is available here.