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Arctic Circle

Nordurslod - The North Path

A Gateway to New International Dialogue, Innovation and Constructive Action.
A 21st Century Hub for Global Climate Cooperation and Sustainable Future of the Arctic.

Mission Statement by the Board of the Grimsson Centre.

When the world faces multiple crises and historic challenges we need a new location, an inspiring country to bring people together within the framework of an innovative model for global cooperation. A gateway to a better future. A hub for global creativity and innovation.

In the 21st century, effective international cooperation requires a dynamic platform of engagements where anyone with ideas, proposals or projects could be able to interact constructively and join forces with others.

Iceland has decided to offer the world such a home for multiple endeavours and partnerships. The vision involves a new centre for constructive international cooperation where anyone can become a player. The building will be on a site which combines closeness to scientific excellence with inspiring nature and neighbouring entrepreneurial entities.

The offer brings a variety of opportunities and holds great promises for success. The involvement of partners from every continent; especially from Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East, together with the legacy of President Grímsson, ensures that the foundations of this endeavour are solidly rooted.

By initiating the construction of Nordurslod, the Government of Iceland, the City of Reykjavík, the three major universities and the Arctic Circle with its annual global Assemblies and international Forums have issued an open invitation to potential partners from all over the world.

The vision involves a new centre for constructive international cooperation where anyone can become a player.

In Nordurslod – The North Path - a dynamic community will come together and thrive through creative interaction: Innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, visionaries and others; young in spirit and many in age. A community inspired by the dedication to a sustainable future; a world of climate stability and clean energy, open dialogue and the empowerment of indigenous communities.

The building will become a symbol of hope and concrete successes; proving what can be achieved when dedicated people of diverse origins come together for a common cause. Iceland is an ideal place for such an endeavour. A peaceful, pristine and beautiful country; advanced in modernity, knowledge, technology and social progress. A small country which does not threaten anyone and desires harmony between all; at the centre of the North-Atlantic; in the new gangways between Europe, America and Asia.

For nearly a decade, the Arctic Circle, through its Assemblies, Forums, Mission Councils and other innovative platforms has been an open, democratic and dynamic model; proving that creative multidimensional structures are indeed in harmony with the spirit and the necessity of our times.

The old model was based on the privileges granted to Governments and their positions within International Organizations established in the wake of the Second World War; acquiring strength during the Cold War and its immediate aftermath; dominated by a small group of leading powers, especially the five nuclear weapon states.

This worldview has now fundamentally changed. Around 200 states shape the global space, joined by thousands of influential non-governmental organisations, international associations, universities, think tanks, research centres and global companies. Modern social media has given dedicated individuals and activists, young and old, international and local, the tools to challenge prevailing wisdoms and to pioneer fresh approaches to the problems burdening Mother Earth and the communities of her People. Driving global and regional agendas forward requires effective interchange between this broadened universe of collaborators. The role of traditional governmental institutions, though still vital, is not enough. Success in the 21st century requires a new model of engagement.

Nordurslod is intended to become such a centre, using Iceland as a base and inspiration. Partners from different continents will be invited to establish a presence and operations within the building. In the first phase, priority will be given to institutions, organizations and countries which have in previous years and decades joined President Grímsson in the Arctic Circle and other international endeavours.

The vision is to construct a new, highly modern building, reflecting the 21st century progressive vision of international cooperation, sustainability and eco-friendly communities. It will house the future headquarters of the Arctic Circle and serve as an international hub for activities and organisations that focus on the Climate, Arctic, Renewable Energy, Oceans and other global concerns. It has been given the preliminary Icelandic name Nordurslod. In English the term translates to The North Path.

International progress has in recent times been served by activities and engagements centred on specific locations. Thus, for example, Silicon Valley promotes technological innovation, Wall Street financial partnerships and Geneva diplomatic negotiations and global health. There is, as of yet, no such location for the Climate and the Arctic anywhere in the world. By establishing Nordurslod, Iceland declares its willingness to become such a location, mobilizing a diverse community of potential international partners. It is well placed to fill that gap, due to its geopolitical position, leadership in clean energy and record of innovations.

The vision is to construct a new, highly modern building, reflecting the 21st century progressive vision of international cooperation, sustainability and eco-friendly communities.

The City of Reykjavik has confirmed a unique location for the new building at the edge of the University of Iceland Campus. The site borders a well-known bird sanctuary in the protected wetlands by a lake in the middle of Old Reykjavik, where several species of Arctic birds nest in spring or rest on their migratory routes. The allocated lot allows, in the first phase, a building providing space in the range of 20.000-30.000 m2. Whilst the site is only a stone’s throw from key institutes of the University of Iceland it is also placed close to the Reykjavík University, and next to Askja, the research centre for the natural sciences: glaciology, geology, volcanology and various vegetation sciences. Across the street is the Nordic House, a cultural centre designed decades ago by the famous Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto. Furthermore, close by are the headquarters of two global bio-tech companies and the new Innovation Centre of the University of Iceland, housing various start-up companies and IT enterprises.

In a highly symbolic way Nordurslod will thus be surrounded by diverse entities; Arctic wildlife, innovation, science, enterprises, knowledge, culture and global cooperation. In short, a perfect site.

In addition to housing the future headquarters of the Arctic Circle the new building will offer multiple spaces - rooms, offices, halls, platforms - to diverse partners from other countries. International and national organisations, associations, enterprises and institutions based in other states could together with universities, think tanks and entities in the fields of technology, research, innovation, media and information establish operations within the building for a longer or shorter period. Groups or individuals coming together for specific tasks and Secretariats for multinational projects could also be located in the building.

These diverse partners would embrace activities - policymaking, research, innovations, entrepreneurship - in the areas of climate, clean energy, oceans, sustainability, natural resources, social and economic development, Indigenous empowerment, peaceful progress and other challenges facing humanity, nations and communities.

The construction of the building would allow dynamic progress of this future-oriented vision; for it to be as relevant in the 2050s and the eras thereafter; accommodating whatever forms the international journey will take.

The plan is to announce, this year or the next, an international architectural competition for the design of the building and approach a selection of prominent architects from different countries, young or famous, to encourage them to participate.

In the process of formulating the nature of the building and its activities, any ideas, proposals or suggestions from anyone anywhere in the world will be welcomed.

Early in 2021 the Prime Minister of Iceland, H.E. Katrín Jakobsdóttir, by decision of the Cabinet, appointed a committee tasked with compiling a Memorandum on a proposal on the new building and to draft a Charter for The Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson Centre. The committee consisted of representatives from five Ministries: The Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Science and Education, the Ministry of the Environment, plus representatives from the City of Reykjavík, the three major universities: the University of Iceland, the University of Akureyri and Reykjavík University as well as from the Arctic Circle.

The Memorandum was accepted by the Cabinet and subsequently endorsed by the Board of the Arctic Circle Foundation - the financial and operational instrument of the Arctic Circle. A Government resolution endorsing the plan was unanimously approved by Parliament in 2021. Today, The Grímsson Centre and Nordurslod are integral parts of the new Icelandic Arctic Policy.

As stated in the Cabinet’s Memorandum the new building is envisioned as “a gateway for multinational cooperation” and “a centre of international efforts to increase cooperation and innovation and to establish links between institutions, companies, universities, associations and other parties, local and foreign.” It should also reflect “the ideology of clustering, whereby the various kinds of activities that previously went on in separate locations are directed towards a joint creative venue.”

The building will be owned by The Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson Centre which is registered as a non-governmental and non-profit entity based on the pertinent Icelandic law; thus having a tax-exempt status according to international and Icelandic practices.

In line with the Charter, the Board of the Centre consists of two members nominated by the Arctic Circle, two by the Prime Minister, one by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and two in rotation by the three universities. H.E. Dr. Össur Skarphéðinsson is the first Chair of the Board; previously Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Climate and Minister of Energy. In addition, a special Board of International Partners will be established to underline the importance of the international nature of the Centre and of Nordurslod, ensuring effective engagement by their representatives and wide-ranging access to decision making and development.

This novel structure guarantees that while benefitting from the support of the Icelandic Government and the Parliament, the Centre and Nordurslod are global in nature and will exert influence in cooperation with international partners. At the same time it reflects the complete independence of Nordurslod in all its operations and decision making. It is a new model of a dynamic non-governmental/governmental interaction where the added contribution of diverse international partners and civil society are welcomed and encouraged. Such partnership is unique in the world; a manifestation of the forward-looking thinking which inspires this new partnership.

In the future, Nordurslod and the Centre will have the opportunity to establish branches in other countries or different locations within Iceland; and take advantage of creating foreign sister foundations for fundraising and other operational purposes.

In order to finance Nordurslod, partnerships with donors, sponsors and contributors from other countries will play a key role; a path endorsed by the decision of the Cabinet and agreed by the Board of the Centre and by the Arctic Circle Foundation. The financial partnerships will be on the basis of the non-profit tax exemption status of the Centre.

By the nature of their contributions partners from other countries could be linked to Nordurslod in various ways:

  • Leasing a space; either short or long term.
  • Establish branches or divisions of their operations within the building.
  • Gain access to other parts of the building: halls, offices, exhibition and common areas.
  • Based on grants: Rooms, halls or other spaces will be named after the donors or, according to their wishes, after famous and prominent individuals, deceased or living, leaders in science, public affairs or other areas. Spaces could also be named after cities, regions or states.
  • Gain a seat on the Board of International Partners.
  • Become active participants in the planning of the building and its operations; providing ideas or proposals. A prominent wall in the building will list the names of the contributors and sponsors; thereby displaying the gratitude for their role and support.

The Arctic Circle has been empowered by the Cabinet’s decision and by the Board of the Grímsson Centre to start exploring such partnerships and engage in the necessary promotion, discussions and negotiations. It will be an open and democratic dialogue, inviting anyone - individuals, associations, organisations, corporations, institutions or others - from anywhere in the world to be involved and come forward with ideas and proposals.

No. 9/2022, 27 September 2022

This article is a part of the Arctic Circle Journal Series which provides insight, understanding and new information. The material represents the opinions of the author but not those of Arctic Circle.

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Arctic Circle

Images by Indian Artist, Rizma Feros

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