Speeches and presentations


Brian Bech Nielsen, rector at Aarhus University

Your Excellencies,  Honoured guests, speakers, colleagues and students,

It is a pleasure to bid you all a very warm welcome to the MatchPoints Seminar 2015. We value your presence and look forward with great expectations to three days of stimulating debate and dialogue on the security and governance in the globalized Arctic.

Since the Norwegian explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen in 1888 led the first known successful expedition to cross the Greenland ice sheet , scientists from all over the world have worked hard to expand our knowledge of the geographical, geophysical, social and environmental conditions that shape the top of our world – the Arctic.

The number of researchers in the Arctic has grown dramatically since the days of Nansen’s expedition – and so has the number of countries involved in arctic research.  Today, strong international research collaboration is a necessity and perfectly natural in this part of our globe.

Why so - could you ask?

There are several reasons – but just to mention one: The dramatic climate change in the Artic has shown us all that human activities in regions far far away may seriously affect the living conditions locally. This is one of the greatest challenges for mankind in the coming decades. Climate change has a global impact and it is important that our researchers continue to explore this problem and find solutions so that we may leave our beautiful planet in the best possible shape for the coming generations.

At Aarhus University we wish to contribute to a focused effort in the Arctic, and over the span of a few years, we have achieved a strong position in arctic research with our interdisciplinary Arctic Research Centre and two research stations on the east coast of Greenland, which we operate.  Scientists from all corners of the World and across disciplines join us in Greenland to investigate climate change, biodiversity, public health and how to handle the risks of oil spill and the extraction of rare minerals - just to name a few activities.

Apart from the international research partnerships, we have a strong commitment to knowledge exchange with society, organizations and governments. And let us not forget that efficient knowledge exchange with society is the best way for research to create value for us all.

In a world where international interdependencies become more and more complex and influence national policies, international collaboration is essential. This is exactly what science does best: build new bridges where none exist. You will experience this directly in action today, when researchers, diplomats, politicians and representatives from organizations come together here at MatchPoints 2015 to discuss, how to ensure a sustainable future in the Arctic.

One aim of MatchPoints is to give our researchers a chance to enter into a close - fact-based dialogue in relation to pressing global issues - with politicians and decision makers. Hence, we highlight the ability of science to create diplomatic connections across boundaries - and beyond political maneuvering – we could call it “Science diplomacy”.

However, fact-based dialogue requires – well, facts. So, we must continue to ask new questions – in particular the difficult ones. We must develop new theories, perform new experiments and insist on seeing things from different perspectives. But first and foremost, we must stay curious.  It was curiosity that drove the first polar explorers into unmapped territory, and it is curiosity that continues to drive Arctic research today. Hopefully our efforts will provide facts and answers, which may guide us on the path towards a sustainable future in the Arctic - and globally.

I would like to conclude my remarks by expressing my gratitude to our partners, whose financial support and commitment have been decisive for realizing this conference: I gratefully acknowledge, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the Danish Parliament, the Nordic Council of Ministers, CIRCLA at Aalborg University, the University of Greenland, the University of Oslo, DIIS and the Royal Danish Defence College. I would also like to thank the other Nordic universities and research institutions contributing to the conference. 

Finally, I would like to sincerely thank our conference co-host, the municipality of Aarhus for their continued support and keen interest in the MatchPoints seminars.

I hope you all will enjoy the conference and your stay in our lovely City. Please join me in welcoming - the true driving force behind the MatchPoints seminars, - Director Michael Böss.






Michael Böss, director of MatchPoints and associate professor at Aarhus University

Opening of MatchPoints 2015

Your Excellencies, dear speakers and panelists, colleagues and other guests.

The Arctic has, both climatically and economically, become a hot region over the past 10-15 years. This has given rise to a number of problems of security.

Firstly, there are the kind of problems which the extraction of mineral ressources may cause for environmental security and, by implication, for the health and quality of life of the peoples and populations of the Arctic.

Secondly, there are problems of a geopolitical character which arise when different geopolitical actors – which include not only the Arctic coastal states – would like to benefit from the new opportunities.

This means that the politics of Arctic security must be seen as being closely tied up with the need for instruments of governance. For two reasons. For one thing, footloose and an unsustainable development  will harm the environment and the people and peoples for whom the Arctic is ’home’ and ’homeland’, and may, and this is the second reason, become a threat to the political peace which, so far, has characterised the region.

Against this background,  it is the purpose of this conference is to discuss how the security and sustainability of the Arctic region are challenged today, and how both may be enhanced by cooperative measures and instruments of governance at national and international levels with due regard for internationally recognised principles of national sovereignty and the rights of Arctic peoples and the Arctic states.

The conference is designed to be a forum for dialogues between politicians, diplomats, government officials and academics from many parts of the world.

The conference represents a unique example of Nordic cooperation. It has been organised by a committee representing  10 Nordic universities and research institutes in partnership with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the Folketing and the People’s University of Aarhus. I want to thank colleagues, partners and sponsors for making this conference possible and such a pleasure to organise.

The conference is part of the official programme of the Danish Government’s chairmanship of the Nordic Ministerial Council in 2015. It is hosted jointly by Aarhus University and the City of Aarhus. As manager of the project and as director of the MatchPoints Seminar, I welcome you all to two exciting days of dialogue, debate and academic exchange.

In my capacity as Director of Canadian Studies Center, I take the liberty to open the floor for debate. I challenge the Canadian and Danish governments to make this conference a first step towards solving the long territorial dispute over Hans Island. And togther with my good Canadian colleage, Michael Byers, I have written out the following text, which we call ”The Aarhus Declaration”:  


Hans Island is situated in the centre of the Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait separating  Ellesmere Island from northern Greenland, and the Danish and Canadian governments have, since 1973,  disagreed to which of the two countries the island belongs. For a number of years around the turn of the century, a symbolic and peaceful ”flag war” was fought over the tiny island. At the moment, they adhere to the protocol of ”agree to disagree”, as the former Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller put it in May 2008. 

It appears unlikely that either country will wish to submit the dispute to international arbitration or litigation considering the uncertain outcome it would involve.   Against this background we declare:


The governments of Denmark and Canada should resolve the territorial dispute over Hans Island by creating a condominium of shared authority in which the Inuit of Canada and Greenland take part. We furthermore suggest that Hans Island becomes an international park symbolising the peaceful relations  among the peoples of the Arctic managed jointly by the governments of Nunavut and Greenland.

Let’s be a beacon by showing the world what good relations and cooperation in the Arctic mean!