are in the MOST Phase I website (1994-2003).
The MOST Phase II website is available at: www.unesco.org/shs/most.
Short project description
|Circumpolar Coping Processes project
Circumpolar Problems : Coping with globalisation, a Learning Process
General objective of the project
Main Research Topics
2. Qualifications for communication
3. Socio-cultural processes and differentiation
4. Political integration
5. Transnational regional co-operation
Activities by stage
Within the process of globalisation, the ambiguous consequences of radical modernity might be more apparent in the Northern regions of Canada, Russia and the Nordic countries, than anywhere else, as this overall circumpolar region is an extremely modernised periphery, dependant upon natural resources that have involved international trade for centuries. Social transformations in these regions have long involved the integration of local economies into world markets and transnational investments as well as threats to specific modes of life and cultural identities. Hence, the social transformation of the Northern regions enhances local and regional participation in transnational economic transactions as well as in the articulation of local and regional values and symbols in global media.
The challenge of globalisation may lead to new forms of co-operation, networking and collective action where communities draw upon values of social solidarity and traditions of mutual self-help. There are many examples of communities and indigenous people that, when put under pressure from the outside world, have become more aware of their cultural heritage, and they have acted to energise their traditional customs - but now in reflexive ways. Global influence and the "global village" may lead to social differentiation, atomisation, chaos and mass psychological loss of social identity, as illustrated by current processes in all circumpolar regions. But it may also serve as an impetus for community cohesion and cultural continuity through a deliberate social response.
The radical extension of world-wide economic and social relations which seem to be the most significant feature of globalisation, dramatically raises the question of whether communities and regions are able to cope with the challenges and risks of global integration and division of labour. Thereby, learning processes in households, firms, communities and regional organisation - formal and informal - are maybe more important for the Northern areas than ever before. The question is to what extent people are able to participate in global relations and simultaneously maintain some kind of - maybe new - social identity and local commitment. This is not a question of choosing either-or, as neither total assimilation in global and abstract relations (cyberspace) nor exclusive isolation in local communities will secure social survival. It is rather the question of how to combine local commitment and knowledge based on traditional experience - with abstract disembodied knowledge and global orientation.
The differential conditions and processes resulting in either atomisation, marginalisation and isolation - or active global participation based on local learning - are core research issues. As research into coping processes is obviously adequate in the Circumpolar region, the results and the approach of research is relevant for other regions of the world.
Human beings are not at all as mobile as commodities and information. Travel is naturally possible and expanding, but change in one's permanent place of living is very difficult due to family, economic, social and cultural relations including the job situation of other family members. Consequently, job possibilities in the local, (perhaps) regional, or even national labour markets are crucial to most households. But also people's learning processes are often bound to national systems of innovation formed by educational and other institutions. Small nations of either micro-states or self-governed areas, like Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, have only weak systems of innovation. Such small nations can rely on education in foreign countries and can be able to participate in international technological development; and there is the possibility that they be marginalised. However, there are also examples of regionally embedded innovation systems based on informal and business networks rather than formal institutions.
Indeed, many rural communities in the North now find themselves on the brink of extinction as the natural resources they rely on have suffered from overuse for years. In fisheries, for instance, a fleet of industrial, large scale trawlers operating outside national territorial borders, is largely responsible for a crisis with destructive effect on coastal communities (e.g. New Found land). There are also examples of over-fishing inside exclusive economic zones due to the weak efforts from governments lacking national political integration (e.g. Faroe Islands) and examples of uncontrolled exports of unprocessed raw materials (e.g. Murmansk Region). However, other communities and regions are learning to exploit the opportunities of new market niches, potentially acting as global firms from the periphery (e.g., Iceland and Greenland). Also, entrepreneurial participation in new growth industries as tourism is a challenging process to study within the Circumpolar region. Learning processes in both old and new industries often imply a change of 'cosmology' from the natural resources themselves to the market and customers. Such change also has socio-cultural impact, which mean new forms of segregation. For some modes of life, e.g. the educated professionals, coping with global change is easier, compared to other modes of life, e.g. traditional hunters.
Differences in social class, gender relations, generations and ethnicity change in coping with globalisation. The "global village" exists in the minds of some people (mainly the well-educated ones) but it seems to exclude the people lacking either access to electronic communication, English language abilities or any professional incentives to communicate globally. Hyper mobility and new technologies are often monopolised by men. Alcohol problems, identity conflicts, violence and suicides are also most common among men in the Circumpolar region. Figures in this region show that women have taken a sufficiently coherent hold of entrepreneurship to be successful in such new service industries as tourism.
Indigenous people, apart from Inuit Greenlanders, are often losers in the process of appropriating one's place in the globalisation transformation. However, the Inuit, the Sami, the Nenets and small nations like the Faroese have also developed selfesteem and international cultural and political co-operation as an active response to globalisation and participation in "sustainable development". Indigenous people and small nations are fighting to construct their own socio-economic development, self-governments, political cultures and educational policies, and these are remarkable coping strategies to follow and evaluate in the research.
Social science research on community development in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, within the last decade, contains experiences which make certain research topics fundamental to investigate in every study within the MOST Circumpolar Coping Processes Project. In some countries, like Norway and Canada, there is already a rich tradition and immense amount of publications in community studies. Generally, there are only very few genuine comparative studies. There are some examples of comparative studies of either governmental policies in different countries or development of more communities within one country. For example, the Nordic Institute of Regional Development Research (NordREFO) has reported such studies. But comparative studies on community level and across borders, aiming at cross-border transmission of experience, are lacking.
The MOST CCPP will contain case-studies of communities in all countries involved within a common approach of an integrated transnational research team. Comparative analysis of geographical differentiation will provide increased understanding of the specificity of coping processes in each case, on local, regional and national levels. The project will ground theories in practical experiences within the framework of the following five topics, to be studied in all case studies:
In Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, tourism has become a new major economic sector, whereas for instance Greenland and Northwest Russia have ambitious plans to expand tourism in their desperate search for economic diversity and new incomes. Both in fisheries and tourism, a major problem is what kinds of firm structure facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation - embedded in the local communities of "production" and foreign markets of consumption. Competitive quality production - beyond mass production - depends on strong producer-user-relations that are useful in developing market intelligence among primary producers of fish or tourist products in the North. Often, fishermen and tourist entrepreneurs of Northern communities find that neither anonymous markets nor hierarchical organisations are able to help them develop the market intelligence necessary for innovation. Some cases of success in local development are based on networks establishing direct personal and social contact between communities and their markets.
On the other hand, to cope with the power of supermarket chains and travel agencies under economic concentration, Northern entrepreneurs and communities have to rely on national or transnational sales organisations of the Circumpolar region. We must presume that claims of environmental sustainable products and production/transport methods, as well as documentation and declaration, will be a new interesting challenge for resource-based industries to follow. Both direct producer-user-contacts and professional organisations have advantages and disadvantages in coping with such challenges, which are present not only in tourism and fisheries. Depending on the co-ordinated choice of case-studies in Finland and Sweden, further resource-based sectors will be included, e.g. mining industry, forestry and reindeer herding.
Of course, from a global perspective the Circumpolar North has a relatively high level of education and dissemination of information technology. However, in reality lack of competence, unstable foreign professionals looking Southwards, immense psychical and socio-cultural barriers often counter this fact, and Northern regions often need a specific adaptation of educational systems and information technology, compared to the standards of European and American centres the Circumpolar communities are related to. For example, geographical distances between settlements make the perspectives and problems of distant education and distant work more challenging in the Circumpolar region, in respect to both benefits and costs. And educational systems are challenged by the political and cultural ambitions of indigenous people and small nations which raises immense tasks of education of native speaking teachers, publishing in native language and translation. How to combine socio-cultural identity and self-estimation with abilities to communicate with the world, is an overall question.
A number of examples of privatisation processes in resource-based sectors - not at least in Northwest Russia - raise questions of social classes and uneven development of living conditions. Meanwhile, cultural resistance and adaptation of indigenous people involve many severe problems of personal and social identity. Not at least, gender relations are changing in coping processes, and the processes of social, ethnic and gender differentiations are most often intermixed. Focusing on differentiation also commits every study of the project to be specifically concerned with the unprivileged.
Differentiations will be studied from the point of view of four dimensions: a) living conditions, b) socio-cultural identity, c) entrepreneurship, and d) political participation and power. There are not only interrelations between these four dimensions but also causal interrelations to be investigated.
At the local level, there will be studies of local government's responses and strategies for coping, by planning, mobilisation and networking. Both levels can be approached by highlighting the differences between institutional set-ups of societal integration as specific combinations of a) economic market networking, b) political state authorities' administration and c) social relations of civil society. However, a number of Northern cases illustrate that neither economic, nor political, nor social integration can exclusively provide conditions for successful coping. Actually, these three forms of integration ("a", "b" and "c") are pure ideal types which never exist isolated in reality. Rather, the specific different modes of knitting together forms of integration turns out to be crucial. Most often, communities, regions or self-governed areas hid by crises are cases where the knitting together of economic, political and social integration did not work properly
Meanwhile, transnational and international initiatives from Ministries of Foreign Affairs have resulted in, for example, the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (BEAR) since 1993 and the Arctic Council in 1996. The Norwegian initiative to establish the Barents region was explicitly formulated in relation to the EU-discourse on a "Europe of Regions", which now actually will result in several INTERREG projects crossing the border between Finland and Russia.
Yet, at the level of NGOs, for example Inuit Circumpolar Congress (ICC) has played an interesting international role in relation to the growing international political recognition of the rights of indigenous people. And in these processes, Greenland's home rule government within the Danish Realm balances as a both governmental and non-governmental actor. There are very many transnational and international political and cultural constructions but a major problem is whether or not these kinds of transnational policies in any way affect the coping strategies of communities in the Circumpolar region. For example, the use of the Barents Region can be discussed, if it does not facilitate socio-economic co-operative networks which would not exist without the transnational construction.
Rather than studying the political construction of transnational regions, the MOST CCPP will look for possible local and regional effects and results of transnational regional projects. The central question is what kinds of transnational regional cooperation projects are working or could work as part of effective coping strategies knitting together political, economic and social integration. Obviously, the Circumpolar North is also a field of political exercise and fight on status in international politics between more Southern centres of power, as the Circumpolar North is still geopolitically centrally placed in post cold war security policies.
All of these five topics will be addressed from the point of view of how different communities on the local and regional level in the different countries involved will be able to cope with and manage the social transformations that are to potentially emerge from globalisation.
Globalisation may result in the weakening and disembodying of social relations. Coping strategies necessarily involve reestablishment and reembedding of social relations: How civil relations, entrepreneurial activity, and establishment of political consensus - from the local to the transnational scale - can work together, is a central question. It involves questions of trust, identity and solidarity.
The interdisciplinary approach to Circumpolar Coping Processes requires:
- interdisciplinary training, discussions and papers to secure that the research staff work within a common approach. The two relative young core Universities of Tromsø and Roskilde are well known for their interdisciplinary traditions and experiences.
- a high standard of empirical knowledge about, experience of and commitment to communities in the Circumpolar region as a common framework for practical implementation of case-studies
- well-informed selection of specific communities for case-studies. The interdisciplinary approach and coverage of the five topics mentioned will only be realistic, if the scale of the field for intensive field research is limited. But case-studies should represent types of development and strategies with general relevance.
On the background of several studies and databases already existing in the institutions involved, within the preparation period two smaller settlements (villages) will be selected in each of the participating parts of countries, countries and selfgoverned regions: Northwest Russia, North Finland, North Sweden, North Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Northeast Canada. As a more Southern reference, a case on Bornholm (Danish island in the Baltic Sea) will be included.
In the process of selection of cases, certain factors will be constant: population size, peripheral location, local government unit, and dependency on exportable natural resources like fisheries and tourism. Fisheries will be in focus in all North Atlantic cases, but probably not in Swedish and Finnish cases. Possibilities and experiences of tourism will be studied in all case-studies with a special focus on the participation of indigenous people in entrepreneurial activity. Possibly, other resource-based sectors, e.g. forestry, mining industry and reindeer herding, will be included in accordance with the choice of Russian, Swedish and Finnish case-studies. Although each case is not necessarily representative for its country or region, every case study includes analysis of how local communities are integrated in regional, national and transnational structures and processes.
- the research team, consisting of one researcher from each country, will work continuously for two and a half years. To facilitate cross-cultural and interdisciplinary discussion and development in an open-minded way, researchers involved should all read, speak and write English.
- the research team will be serviced by the project secretary during the whole period and supervised by the project co-ordinator, particularly in fieldwork and writing of final reports
- papers will be reviewed by a panel of scholars and selected potential users including representatives of indigenous people and of transnational regional co-operation
- on-going evaluation of the research process will be initiated by the project coordinators with reference to the panel of scholars and selected potential users
- interactive conferences and "future workshops" with potential users will be organised in the beginning and in the end of project phase 1.
Stage 1 - 1996-1997: Preparation, fund-raising and team-building
* Raising funds from national and international sources
* A seminar for MOST project group members and potential participating researchers including an overview over existing studies
* Recruitment and establishment of the research-teams of young social scientists working from Tromsø
* Common training in social theory and research methods
* Transatlantic conference for research teams and potential usercommunities (from selected local communities, local and regional authorities, local business, local NGOs etc.)
Stage 2 - 1998-1999: Case-studies with field-work
* Field work based on intensive co-operation of the research team with regional and local authorities, social movements, civil organisations and business organisations
* Continuous training, supervision and evaluation of the research team according to experiences and needs expressed during field work
* Writing and publication of field reports and working papers on comparative analysis.
Stage 3 - 2000: Presentation and evaluation of the phase I with users
* Evaluation of the research process in respect to quality, interdisciplinarity and dissemination of results
* Decision on further development of MOST research and competence development
The following outputs are expected in phase I:
* Development of transatlantic research networks, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary in nature. Experiences of participation in field work of the transnational research team across borders will be valuable for research and users. * Contribution to development of transnational economic, political and social networks and co-operation, outside research. The project will facilitate crossborder learning processes giving people opportunities to gain practical experiences from communities in regions and countries which they were not familiar with. Transatlantic workshops, seminars and conferences will include excursions and events at the community level.
* Competence development in user-communities, e.g. local governments, central governments, fishermen, entrepreneurs, firms, organisations of industries, social movements, and voluntary organisations. The project includes processes of training of officials, political leaders, entrepreneurs etc. Policy guidelines will be developed through researcher-user interaction.
* A number of project publications relevant to the international scientific community, to business corporations, to policy-makers, to professionals in welfare services.
* Public presentation of main results in mass media.
* Separate reports evaluating experiences with cross-cultural and interdisciplinary co-operation processes.
* Contributions to the development of the theories and methodologies of social sciences.
* Guidelines for potential phase II (including extension of regional coverage with Northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Russian Far East)
The pilot period running from September 1996 is to be financed by the Nordic Atlantic Committee (NORA, US$ 15,000.00). MOST/UNESCO gave seed feeds for these activities (US$ 15,000.00).
The Department of Planning and Community Studies, University of Tromsø, houses the project secretariat and contributes with P rofessor Nils Aarsæther's work as a co-ordinator. The administration of the project is located at the University of Tromsø.
North Atlantic Regional Studies (NORS), Roskilde University, contributes with parts of works of Ph.D students and associate professor Jørgen Ole Bærenholdt's work as project co-ordinator, untill spring 1998. This contribution originates from the research project "Conditions for Sustainable Development in the Arctic", financed by the Danish Research Council 1995-1998.
Applications will be adressed to national, transnational and international research councils and agencies. Funds from each of the Nordic countries and Canada are expected to cover costs of one researcher from each country participating in the MOST Circumpolar Coping Processes Project research team.
Department of Planning and Community Studies, University of Tromsø,
In addition, a number of officials, political leaders, entrepreneurs and researchers, outside the institutions mentioned, will participate in the research process.
Project Co-ordinators :
Co-ordination UNESCO/MOST :
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