Northern Dimension Institute

Welcome to the Northern Dimension. The Northern Dimension (ND) is a joint policy between the European Union, Russian Federation, Norway and Iceland.
  1. The Finnish podcast Euroopan Suunta ('Direction of Europe') has published four special episodes in which expert guests discuss the Northern Dimension policy.

    The series includes four podcasts discussing the Northern Dimension policy and activities from different viewpoints: its background and future, business and research, and achievements of the Partnerships. The podcasts included interviews with Petra Gombalova EEAS, Alistair Clark and Simon Evans EBRD, Oddgeir Danielsen NDPTL, Dace Resele NDPC and many Finnish experts specialized in the ND issues.

    The podcast series was produced by the NGO European Movement in Finland and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The podcasts are partly in Finnish and partly in English.

    You can find the four podcasts on:

    • Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/6o9VoU3D5g0bFfzP0cGar9
    • Apple Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/euroopan-suunta/id1281878996
    • Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/euroopansuunta
    • Other platforms with the keywords 'Euroopan suunta'. 
  2. This Policy Brief summarizes the key outcomes and recommendations from the Northern Dimension Expert Seminar1: Nuclear Waste Cleanup in the Arctic, which gathered together leading international experts and key stakeholders on nuclear cleanup projects.

    The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership’s Nuclear Window (NDEP NW) is an established platform for eliminating nuclear hazards inherited from the Soviet nuclear fleet operations in the Arctic. The strength of the NDEP NW projects is their operating model, where the NDEP grants administered by the EBRD act as a catalyst for local and complementary national funding, including in-kind support from the beneficiaries.

    After years of terrestrial nuclear cleanup, Russia and international actors are taking the remediation of hazardous sunken objects as a strategic priority, and the recent European Commission funded feasibility study identified 17,000 sunken nuclear objects in the Arctic Sea, and drafted a four-step action plan for the management of six most hazardous objects.

    The Expert Seminar concluded that the nuclear cleanup of the most hazardous sunken objects should start from the lifting and dismantling of the most urgent ones: nuclear submarines K-27 and K-159, and that the NDEP NW would be a feasible platform for these projects. The learnings from the expert seminar lead to following recommendations for future nuclear cleanup projects on sunken objects in the Arctic:

    • Recommendation 1: To encourage the Russian Federation to continue its work on establishing a legal and regulatory framework for cleanup of sunken nuclear objects.
    • Recommendation 2: To inform international donors about how Russian legislation would enable/constrain international cooperation in the potential lifting operation.
    • Recommendation 3: To seek infrastructural and other synergies with existing NDEP funded projects and with bilateral nuclear cleanup projects.
    • Recommendation 4: To allocate sufficient complementary national funding to secure operational costs not funded by the NDEP grant.
    • Recommendation 5: To have a flexible technical and management approach in project design and implementation to account for regulatory and other uncertainties.
    • Recommendation 6: To ensure efficient knowledge sharing and collaboration between project implementing bodies and key external stakeholders.

    The Policy Brief can be downloaded here (link)

    For more information, please contact the authors:
    Dr Päivi Karhunen, Aalto University, paivi.karhunen [a] aalto.fi
    Prof. Riitta Kosonen, Aalto University, riitta.kosonen [a] aalto.fi

    1The seminar was organized virtually on 25 Nov. 2020. Its program and materials can be found here (link). The information presented in the Policy Brief is retrieved from the seminar presentations, unless otherwise indicated.

  3. The last ND Newsflash of the year 2020 is out. In this newsletter, you can read overviews of the ND Future Forums and the ND Expert Seminar on nuclear waste cleanup in the Arctic. Also, find about the new ND brochures, and acquaint yourself with the latest NDI Policy Briefs & Background Paper.

    You can download the ND Newsflash here: Northern Dimension Newsflash 3/2020.

    Enjoy the reading!

  4. The Northern Dimension Future Forum 2020 “Combatting COVID-19 in the Northern Dimension Area” was held on 3rd of December as two virtual events. The Forum gathered together a wide range of experts and stakeholders to discuss health and societal implications of the COVID-19 epidemic in the Northern Dimension area and beyond. The Northern Dimension Institute (NDI) organized the Forum in cooperation with the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing (NDPHS).

    The first event “We are in it together”, organized by the NDPHS, served as a platform for exchanging knowledge and experiences on how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced health and healthcare systems in the Northern Dimension area. Its expert presentations and panel discussions led Dr Ülla-Karin Nurm, Director of the NDPHS Secretariat, to conclude that international cooperation in risk and crisis communication is needed to tackle misinformation about COVID-19.

    Here, researchers have a key role in debunking pseudoscience, and authorities in ensuring that all of them communicate the same clear and easily understandable information to the people. Efficient and competent leadership is fundamental in establishing trust and in reducing anxiety and fear in society.

    Watch the first session on NDPHS Facebook here >

    The second event of the Forum “Living in the New Normal after COVID-19” was organized by the NDI as a live-streamed expert panel discussion from Finland. The panel discussed how COVID-19 has changed the world and how permanent the change will be, and how this change relates to other societal trends like digitalization.

    The panellists represented different societal sectors including business, research, and non-governmental institutions, and elaborated the topic from various perspectives such as the organization of work and education, mental health, and attitudes and values of people.

    The panel underlined that despite all the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19, the pandemic has brought some positive outcomes. Societies witness new forms of equality as all citizens face the same threat and need to adapt to the new circumstances like the restriction of social relations.

    The panel pointed to the pandemic as a shared social challenge that imposes a mental burden to all individuals, irrespective of the social status. At the same time, Finns have high trust in the capacity of authorities and the government to combat the crisis and expect clear instructions on how to act and behave in exceptional circumstances.

    The COVID-19 crisis has generated new forms of collective action. The Finnish event industries is an example of a sector that was made visible and identifiable due to the crisis, as event organizers needed to join forces to draw politicians’ attention to the detrimental impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on their business.

    Another positive outcome of the crisis is that it has generated social innovations and best practices that will prevail in the post-pandemic world. Most of these are linked with the use of digitalization in different fields including the organization of work, education, and the provision of healthcare services.

    Digitalization has increased efficiency at work, as commuting and travelling to meetings is no longer required. The time savings enable multi-tasking and more efficient organization of one’s work. Also, in the fields of education and healthcare, new digital methods and platforms have proven beneficial and will remain in use after the pandemic.

    At the same time, the panel pointed out that crisis-borne practices related to digitalization are not equally accessible to everyone or cannot completely replace traditional ways of organizing work and producing services. The crisis showed that not all professions can be done remotely and that schools did not have the digital equipment or experience to switch to digital distance learning.

    The panellists shared the view that it is important to ensure that vulnerable groups, e.g. pupils with special needs or mental healthcare customers with serious disorders, are met face-to-face. It was highlighted that the workplace is a social community, and virtual platforms and communities cannot replace face-to-face interaction. A future trend will most likely be hybridization, which combines digital and traditional forms of producing services and organizing work and education.

    Watch the recording of the second session here >

    In his concluding remarks, Finland’s Ambassador for Barents and Northern Dimension Jari Vilén welcomed the insights from the panel and perceived them as a valuable contribution to the governmental work on COVID-19 strategies. This showed the relevance of the ND Future Forums as bridging research and policy-making at a very concrete level.

    The Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being (NDPHS) Secretariat in Stockholm, Sweden, is offering two positions:
    Policy Officer
    The NDPHS is looking for an enthusiastic, self-motivated colleague to join our team as a Policy Officer. The Policy Officer will support the NDPHS Secretariat in the development of processes and appropriate structures to ensure that these four cross-cutting themes are integrated into the NDPHS work. The outputs are to be defined in the process and depend on the ambition and skills of the appointed candidate but will include, as a minimum, development of policy briefs and organisation of policy level events. At least three years of a relevant professional experience required.
    Read more about the vacancy and selection criteria in the vacancy announcement. Please apply until 24 January 2021 by submitting an application form, CV and a letter of motivation to the Secretariat.
    Communications Assistant
    The NDPHS is looking for an enthusiastic, self-motivated colleague to join the team as a Communications Assistant. The Communications Assistant will support the NDPHS Secretariat in realizing this ambition. The tasks will include assisting the Secretariat in its communication role; proactively looking for new cooperation partners; coordinating the development of the NDPHS Communication Strategy, new visual identity and new NDPHS website; keeping the NDPHS website up-to-date; developing content to be disseminated via social media, websites, newsletters, press releases and any other distribution channels and taking initiative in suggesting ways to improve the external and internal communication.
    Read more about the vacancy and selection criteria in the vacancy announcement. Please apply until 10 January 2021 by submitting an application form, CV and a letter of motivation to the Secretariat.
    The NDPHS is an intergovernmental organisation providing a platform for transnational cooperation in health and social well-being in the Northern Dimension area. The NDPHS Secretariat is located in Stockholm, Sweden, and enjoys the status of an international legal entity. The Secretariat’s mission is to provide administrative and technicalsupport to the NDPHS and to ensure the continuity and coordination of the work of the Partnership.
  6. The NDI has produced two new brochures in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Finland. The new brochures depict the four thematic partnerships of the Northern Dimension in a nutshell, providing the stakeholders with an easy way to take the message forward and engage on the ND topics. The new brochures are the first condensed presentations of the Northern Dimension.

    Feel free to download the brochures and distribute them to your interest groups!

    Fact Sheet: Exploring the Northern Dimension

    The fact sheet outlines the Northern Dimension history and present. It includes an overview of the ND structure and the main achievements of the Northern Dimension and its partnerships. 

    Northern Dimension: Towards a More Sustainable Future

    This brochure gives an overview of the Northern Dimension policy and highlights the signature achievements of the ND. 


    The brochures are available for download in PDF format. If you would like to have the brochures printed, please contact the NDI for the print files.

  7. Actors in the social and health care often aim to improve wellbeing of the population in various interventions and development projects. The evaluation of their outcome is usually based on objective wellbeing criteria only, although people’s subjective wellbeing (SWB) is the foundation of the wellbeing of the population. Therefore, the viewpoint of families and experiences of individual people should always be essential and deeply considered whenever wellbeing is evaluated. This is feasible, as subjective wellbeing can be directly measured by qualitative interviews and questionnaires, and many large international research programs have studied subjective wellbeing.

    This policy brief is based on a current study on the subjective wellbeing of Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and Russians, which was investigated on European Social Survey data from 2006 to 2016 with 48 000 interviewed respondents. The results show that subjective wellbeing was improving slowly during the period of investigation, and that there were several factors connected to subjective wellbeing. The most important ones include health, income, trust, religiosity and not being unemployed. The results allow making the following recommendations for actors in the health and social care, and for the work under the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing.

    • Recommendation 1. Subjective wellbeing should be acknowledged in all development projects, decisions, interventions and studies addressing health and wellbeing. Health is an important part of SWB, but not the only one.
    • Recommendation 2. Data from large-scale international studies can be helpful in the evaluation and interpretation of final outcomes of wellbeing development projects. If the outcome is not easy to assess, SWB measured in existing studies would help to detect the change in wellbeing.
    • Recommendation 3. Cross-sectoral co-operation and information exchange are beneficial for the assessment of wellbeing outcome of development projects and for research.

    Figure: Subjective wellbeing of Estonians, Latvian, Lithuanians, Poles and Russians in 2006-2016 (scale 0-10),
    presented in yearly means of wellbeing scores of 48000 interviewed respondents according to ESS data.

    The Policy Brief can be downloaded here (link).

    For more information, please contact the author:
    Paula Vainiomäki, PhD (Medicine), MSc (Social Politics), University of Turku, NDPHS PHC, pavaini [a] utu.fi

    This policy brief was written as a part of the NDI Policy Brief Training held in October 2020.

  8. Summary: The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters, better known as the “Polar Code”, came into force on 1 January 2017 to improve safety for ship operations in remote waters of the polar regions. It was developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a legally binding international framework that builds on existing mandatory regulations set by IMO in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The goal for implementing the Polar Code is “to provide for safe ship operation and the protection of the polar environment by addressing risks present in polar waters and not adequately mitigated by other instruments of the Organization” [10].

    This paper gives an overview of how the regulations have contributed to enhancing the safety of ship operations and mitigating environmental risks in the Arctic. At the time of writing (November 2020), the Polar Code has been in force for more than three years, so it is timely to assess how its implementation has affected safety of shipping and how it takes environmental issues into account. We identify a number of issues that hamper the effective implementation of the Polar Code, including inadequate maritime infrastructure in the Arctic, discrepancy between national requirements and those of the Polar Code, and too descriptive requirements concerning, for example, survival equipment and resources. Other areas that need improvement relate to the training of ship crews, and to the bringing the environmental regulation for marine traffic in the Arctic to the same level as in the Antarctic waters. We further examine additional ways of ensuring the safety of polar shipping and protecting polar waters in the era of increasing marine operations, taking into account the on-going work of IMO. 

    Read more and download the Background Paper here (link).

    For more information, please contact the author:
    Svetlana Kuznetsova, Northern Arctic Federal University, Arkhangelsk, Russia, s.kuznecova [a] narfu.ru
  9. The Northern Dimension Expert Seminar: Nuclear Waste Cleanup in the Arctic was held on November 25, 2020, as a virtual event. The purpose of the seminar was to build awareness around the recent activities of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership.

    The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership Nuclear Window (NDEP NW) is an established platform for eliminating nuclear hazards inherited from the Soviet nuclear fleet operations in the Arctic. The NDEP NW projects focus on handling, removal, and transportation of spent nuclear fuel in Northwest Russia. After years of terrestrial nuclear cleanup, Russia and international actors are now shifting their focus on nuclear hazards in the marine environment.

    The NDEP nuclear projects are administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is the only international financial institution with a nuclear safety mandate. The strength of the NDEP NW projects is their operating model, where the NDEP grants administered by the EBRD act as a catalyst for local and complementary national funding, including in-kind support from the beneficiaries.

    The seminar was moderated by Mr. Jari Vilén, Ambassador for Barents and Northern Dimension, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Experts from more than 10 countries and EU institutions were in attendance. 

    The Expert Seminar was opened with official greetings from the NDI, followed by greetings from Ms. Petra Gombalova (Head of Unit, EEAS), and Mr. Adonai Herrera-Martinez (Director of Environmental Funds, EBRD). Ms. Gombalova brought positive news to the seminar from the EBRD Donors' Meeting the week before, where the extension of the Environment Fund's mandate was well received for further discussions. Mr. Herrera-Martinez stressed in his greeting that the key to addressing such large-scale global problems is multilateral cooperation.

    The five expert presentations shed light on the topic of the nuclear waste cleanup in the Arctic from various perspectives. The speakers shared the view that the Northern Dimension is a natural and functional platform for this type of multilateral cooperation, which has produced excellent results.

    Mr. Simon Evans (Head of NDEP NW, EBRD) gave an overview of the ND Environmental Partnership’s nuclear security program on the EBRD agenda. Mr. Evans noted that complementary national funds are essential for sustainable project implementation. He also underlined that knowledge sharing and collaboration between the bodies implementing the projects has proven to be essential.

    Mr. Mario Lazzeri (Head, International Affairs and Project Coordination) from the Italian radioactive waste management company Sogin presented the recent EU-funded “Feasibility study and preparation for the implementation of an action plan concerning the safe and secure management or disposal of sunken radioactive objects in the Arctic Sea”. The feasibility study identified two nuclear submarines, K-27 and K-159 as the most critical objects calling for lifting and dismantling. Mr. Lazzeri further emphasized that it is crucial that Russia will establish the necessary legal and regulatory framework for the management of the sunken objects. The international cooperation is important in the management of this legacy, too.

    Mr. Anatoly Grigoriev (Head of International Technical Assistance Project, Rosatom) presented the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom’s current activities and plans for dealing with Arctic nuclear waste, including the projects implemented in Andreeva Bay, Gremikha, Lepse and Saida. These projects have resulted in the decommissioning of 120 nuclear submarines during the past 20 years. Mr. Grigoriev agreed with the previous speaker that establishing the regulatory framework is the precondition for future projects on the nuclear cleanup of sunken objects. He informed the audience that the Russian Federation has already passed several governmental resolutions to address this issue and that the legislative work is continuing.

    Mr. Ingar Amundsen (Head of Section, International Nuclear Safety, DSA) from the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority addressed the cooperation between Norway and Russia in nuclear safety and legacy issues. Mr. Amundsen described how this bilateral cooperation has focused both on concrete nuclear cleanup work and on regulatory cooperation. Important areas of cooperation have been for example the four international emergency exercises and expeditions to sunken objects that have shed light on the condition of hazardous objects such as K-27 and K-159.

    Finally, Mr. Alexandre Gorbatchev, Counsellor for nuclear energy and technologies in the Embassy of France to Russia, discussed the bilateral cooperation between France and Russia in implementing nuclear waste management measures on the Kola Peninsula, and its synergies with multilateral initiatives. For example, findings of bilateral projects on the alarming state of nuclear core materials used in the Arctic motivated the launching of the above-mentioned feasibility study on the management of sunken objects in the Arctic. Mr. Gorbatchev also noted that the equipment and infrastructure built in the bilateral projects could be used in the dismantling of K-27 and K-159.

    In his concluding remarks, Mr. Vilén thanked the speakers for their informative presentations, which highlighted the results achieved in nuclear waste management and the challenges for the future. Mr. Vilén emphasized the importance of international co-operation, especially appreciating Russia's willingness to work on the common challenge. Mr. Vilén concluded that the discussion on the topic will certainly continue during Russia's presidency of the Arctic Council starting next May and Finland's forthcoming presidency of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

    In case you would like to re-watch the webinar or were unable to attend, the recording can be viewed here.

    The slides used in the presentations can be downloaded here.

    The ND Expert Seminar 'Nuclear Waste Cleanup in the Arctic' was organized in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

  10. The ND Future Forum on Curbing Black Carbon Emissions in the Northern Dimension Area was held as an online event on November 24, 2020. It brought together over 60 participants from 15 countries.

    The Northern Dimension Institute NDI co-organized the Forum with the EU-funded Action on Black Carbon,which is currently finalizing a roadmap for reducing black carbon emissions in the Arctic. The Forum had two complementary purposes: to feed research-based knowledge to decision-making which is the core of the NDI’s work, and to gather input from various stakeholders to the Action’s roadmap.

    The program of the Forum consisted of two thematic sessions, each of which included a keynote speech followed by a commentary panel. The ND partners EC/EEAS, Norway, Russia and Iceland, the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership and the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution brought their greetings and emphasized the importance of the topic. Watch the greeting video here >

    Strategies to reduce the environmental impact of black carbon emissions

    The first session discussed the strategies to reduce the environmental impact of black carbon emissions. The keynote speech by Dr Mikael Hilden (Director of the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE and a consortium member in the EU-funded Action on Black Carbon in the Arctic) addressed the multiple pathways needed to reduce emissions of black carbon.

    Dr Hildén stressed that due to the complexity of black carbon, international cooperation and coordination is needed to identify emission sources, to monitor emissions, and to develop technologies and policy measures to curb emissions. Concrete steps include the harmonization of measurement criteria and data exchange, joint RDI for low emission technologies and practices, and eventually, joint policy development at a transnational level.

    International cooperation and coordination needed to curb emissions

    The commentary panel highlighted the need for international regulation and cooperation to curb black carbon emissions, pointing to the complexities associated with black carbon and its measurement in a standardized manner. In the lack of binding international regulation, not all countries are committed to reporting their emissions, and the lack of measurement standards undermines the international comparability of data.

    The panel further demonstrated that policy steps to reduce black carbon emissions are currently taken in, for example, the EU Clean Air Policy. It was shown that the reduction of black carbon emissions would bring not only environmental benefits but also economic ones, thereby contributing to welfare development. Therefore, even more ambitious emission reduction goals would be needed.

    At the same time, the panellists pointed that international coordination needs to be combined with local action, as countries and regions even within the ND area are at very different stages of development as to their environmental policies concerning, for example, decarbonization of transport.

    Health effects of black carbon emissions

    The second session focused on the health effects of black carbon emissions in the Northern Dimension area. The keynote speech was delivered by Dr Raimo O. Salonen, Chief Medical Officer, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). In his presentation, Dr Salonen discussed the health effects of exposure to emissions and measures needed to reduce long-term exposure. These include the identification of areas of high exposure to particles, and informing the residents about local air pollution problems.

    Dr Salonen further noted to the variety in people’s exposure to black carbon emissions, as road traffic may be the key source of emissions in urban areas, and small-scale combustion in the rural areas.

    Tackling the problem of exposure to emissions from small-scale wood combustion

    The international commentary panel discussed how to tackle the issue of black carbon domestically and internationally to reduce its negative implications to human health. It was noted that the health implications of black carbon are manifold, varying from the most obvious ones such as respiratory diseases to less obvious ones such as the Alzheimer disease. The panellists also pointed out that not all emissions are location-borne, including black carbon emissions from marine traffic that are “imported” to, for example, the Arctic.

    The panellists pointed to positive policy outcomes in the reduction of black carbon emissions, such as a substantial decrease in emissions from traffic in Finland in the recent decade. At the same time, such positive development has not taken place as to the emissions from residential and other small-scale combustion. Indeed, the panellists raised the issue of wood combustion as an area where it is necessary to combine global coordination with local action. Tackling the problem of exposure to emissions from small-scale wood combustion is challenging in remote areas, such as rural settlements in the Russian North, where wood combustion is the only source of energy and heating available for the majority of the population.

    A global approach to the challenges is needed while acting both regionally and nationally

    Finally, it was noted that black carbon cannot be seen in isolation, as it is only one of the harmful substances negatively affecting human health. Initiatives, such as the introduction of cleaner fuels for ships, may provide public health benefits via reduction of sulphur emission, but increase black carbon emissions. Therefore, a concerted effort is needed to curb both sulphur and black carbon emissions.

    The concluding remarks of the Forum were made by Jari Vilén, Ambassador for Barents and Northern Dimension, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, who noted that a global approach to the challenges we are facing is needed. At the same time, it is important to act both regionally and nationally.

    The presentations are available for download here (some slides withheld) >