13.-14. of February the students attending AB-203, Arctic Environmental Management got hands on experience with international politics. A multinational conference was staged; “As the sea ice reaches new critical lows in the arctic, the interest of energy, shipping, fishing and resource companies looks north to the opening up of a new ocean for business”. Students acted as different Barents Sea stakeholders, and had to develop a joint international statement for the future of area. That shouldn`t be a problem, right?
Teams of three were formed, and each team had to acquaint themselves with what their delegation’s goals were. In this process we learned as much as we could about the topic, what we had to bargain with and how to reach our goals. Through different conference stages we explored the dynamics and the rules of a political conference. Even before the first formal conference presentation the Norwegian government and the Oil & Gas producers of the Barents Sea (OGBAS) seemed to like each other a lot, while The Green Energy Alliance tried their best to become friends with Both Russia and the Greenlandic Government. Both WWF international and Sami and Inuit council seemed, at the start, like small and unimportant parts of the game. In the end it turned out not to be the case.
Through a corridor coffee session everyone got the feeling of the scale of the challenge by trying to negotiate and by lobbying for their delegation’s cause. As the session drew on the frustration was high, tensions grew and unofficial agreements were made. After the final resolution, where we attempted to find solutions and to get our goals through, we all learned that this kind of business is not that easy and that there were winners and losers among the different delegations.
The class agreed afterwards that this was a good way to get a feeling and greater understanding of the difficulties and challenges in international politics. A huge thanks to Tavis Potts, who made this political game not only educational and fun, but also realistic and full of surprises.
Malene Klakegg Vinnes and Mari Engelstad, the student representatives at UNIS