Thursday, November 2, 2017

Economics and Development in Microstates, Islands, and the Arctic

Economics and Development in Microstates, Islands, and the Arctic
30 November-3 December 2018, Nuuk, Greenland

Economies work differently in microstates and island territories than in larger jurisdictions. Small population size and/or land area, often coupled with remoteness, affect how economies function and encourage potentially problematic governance forms and practices (including conflicts of interest, anti-competitive policies, and dependency on the public sector). Microstates and islands are frequently said to suffer from skills shortages, lack of economies of scale, extreme industrial specialisation and dependence on a small number of external markets (thereby increasing vulnerability), high transport costs, and poor balances of trade.

Nevertheless, many microstates and subnational island jurisdictions (nonsovereign island territories) have achieved economic success and/or stability, in part through their engaging – consciously or otherwise – in strategies that ‘make the most of smallness’. Political and/or economic integration with one or more larger states provide some territories with a steady flow of resources, even in the absence of strong domestic production. Some subnational island jurisdictions (SNIJs) staunchly defend their nonsovereignty and reap the benefits of political affiliation with a metropolitan state, while some microstates successfully deploy their sovereign status in pursuit of strategic goals. Around the world, both microstates and SNIJs frequently engage in niche, specialised, or innovative economic practices, literally trading upon their apparent insignificance. Such strategies often run counter to generally held development goals, which have typically been designed from a large-state perspective.

Arctic regions, with their small populations, transport difficulties, and remoteness from centres of political and economic power possess many of the same challenges and opportunities.

This interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral, international conference considers the economic and developmental advantages and disadvantages faced by microstates, island territories, and arctic regions, exploring theory, empirically grounded best practice, and political-economic strategy. The conference welcomes contributions from government representatives, NGOs, business actors, and academic researchers (from economics, human geography, anthropology, development studies, business studies, and other disciplines).

What can theoretical models of microstate, island, and arctic development tell us about the functioning of small economies in small polities? What are (and were) the relative benefits of industrial focus on tourism, extractive industries, the knowledge economy, import substitution, 'selling sovereignty' or trading in 'strategic services', and other strategies in small territories? How does sovereign or nonsovereign political status affect a territory's economic potentials? Can economic and political objectives be reconciled in territories that have experienced colonialism or are home to Indigenous peoples? Are mainstream economic 'laws' at all applicable to small societies? Is 'development' always worthwhile, or might other economic goals make more sense for some territories? The conference will consider these questions and more.

About Nuuk, Greenland.
Greenland is a highly autonomous subnational island jurisdiction of Denmark. Although Greenland's government and administration are modelled after those of Denmark, the territory is confronted by apparently intractable economic, political, and social problems. Greenland is economically dependent on an annual block grant from Denmark, saddled with exceptionally high costs due to its remoteness and arctic environment, struggling to provide services to a population of just 57,000 spread out across many dozens of towns and villages with no fixed transport links, largely dependent on skilled labour imported from Denmark. The Greenlandic public nevertheless overwhelmingly desires eventual political independence from Denmark, seeking to escape a difficult relationship that remains coloured by a history of colonial paternalism. Recent years, however, have seen a dwindling of hopes that a growth in extractive industries will allow Greenland to pay its own way. The nation stands at a political and economic crossroads.

Nuuk (population 17,500) is Greenland's capital and largest town, a centre for government, services, business, and culture. Greenland’s rapid urbanisation since the 1950s has seen Nuuk transform into a town of massive apartment blocks and residential skyscrapers, challenging local conceptions of what it means to be a Greenlander in the modern world.

About the conference.
On 30 November-1 December, academic presentations will be held at Ilisimatusarfik/University of Greenland. On 2 December, delegates will take a boat trip out into fjords beyond Nuuk, seeing the stunning nature and visiting a small, remote settlement. On 3 December, delegates will explore Nuuk, speaking with local government representatives, business people, and other community members to learn about how Greenland's economy functions. Delegates will have a good chance of witnessing the northern lights. If you have any questions, please e-mail convenors Adam Grydehøj (

How to make attend and make a presentation.
Presentations are welcome on all aspects of economics and development in microstates, islands, and arctic regions. Presentations last 15 minutes and will be followed by around 5 minutes' question time.

The deadline for abstracts is 28 February 2018. You can submit your abstract here: The deadline for early registration is 31 March 2018.

Participants will be invited to submit expanded versions of their papers to a special thematic section of Island Studies Journal ( on the topic of 'Island Economics and Development', to be published in May 2019. Island Studies Journal is an open access journal published by the University of Prince Edward Island's Institute of Island Studies. The deadline for paper submission is 31 May 2018. All submissions will be subject to peer review. Please direct all publication enquiries to both Adam Grydehøj ( and special thematic section editor Javier L. Arnaut (

This conference is a collaboration of: Island Dynamics & Ilisimatusarfik/University of Greenland's Department of Economics and Business.

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