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Arctic Crossroads

5 November 2019
Editorial by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials

Reflecting back on the first ever joint meeting of the Arctic Economic Council and the Arctic Council earlier this month I can honestly say it left a mark on me. It left me feeling inspired to do more. And I think that was the general mood of the meeting: An appetite for more. For more dialogue, more understanding, more collaboration. And that inspires optimism and a feeling that we are on to something. Something new, exciting and, what is most important: Something sensible.

The meeting brought together representatives from the eight Arctic Council Member States and the Council’s Working Groups, representatives from the Arctic indigenous communities as well as business community and investors. Reflecting the chairmanship priorities in both councils, the work of the conference was conducted around four main themes, i.e. Marine Transportation and Blue Economy; Telecommunications Connectivity; Responsible Resource Development and Mainstreaming Biodiversity and finally Responsible Investment and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The presentations were good and thought provoking, but what was at least equally valuable were the lively debates with the audience. Feelings of skepticism were voiced, heard and debated in a frank, respectable and constructive manner. New ideas and new concrete proposals on how to move the collaborative work of the two councils forward were presented and we will continue to discuss these at the SAO Plenary in Hveragerði, Iceland, mid-November. All of this serves to build understanding, respect and trust between very different actors with very different roles but who all, inescapably, share the same interwoven interests of sustainable development and prosperity in the Arctic region.

That is why I was inspired to feel the level of engagement of the different participants. It shows that we all realize the significance of what is happening in our region. We are fast approaching crossroads. Arctic crossroads. Where there never were roads before. And we all know that we will be better off crossing them together, with a clear and knowledge-based vision on which turn we are going to take, with a solid understanding of the fact that business as usual will not work in the Arctic and with a clear mission to work together towards a sustainable, thriving and vibrant Arctic region.