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Building knowledge and confidence in the Arctic

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

As we learn more about the challenges we face in the Arctic, it becomes clearer by the day that collaboration with partners outside the region is needed in order to effectively tackle them. What is more, non-Arctic states around the globe are waking up to the fact that what happens in and to the Arctic has direct and widespread effects on them.

The undisputed warming of the Arctic climate has direct effects on monsoons in Asia. Opening-up of shipping routes in the Arctic affects regions and states where shipping is an important industry. Rising sea levels, resulting from melting of Arctic glaciers, are already having and will continue to have lasting, widespread impacts. Not only in neighboring regions, but also further away. Recently I participated in the Warsaw Format meeting where I met with representatives of the Observer states and the EU. There I felt very clearly our shared understanding of the importance of joining hands in our work towards a sustainable Arctic.

It is only natural that we see an increased interest from non-Arctic states to follow developments in the region and Observer status in the Arctic Council is an obvious option in that respect. However, we all need to be mindful that the Arctic Council has its limitations when it comes to its mandate and ability to address some of the issues that impact states and regions. Military security, for example, has been deliberately excluded from its work and the Arctic Council has not been directly involved in management of natural resources. It has however focused on science and knowledge-based work in the field of sustainable development. In fact, the Council’s depoliticized nature supports its great ability to generate state-of-the-art scientific knowledge through its six working groups. This in turn feeds into policy recommendations and serves as important input for enlightened decision-making in the Arctic and beyond.

The benefit for all Arctic Council actors, Member States, Permanent Participants and the Observers, to really engage in the work of the Arctic Council Working Groups is therefore obvious. Shared knowledge-building contributes to a more enlightened and therefore brighter future for the Arctic.