Ilulissat (Photo: iStock)
Ilulissat (Photo: iStock)

Interview with Morten Høglund, Norway’s Senior Arctic Official

20 October 2021
Morten Høglund is the new Senior Arctic Official (SAO) for Norway. The former parliamentarian does not only bring his extensive Arctic experience to the Council but also a passion for the region and its people. In this interview, he speaks about his background, the tasks he is looking forward to, priority areas he sees for the Council and some of his memorable Arctic experiences. Get to know Morten Høglund and learn why he feels that his whole career has been leading up to his role as SAO.

What is your background, and how do you feel it has prepared you for your role as a Senior Arctic Official?

My Arctic-related background was very much formed when I was Member of the Norwegian Parliament for 12 years from 2001 to 2013, and I had the privilege to be the first Chair of the Norwegian Parliament’s Arctic delegation for some years. This role gave me a fantastic opportunity to meet the people of the Arctic and to travel extensively in the region. I was involved in all sorts of Arctic issues, of course also getting to know the Arctic Council, its Working Groups, and its projects. After I left the parliament, I was employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as special advisor for Arctic affairs. Unfortunately, this lasted only for a short while as I was called back into politics. So, now I’m very excited to return to the Arctic. I feel like I’m coming back home, like my whole career has been leading up to this.

What elements of your work with the Arctic Council are you most looking forward to?

What gives me most energy is meeting people, at conferences, meetings and of course in communities in the Arctic. This is what really informs me: talking to people, seeing how people live, how the Arctic is evolving, which challenges and opportunities the region is facing. In short, everything that I can do outside of the office, is what I really look forward to the most.

What are some of the challenges that you see for the Arctic Council that you are looking forward to tackling in your new position?

The Arctic Council has evolved over the past 25 years since its establishment. Its activities are numerous and its projects plenty. We need to make sure that what we are doing is beneficial for the region and its people, so people can live, work and thrive in the Arctic. We need to tackle the issues that are most critical for a sustainable development of the region, while taking care of the environment. Our task is to stay focused and not to lose sight of the most important issues. There are many things we could do, but I think we need to make sure that we stay on track. Prioritization is important.

What would you see as some of these priorities?

Of course, tackling climate change, but also making sure that the industry is of the highest standard, that transport is sustainable, and that people in the communities are thriving. There are unique differences across the regions, there is not one recipe that fits all. But we can learn from each other, from local communities and Indigenous Peoples, sharing experiences and invest in people. In a couple of years, we do not want to read about Arctic communities in history books only, we want them to be thriving. The pandemic has also shown us some lessons, we need to learn from these and create good communities for everybody including women, children, and elderly, and that is a huge challenge. We have to come together as an Arctic family and support each other.

What are some your most memorable Arctic experiences?

I have been very privileged to travel to many beautiful places, seeing glaciers calving in Ilulissat and talking to Nenets reindeer herders – these are experienced you will never forget. My passion for the Arctic I take from the beauty of the region but even more so from the people, they are the true identity of the Arctic.