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New Observer: Switzerland

3 October 2017
"Nowadays Swiss scientists are among the world leaders in the field of polar research. Excellence in altitude research thus goes hand in hand with polar research."


Please tell us a little bit about Switzerland and its connection to the Arctic, or its Arctic interests.

Switzerland is a landlocked country in the heart of Europe and is largely composed of mountain ranges containing numerous glaciers. Even if we are geographically located in middle latitudes, the natural endowment of snow and ice brought about that Swiss researchers developed a strong interest over the years to explore the cryosphere on a global scale. Nowadays Swiss scientists are among the world leaders in the field of polar research. Excellence in altitude research thus goes hand in hand with polar research. To underline this natural relationship we use a bonmot: In the Arctic, permafrost is under people’s feet, in Switzerland permafrost is over our head.

Switzerland began exploring the poles in the 19th century and since then the Swiss science community actively participates in international collaboration and polar science programs. Swiss scientists are engaged globally to study climate conditions and ecosystems of mountainous and polar regions. The impacts of human-induced changes and their consequences on ecosystems and the global climate are at the forefront of their research. As the “Vertical Arctic Nation” we see a good base to enhance the engagement in bringing regions of high altitude and high latitudes closer to one another.

Why is Observer status an important component of Switzerland's Arctic “profile”?

The Observer status is part of Switzerland’s long-lasting and reliable commitment to research excellence and to peaceful international cooperation. Like in in the Arctic, the temperature in the Alps rises twice as fast as the global average. Both the Arctic and the Alpine Region will therefore continue to warm more rapidly than the global mean.

If we are truly serious about advancing our capabilities to predict future local and global change – and to give decisive answers to the implied challenges – this will require all of us to coordinate our activities internationally. Only by joining hands, our research will lead to societal benefits. Switzerland, as a global leader in research, innovation and technology, assumes its share of this responsibility, in solidarity with the rest of the world, to solve the demanding imperatives of our planet. Swiss partnerships include a long track record of working with partners from all Arctic Council Member States. Over the past decade, Swiss researchers have participated in some fifty international Arctic projects.

As you look ahead, what specific ways do you hope that Switzerland will be able to contribute to the work of the Arctic Council?

Through our many ongoing programs, Switzerland contributes already important resources to the Arctic. We will continue to do so. As a country with outstanding research facilities, and as one of the most innovative countries worldwide, Switzerland is keen to contribute expert knowledge to the Council at the level of the Arctic Council’s Working Groups, Task Forces and Expert Groups particularly in the interdisciplinary area of climate change research (AMAP, PAME, SDWG). The results of this largely international research can also benefit Arctic inhabitants and indigenous communities, who are directly affected by climate change. As a new Observer, Switzerland is ready to contribute to the work of the Arctic Council with its resources, expertise, cutting-edge technology and enthusiasm.

(Thanks to Ambassador Stefan Flückiger, Coordinator of Arctic Policies, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, for providing the responses above.)