Lofoten Islands, Norway
Lofoten Islands, Norway
© iStock

Interview with Solveig Rossebø, Norway’s Senior Arctic Official

25 October 2023
Solveig Rossebø brings a career full of Arctic and Russian experiences to her new role as Norway’s Senior Arctic Official. As Norway is chairing the Arctic Council, she is also joining a dedicated team in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry that is focused on the main task at hand: maintaining the Arctic Council as the premier forum for cooperation and collaboration in the Arctic. Learn more about Solveig’s background, what she is looking forward to and a favorite Arctic memory in this interview.

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

To begin with, I’m a Russia specialist. I speak Russian and I have been working with the Russian Federation for an extended time at the Foreign Ministry. Most recently, I worked for 5 years in the Norwegian embassy in Moscow. In addition, I have been working with Arctic issues in the Ministry on several occasions. I was the Senior Official for the Barents Euro-Arctic Council for 2 years, and I wrote the Norwegian Arctic Strategy some years ago. So, I feel that these experiences working both with Russia and on Arctic issues from an international and national perspective have prepared me very well for my role as Norway’s Senior Arctic Official and have allowed me to understand what people in the Norwegian and Russian Arctic need, how they live, and what their interests are.

Solveig Rossebø
© Private

The country you are representing is currently chairing the Arctic Council and working on resuming the Council’s activities following the pause. How would you describe your role in this process?

We feel that we have the mandate to maintain the Arctic Council as the premiere forum for collaboration and cooperation in the Arctic. All of the Arctic States have stated that they want to sustain and strengthen the Council, and since we are the Chair, we are leading this joint effort. I feel the responsibility, and I feel we are working towards this goal together, all 8 Arctic States, putting in all of our efforts and ideas. It will be difficult but also rewarding.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are a team of 5 to 6 people working and thinking together, sharing our creativity, patience, and innovative ideas. My role within this team will be to bring in my experience from working on Arctic issues and with Russia.

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

Most of all, I’m looking forward to meeting the different people working on Arctic cooperation, the Indigenous Peoples in all the Arctic States and other people addressing different issues in the Arctic. I want to learn how they see things, to hear how they work, and understand what is important to them.

What are some of your most memorable Arctic experiences?

I have collected many memorable Arctic experiences as I have been working on Arctic issues ever since I started working at the Foreign Ministry in 1997. But one fond memory that comes to my mind is from the time I was working in the Norwegian embassy in Moscow. In 2019, I attended a conference in Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic in Russia – a place that gets so cold in winter that people can’t be outside for a long time. We were there in autumn, and the Association of World Reindeer Herders were presenting the outcomes of the EALLU project under the Sustainable Development Working Group. The reindeer herders were not only showcasing the award-winning cookbook, which they had created with Indigenous youth from all over the Arctic, but they had actually prepared dishes from the book. It was a fantastic visual exhibition of the cooperation, of life in the North, and traditional food. Some dishes were a bit unusual but most of it was beautiful, interesting, and very well tasting. Paired with traditional dances and songs, this was a wonderful display of traditional livelihoods in the Arctic.