The Arctic is increasingly on our mind and the region has, in recent years, received substantial attention within the international arena. This is understandable. In virtue of climate change and its impact on the environmental, societal and economic development we see more and more countries and actors interested in the Arctic. This development is only likely to continue in the foreseeable future.
Since the Arctic Council was established in 1996, it has served an important role in promoting stability and cooperation between countries in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council has – in the course of its twenty years – attained major achievements, most notably through the extensive work of its subsidiary bodies, and through the crucial agreements on search and rescue and oil spill prevention.
The challenges we face in the region have, however, changed in the last two decades. The fragile ecosystem of the region is increasingly at risk, and Arctic communities are experiencing first-hand the challenges of dealing with a rapidly changing climate with far-reaching consequences and repercussions around the world.
At this watershed in its history, I believe it is of utmost importance to promote and further strengthen the Arctic Council as the most significant forum of discussion and decisionmaking on Arctic issues. It is the Arctic states’ responsibility to ensure an auspicious development of the precious Arctic – for the benefit of generations to come. The Arctic Council will be an indispensable backbone on that journey.