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Arctic Council 20 Years

The ambassador who went back into the cold

Norway’s new Arctic ambassador is no stranger to the region, but, she admits, much has happened since in the time she’s been away

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As the Arctic Council celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, we’ll be taking time to speak with some of the the people involved in the organisation. We start off with one of its newest arrivals.

Say “ICC” in Northern circles, and chances are everyone will immediately understand you’re referring to the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

For Anniken Ramberg Krutnes, the association takes half a second longer. “I still think International Criminal Court,” she admits.

The delay is understandable: after working with resource-management and polar issues in the 2000s (she was present at the signing of the Ilulissat Declaration, in 2008) Ms Krutnes most recently served as ambassador to the Netherlands, where the UN tribunal is based.

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Now back working on polar affairs as Norway’s ambassador for Arctic and Antarctic issues, she has spent the past month relearning the subject matter. And, she is finding, learning a number of new things.

“The amount of co-operation since the Ilulissat Declaration was signed has grown considerably, as has the role of the Arctic Council. There’s an understanding now that it is the organisation for discussing the Arctic, and at the same time it has become a more efficient organisation. In many ways its a role model for regional co-operation.”

In the time she’s been away, much has happened in Arctic, she says, including the development of an understanding of the Arctic as a single region with shared issues.

“I’m used to my Arctic, of course, and that’s not the same as the Alaskan Arctic or the Russian tundra. But even though we have differences, we share common issues and the Arctic Council gives us a forum where can work together on them.”

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Being an Arctic country with a history of polar exploration is something she belives continues to shape Norwegians’ image of who they are.

“Firstly, it is something that inspires us as individuals. It’s what makes us put on our skis in the winter and convince ourselves that this was just was what it was like to be Fridtjof Nansen.”

“On the bigger scale, as a country, it means that we understand that the possibilities and opportunities that there are in the Arctic, especially to make use of our resources, comes with obligations. We have a responsibility for ensuring that the Arctic’s resources are used sustainably and responsibly.”

Asked what five words she’d use to describe her new position, Ms Krutnes pauses before taking an appropriately diplomatic stab: “Challenging. Demanding. Meaningful. Rewarding ... That’s only four,” she says. “How about ‘coolest job in the world’?”

Further reading about the Arctic Council
Environmentalist, administrator, facilitator ... bow tie
The Arctic Council: A Forum for Peace and Cooperation
Arctic Council 101
At the end of a long and winding road, a look ahead
Like ice for chocolate
Who is an Arctic stakeholder today?
The Arctic Council vs the world?
Where the Yanks are comin’ from
Towards a more perfect council
Power to the council
Arctic Council “vaguely known, if at all”
North Atlantic group knocking on Arctic’s door
“The majority of people in the North aren’t represented on the Arctic Council”

Photo: IISD