State Secretary Tore Hattrem's speech at the Arctic Economic Council breakout session during Arctic Frontiers 2016 in Tromsø.
Excellencies, Tara Sweeney, Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to have been invited to speak to you today. It also gives me great pleasure to see that the Arctic Economic Council Secretariat is fully operational and up and running. You have made impressive strides since Foreign Minister Børge Brende officially opened it last September.
It is very nice to see you again, Tara. Our meeting in Iceland during the Arctic Circle conference last year was very useful. I very much look forward to cooperating closely with you in the future.
International cooperation in the North
The High North is Norway's most important foreign policy priority.
It is a region characterised by peaceful cooperation, stability, respect for international law and sustainable management of natural resources.
It is imperative that we keep it that way. This is crucial for the future development of the whole region, and it is therefore the overall goal of Norway's High North policy.
The Arctic Council and the Arctic Council Secretariat here in Tromsø are vital contributors towards this end.
When several Asian countries became observers to the Arctic Council in 2013, the Arctic became a new dynamic arena for closer cooperation between Europe, North America and Asia.
The growing interest in the council is significant. It illustrates the potential of the region and it is testimony of the relevance of the Arctic Council.
The role of industry and the role of the Arctic Economic Council
The Arctic Council is already working closely with indigenous peoples and NGOs, researchers and experts on issues such as climate and environmental change, and emergency preparedness and response.
The Arctic Council has a successful history of shaping and sharing best practices. It was only natural that the Arctic Council, as such an important actor in the High North, also reached out to the business community.
For this reason, the Arctic Council initiated and facilitated the establishment of a new body to contribute to sustainable business development in the High North.
The Arctic Economic Council was established by a number of business actors from all of the eight Arctic Council member states during the Ministerial Meeting in Iqaluit, Canada in September 2014.
The objective of the Arctic Economic Council is to strengthen business-government relations and promote sustainable business development in the Arctic.
The aim is no less than to be the partner of choice for the Arctic Council on responsible economic development in the region.
Today, I would like to give credit to the representatives from business and industry who took the original idea of the Arctic Economic Council and developed it further.
Without their leadership, we would probably not have gathered here today.
Norway has high ambitions on behalf of the Arctic Economic Council and its secretariat. It will play an important operative role in setting up a robust regime based on knowledge and innovation for cooperation in the Arctic.
It will make us all better equipped to face the challenges and seize the opportunities in this dynamic region.
Norway's goal is to establish a platform for dialogue between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council on responsible economic development in the Arctic.
The framework for cooperation between the two bodies has not yet been fully determined. We believe that the Arctic Economic Council should formalise its relationship with the Arctic Council.
There should be synergy between the two, and we believe that the AEC should become an advisory body to the Arctic Council on issues related to business development in the High North.
We are very pleased to see that different working groups of the AEC have now started working on a variety of issues. We expect to see good results from this work in the years to come.
We are aware that these are time-consuming processes, but we are nevertheless highly optimistic and confident that we will see results in the near future.
We are very pleased that Tromsø was selected as the host city for the secretariat. The Arctic Economic Council is an important supplement to the many other institutions working on Arctic-related issues in this beautiful city.
The Arctic Economic Council will undoubtedly benefit greatly from Tromsø's position as a professional hub for the Arctic, but it will also make a very valuable contribution. This is a textbook example of a 'win-win situation'".
Norway will make every possible effort to be a worthy host of the secretariat.
As Mr Brende said at the opening of the Arctic Economic Council, we will contribute to the funding of the Arctic Economic Council Secretariat.
The Arctic Economic Council has the support of many nations and strong commercial actors. It is my hope and belief that it will play a major role in business development in the Arctic for years to come.