The Prime Minister's Speech at the Award Ceremony of the Mohn Prize 2024

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre on stage. Suit with tie. Holding av speech.
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Credit: Office of the Prime Minister

Transcript of the speech as delivered

Dear friends, good morning,

It is a true honour for me on behalf of the Norwegian Government and a great personal pleasure to congratulate Doctor and Professor Emeritus Oran Young on the Mohn Prize of 2024. My heartful congratulations, Professor.

The Mohn Prize recognizes outstanding research in the Arctic, and this year the prize goes to an outstanding person.

So, on the prize first: Henrik Mohn – let us recall, born in 1835, lived until 1916, was a Norwegian astronomer, meteorologist, even theologian; it all comes well together – and perhaps he was our first ‘climate scientist’, decades before even the concept was conceived and we saw the climate threat emerging.

So, let us put it this way: Henrik Mohn has laid the foundation for Norway’s Arctic research and also for Arctic research far beyond Norway. And you, Doctor Young, has brought and expanded globally, many steps forward, this immensely important, knowledge-based field throughout your academic career, together with your colleagues and students from all around the world. Many of them are here today.

Doctor Young, you have, for years, pioneered the field of international environmental governance, resource management and geopolitics in the Arctic – putting all these elements together; taken separately they are ‘weak’, but put together they can create action. This is a field very close to the heart or – I think, the backbone of Norwegian politics and of my Government’s program; that is why we write into our platforms that the High North is the priority of our foreign and security policy.

You have contributed to more than 20 books, over 150 scientific articles, throughout more than 50 years of your career. Did you start when you were 15? Some people start early.

More than 30 years ago you wrote about “Arctic Politics: Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North“. I think few people imagined at that time that what we were about to see, during the coming decades, and I quote, from your work; «The Arctic has emerged as an area of increasing political, strategic, and economic importance».

And I remember back at that time, the Arctic was something very remote; and in the big capitals of Europe and elsewhere around the world, the Arctic was still some kind of ‘terra nullius’, that they knew very little about and it had not much meaning for them.

You proved them wrong. Doctor Young, you have spent much of your career focusing on the human dimension of climate change impacts. And we should be reminded that it is really all about people; we should not get lost in some kind of academic concepts. It all boils down to living conditions for present and future generations.

And it was – and we should remember – and I see many of those scientists in this room; it was the knowledge of the Arctic that really gave us fundamental indications about the climate change and what it was really about; the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment in 2004, and what was coming – a very important work for the IPCC.

In addition to this, you have contributed to establishing important networks focusing on peaceful international cooperation. And, I would say that, in that way, you have facilitated the development of the Arctic – from a kind of an ‘exotic concept’ – leading to the idea of people of the north coming together, making sense, taking responsibility – and creating a certain polar gathering – and so the foundation for the Arctic Council, which is, today, our most important forum for managing the Arctic.

So, now upon the announcement of the Mohn Prize, Dr Young – you said, and you are right, that this is a critical time for the Arctic. And we know that when it is a critical time for the Arctic, it is also a critical time for the globe, for the Antarctic, for everything in between. A time which requires creative interplay between science and politics, between scientists and governments – and you were absolutely right.

I have experienced first-hand that close interplay between scientists and governments, as well as indigenous permanent participants, in the Arctic Council, how that can work. By the way, I met with the President of the Sami Parliament yesterday, and I said that when I was foreign minister I gave half of the speaking time of Norway to her, so that she could speak and tell those lessons that needed to be heard.

This type of ‘closeness’ is something I have not experienced in any other international organization. So let us remember that the regional organizations that we created up here in the north, after the end of the Cold War, it is now the Arctic Council that is left, because the others have been brought to some kind of silence, after the terrible war that is now going in Europe. That is why, we, Norway, as chair of the Arctic Council, has a deep responsibility of preserving, protecting and taking forward this fine council.

So, the Mohn Prize is an acknowledgement of the importance of international cooperation at large and sustainable development in the Arctic, in all its facets, more than ever. International research collaboration that brings academia, policy, industries and business together – and as I said yesterday; we do not have all those players around the table right now, because there is one country that has put itself outside, but we should not close those doors and throw the keys away; one day they will open again and we will be all around that Arctic table.

So, the Arctic Council, which Norway now is chairing, under challenging conditions – it is and remains the most important forum for cooperation on these matters – much thanks to the work of pioneers like you, Doctor Young.

I hope that this prize will serve as an inspiration to all those who know how much the Arctic matters. I salute the Arctic Frontiers for giving us the framework, the dynamics, and I hope that this interplay – this contribution to cooperation – continues to maintain the High North as an area of stability; and that is why I am here, under the current political conditions, and our vision should still be ‘High North – Low Tensions’.  Thank you – and congratulations!