State Secretary Maria Varteressian's opening remarks at the Arctic Congress

To tackle the challenges we face, we need more cooperation in the Arctic, not less, was Maria Varteressian's key message in Bodø. She underlined Norway's efforts as chair to ensure that the Arctic Council remains the most important forum for circumpolar exchange and joint problem-solving.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. 

What is the Arctic to you? Is it a distant, frozen wilderness? A place of untapped resources? New sailing routes, or perhaps a region at the frontline of climate change?

Innlegg Bodø
Foto: UD

The Arctic, the High North, or “nordområdene” as we often refer to it in Norwegian, can be many things. Our perception depends on our perspective. 

To many of us in this very room, the Arctic is home. It has been my home for many years. And it is currently the home of about nine percent of the Norwegian population.

So, let us for a moment look at the rest of the world based on where all of us are standing – or seated, in your case – right now: 

We are in Bodø, the European Capital of Culture 2024, at 67 degrees north in the Norwegian Arctic and in Sámi land. In Norway’s most important area of strategic interest.

Seen from our perspective, three global megatrends affect the Arctic. They all begin with the letter “C”. Competition, conflict, and climate change.

Competition: rivalry between superpowers and increased tendencies of protectionism affect the international order. After decades of closer integration, globalization is reversing. We are witnessing a trend of regionalization, affecting peace, stability, trade, and development. This also spills over to the Arctic. 

Conflict: According to the UN, two billion people live in areas affected by war and conflict. This is a stark contrast to the golden decade of growth in international cooperation in the 90s - with  the establishment of the Arctic Council being one relevant example. Russia’s illegal aggression on Ukraine impacts all aspects of international cooperation, also in the Arctic. 

Climate change: Global warming is accelerating, with severe impacts on life, health, livelihoods, and security. The Arctic is particularly affected, warming four times faster than the global average. Yet the emissions causing the Arctic to warm faster do not originate in the Arctic – they are the result of collective emissions of industries and energy systems in the rest of the world. To turn a well-known phrase around: what happens elsewhere in the world does not stay there – it ends up in the Arctic.



An important part of the solution to tackling the challenges I have presented also starts with a C: cooperation. 

  • With our friends and allies in this region
  • With our Nordic neighbours
  • Within our regions and countries
  • And not least: within the Arctic Council

Climate change and its implications are not privy to the geopolitical conditions of today. That is why the Council is still very much needed.

Over a year has passed since Norway took over the Chairship. I am proud of the progress in resuming many of the Council’s activities in the working groups. 

Our goal as Chair is to steer the Arctic Council safely through challenging times and ensure that the Council remains the preeminent forum for Arctic cooperation – with all the eight member states. 

Norway is committed to our Chairship priorities, which are: 1) oceans, 2) climate and environment, 3) sustainable economic development, and 4) people of the North.

I am happy that these priorities are reflected so well in the program of The Arctic Congress – not least the cross-cutting themes of youth and indigenous peoples.

To ensure dynamic societies in the North where people want to live and work, we also need two other important C’s in our toolbox, namely Culture and Creativity.

Something today’s program also perfectly reflects – and where Bodø and Nordland have so much to offer.

I wish to congratulate the UArctic, IASSA, the High North Centre, Nord University and Nordland Research Institute on creating this forum.

In a world – and in a region – that needs more cooperation, not less, arenas like this one could not be more important.

Thank you.