Switzerland has been invited to present an overview of its vision, policy and involvement in the Arctic at a plenary session of this fourth annual Arctic Circle Assembly. Switzerland will take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the parallels between Switzerland and the world’s northern countries. Glaciers have played a substantial role in the shaping of Switzerland’s geography. Like Greenland’s ice sheet, glaciers are particularly sensitive to climate change. Switzerland can boast many years of experience and a long-standing tradition in the exploration of the cryosphere, the regions of the earth that are covered by ice masses. That expertise has been put to use for many years in a variety of exploration projects in the Arctic.The largest of those projects is the Swiss Camp research station in eastern Greenland, which has been conducting climate measurement for over 20 years.
At a plenary Country Session, Switzerland will highlight its numerous interactions with the Arctic region and its scientific activities there. State Secretary Yves Rossier, National Councillor Tiana Angelina Moser, Frederik Paulsen, co-founder of the new Swiss Polar Institute, Konrad Steffen, Director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), and Matthias Finger of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) will attend the session.
Switzerland’s participation at the Arctic Circle Assembly takes place against the background of its candidacy for observer status on the Arctic Council. The members of that intergovernmental forum include, in addition to the eight countries bordering on the Arctic (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States), organisations representing indigenous peoples and countries with a significant involvement in the region.
Ice melts in the Arctic are making possible new trade routes between Asia and Europe. At the same time, they are contributing to the acceleration of climate change and opening access to large and hitherto unexploited natural resource deposits. The political, economic, scientific and environmental questions this raises are the subjects on the agenda of this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly.
The Arctic Circle Assembly is an annual gathering attended by political decision-makers, business leaders, environmentalists, scientists and representatives of indigenous peoples. Its purpose is to stimulate more dialogue between the various actors and to draw the attention of the international community to the future of the Arctic.
As a result of the increasingly important strategic role played by the Arctic, the Arctic Circle Assembly has rapidly taken on a significance that goes far beyond the interests of the countries that border on the Arctic. Thus, at the 2015 Assembly, some 2000 participants from 50 countries met in Iceland to discuss the future of that vulnerable region.
Indigenous peoples and cultures
Switzerland’s interest in the Arctic is not limited to scientific questions, but also extends to cultural issues. Among other things, Switzerland is an advocate for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the discussion. At a side event to the Arctic Circle Assembly, guests from Switzerland and Greenland will discuss the consequences of climate change for the inhabitants of the Arctic. In addition there will be an exhibition devoted to Switzerland’s activities in the polar region, which will highlight the many ties that exist between our country and the Arctic.
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