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Udenrigsministerens tale ved konferencen "The SDGs in the Arctic - Local and Global Perspectives" i København den 1. december 2017

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Your Royal Highness, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Arctic friends,


Welcome to Copenhagen! It is a great pleasure for me to open this Conference together with my colleague from Greenland. And we are lucky to be joined by the Arctic Economic Council as our important partner.


Let me start with a special thank you to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince for his welcome remarks. I fully agree with your main point: There are new opportunities in the Arctic. And we need to work together to make the best of them - to the benefit of the Arctic populations.


It is a key priority for the Danish government to cooperate closely with Greenland, the Faroe Islands and international partners to secure sustainable economic development in the Arctic. That’s why we are here today as co-hosts and partners. That’s why this conference takes place. And I’m happy to see that so many agree with this goal.


The melting of the Arctic sea ice creates great challenges and risks. But it also opens new economic opportunities in the form of new sailing routes and more effective sea transport, responsible extraction of natural resources, and increased tourism.


The global climate challenges and the new economic potential are also leading to increased international focus on the Arctic.


It is up to us to make the most of the new opportunities and international attention. We must ensure sustained economic development in the Arctic. At the same time we must protect the fragile ecosystem. And we must do so in close cooperation with each other.


The task is enormous – and continued development of the Arctic is not a responsibility limited to the Arctic States. We must invite the world – states, companies and organizations - to join in on opportunities and partnerships.


The Arctic Council has a crucial role to play here. In the Fairbanks Declaration we pointed to the need for cooperation between States, organizations and the private sector to create the framework conditions for sustainable development in the Arctic.


The Fairbanks Declaration also reaffirms the UN Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs. I am very happy that we agreed to this, because linking the SDGs to the Arctic is not only right on substance, it also makes strategic sense.


Adopted by all UN member countries, the SDGs concern not just developing countries, but all of us. And as we develop a new strategy for the Arctic Council, it is the position of the Kingdom of Denmark that it should be based on the SDGs. And here is why:


The 17 goals offer a very fitting narrative to the Arctic. They form a strategic framework that we can use and point to – both domestically and internationally – as we balance our efforts for sustainable development with its economic, social, and environmental dimensions.

Because environmental protection is not in opposition to economic development. Yes, sustainable development is about environmental and social dimensions, but it also about creating jobs and economic growth, as reflected in SDG 8. It is about investment in infrastructure, industrial development, and technological progress as reflected in SDG 9. And it is about taking action in partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society as reflected in SDG 17.


In particular, it is absolutely necessary that we find ways to create stronger ties between the Arctic Council and businesses.


To remove barriers, we need to better understand how local and global stakeholders see and analyze the risks and opportunities in the Arctic.


One way of doing this would be to link the Arctic Economic Council closer to the Arctic Council. We see potential in further exploring how we can advance a common circumpolar business agenda based on the SDGs.


No doubt, companies that align their business models with the SDGs are better suited to meet future market demands, including private-public partnerships.

But potential investors in the Arctic need to be convinced of the business model and the future framework conditions for doing business.


Part of the business case is already in place in the Arctic: the needs are clear and financial means - public or private - are available in key sectors, including energy, tourism, transport and health.


Infrastructure investments are crucial for a successful and sustainable economic development. Connectivity – also through telecommunications - remains a key priority for us in our efforts to realize the region’s potential.


And defeating distance through digital means is the most promising, cost efficient and environmentally friendly way of doing so. The Kingdom of Denmark therefore greatly appreciates the continued focus by the Arctic states on digitalization and connectivity.


But more is needed on the financial side. We should explore the possibilities of ensuring that more of the available financing makes its way to the Arctic. We will be exploring this path further in the new year.


Another important way to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities is through science and research. Research-based solutions and better education can help us address challenges - such as global climate change and consequences for the local environment, economic development, human wellbeing, wildlife, and nature - and tap into new opportunities as they emerge. We are committed to further developing Arctic science and research.


Let me finish by saying that of course the pre-requisite for sustainable development is a peaceful and stable Arctic. We must therefore continue on the track of dialogue and cooperation. Exactly for this reason, Denmark and Greenland will be hosting an inclusive meeting in May next year to mark the 10th anniversary of the Ilulissat Declaration about peaceful and responsible cooperation in the Arctic.


It is my hope that today’s conference and the input we will get from speakers and panellists can spur the sustainable economic development agenda in the Arctic. And that concrete results to the benefit of the Arctic Peoples will follow. 


Thank you!