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Interview with Björn Lyrvall, Senior Arctic Official for Sweden

3 January 2018
The Arctic Council recently welcomed Ambassador Björn Lyrvall as the new Senior Arctic Official for Sweden. In this interview, get to know Ambassador Lyrvall's background and what he sees as the prospects and challenges for the Arctic Council in the months and years ahead.

Q: What is your background, and how do you feel it has prepared you for your role as a Senior Arctic Official?

First: I’m really thrilled to join the Arctic Council family! After more than thirty years of diplomatic service for the Swedish MFA – in Leningrad, Moscow, Sarajevo, Brussels, London, and most recently in Washington, my teenage daughters said when the Arctic portfolio came up – “Finally, dad, you’re going to do something meaningful!” And indeed, thinking about it, they’re right – some of the key global challenges and opportunities are present in the Arctic region. My experience in crisis management and multilateral diplomatic work will probably come to some use. And I’ve had the privilege of engaging first-hand with the Arctic agenda in my role as Director General for Political Affairs during the Swedish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council 2011-2013, as well as when accompanying my Ministers to Anchorage, Fairbanks, and the Science Ministerial in Washington DC as Ambassador to the United States 2013-2017. We also did a really interesting conference – “The Arctic – hot or cold” in our House of Sweden in DC a couple of years ago. But clearly, I have a lot to learn from the impressive expertise gathered in the Arctic Council - not least from its Permanent Participants and Working Groups.

Q: What elements of your work with the Arctic Council are you most looking forward to?

I think it’s hard to pick one or two issues out of a very comprehensive agenda. There are many complex, interacting challenges in the Arctic region that all deserve attention. The first thing I have to do is to learn more about the Council, how it works, and how it manages to respond to the challenges facing the different communities of the Arctic region. Needless to say, the response to the regional and global effects of climate changes is particularly important; here’s one key task for the Council. I’m impressed not least by the work done to produce evidence-based reports, such as SWIPA. I also look forward to working with the people actually living in the North – indigenous groups as well as everybody else – to support the sustainable development of their communities. This will require closer cooperation also with the business community, represented by the Arctic Economic Council.

Q: What are some of the challenges that you see for the Arctic Council that you are looking forward to tackling in your new position?

As the transformation of the Arctic will continue and even accelerate during our lifetimes regardless of efforts to reduce emissions, I believe we’ll have to think strategically about what tomorrow’s Arctic will look like, and how we need to develop our international collaboration to be able to respond to this new reality. I’m confident that the Arctic Council is doing very useful work today, but which issues should we plan to add to the agenda tomorrow? There will, not least, be an increasing need for knowledge and strategies focused on adaptation and resilience. I think we should be inspired by the framework and goals provided by Agenda2030 to identify and address Arctic issues for the next 10-15 years. I also think we must have an inclusive approach when responding to developments in the Arctic, and engage even more closely with Observers. What happens in the Arctic is, as we know, often triggered by activities elsewhere in the world. We’re in this together and must act together.