Polar research a priority area in the Swedish Government’s Arctic strategy

The government recently published Sweden’s strategy for the Arctic region. As one of the eight Arctic states, the government wants to strengthen Sweden’s involvement and contribute to peaceful and sustainable development in the Arctic. One of the priorities in the Arctic strategy is for Sweden to have a leading position in polar research.

– Research in the Arctic is becoming increasingly important for understanding climate change and its consequences. It is gratifying that the government has identified polar research as critical for Sweden’s position as a leading research nation, something made possible not least thanks to the icebreaker Oden, one of the world’s leading infrastructures in ship-based polar research, says Katarina Gårdfeldt, Director-General of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.

The Government’s strategy for the Arctic region states that the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat will investigate possibilities for access to a heavy, polar-classified climate-neutral research vessel that can be used all year round, something that is appreciated by Katarina Gårdfeldt.

– In a not too distant future, Oden will need to be replaced and it is therefore very positive that the need for a new ship is highlighted in the strategy. This is a priority issue for us at the secretariat and also a prerequisite for Sweden to maintain its leading position in polar research.

Furthermore, the Arctic strategy emphasizes Abisko Scientific Research Station as an important logistics platform when it comes to environmental research in the Arctic. The station is part of the research infrastructure for which the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat is responsible, and at the station there is an extensive environmental monitoring program that has been going on for more than 100 years. Every year, Abisko Scientific Research Station receives around 400 researchers, both Swedish and foreign.

Polar research and environmental monitoring – one of six priority areas in the Swedish Arctic strategy

Sweden wants to be a world-leading polar research nation with the capacity for expeditions on a year-round basis and increase the international impact of Swedish polar research.

  • The Government will continue to strengthen research, environmental monitoring and observation systems in and around the Arctic.
  • Sweden will support and further develop international cooperation on polar research, including climate research.
  • The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat needs to continue to consider possible alternatives for access to a heavily polar-classified, climate-neutral research vessel for year-round operations even when the Swedish icebreaker Oden is no longer considered to be used for research assignments.
  • Sweden intends to encourage the exchange of knowledge between researchers and indigenous peoples in the Arctic and work to make traditional knowledge and scientific research mutually accessible.

Source: the Swedish Government’s Arctic strategy 2020, p. 21

Arctic definition

The Arctic includes the areas north of the Arctic Circle and the associated eight Arctic states, i.e. Denmark including Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. When international bodies refer to the “Arctic” and “the Arctic states”, it refers to the area north of the Arctic Circle and the eight Arctic states. Within the Barents Council’s operations, two Swedish counties are included in the interregional co-operation, Norrbotten and Västerbotten. These are thus usually considered as Sweden’s Arctic region.

Source: the Swedish Government’s Arctic strategy 2020, p. 5

Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the hub for international cooperation in the Arctic, between the eight Arctic states and with non-Arctic states and organizations. The Arctic Council focuses primarily on environmental issues and sustainable development. The Council’s mandate does not cover security and military issues or fisheries management. All eight Arctic states are members of the Council. Sweden wants to see a strengthened and effective Arctic Council. The Arctic Council’s 25th anniversary, which takes place in 2021, will be an important opportunity to draw attention to what the Arctic Council has achieved.

Source: the Swedish Government’s Arctic strategy 2020, p. 8-9

Read the full strategy here:

The Swedish Government’s Strategy for the Arctic Region 2020, press release by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 29 September 2020.

Last modified: 2 October 2020