Photo: Ragnar Axelsson

Kicking off the Icelandic Arctic Chairmanships: Doing Business in the Arctic

The Icelandic business community took over the Arctic Economic Council’s (AEC) chairmanship at the AEC Annual Meeting in the beginning of May. Simultaneously, the Arctic Council chairmanship was transferred to Iceland. One of the priorities of Iceland’s Arctic Council chairmanship is to work towards a stronger Arctic Council. An important part of that work is to strengthen cooperation between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council on the basis of a new Memorandum of Understanding signed in May.

The Icelandic American Chamber of Commerce, the Embassy of Iceland in Washington D.C., the Arctic Economic Council and the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute jointly organized an event titled “Doing Business in the Arctic” in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2019. This event marked the start of the Icelandic Arctic chairmanships.

In his keynote speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, highlighted Iceland’s wish to work closely with all partners both within and outside the Arctic region. In their effort to build partnerships, the Minister affirmed that Iceland will work to improve collaboration between the Arctic Council and the AEC. The Minister also underlined the need for creativity and active interplay between the public and the private sector as well as the need for innovations to tackle the challenges ahead.

The first panel of the event focused on the economic drivers in the Arctic. AEC’s Nagruk Harcharek (Director, UIC Lands, Alaska) and Lori Davey (Vice President of Enterprise Markets, GCI) both spoke at the panel. Mr. Harcharek underlined the importance of providing meaningful engagement for the indigenous people in the Arctic. He also reminded the audience of the importance of diversification as it serves as the key to ensure opportunities for coming generations.

Ms. Davey, who also serves as a member of the AEC’s Responsible Resource Development Working Group, provided an overview of the group’s work related to mining in the Arctic. Education of workforce, earning a license to operate, built infrastructure, one stop shop for regulatory and permitting issues as well as data sharing are key issues for successful mining operations in the Arctic. The full report is available here.

In a discussion focusing on the Arctic Investment Protocol (AIP), Guggenheim Partners’ Chairman for Investments and Global Chief Investment Officer Scott Minerd highlighted the need for an Arctic-specific investment protocol and discussed the AIP’s creation. Since 2018, the Arctic Investment Protocol (originally a product of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Arctic) has been hosted by the AEC. Mr. Minerd warmly welcomed the AEC’s efforts related to the AIP and affirmed Guggenheim Partners’ support in the further work related to the protocol.

Following the discussion on the Arctic Investment Protocol, the Director of the AEC Ms. Anu Fredrikson led a panel discussion focusing on investments in the Arctic. The panel featured Minister Thordarsson, Mr. Hugh Short (CEO, Pt Capital, Alaska), Mr. Patrick Arnold (Co-founder, New England Ocean Cluster) and Mr. Douglas May (Director, Technology & Security Policy, International Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State). The main focus of the discussion was on how the Arctic can be made investable and how local communities can help attract investments.

Mobility was highlighted as one of the keys in attracting investors: Arctic communities need to actively bring investors to the region to raise interest as venture capital investors rarely spend time to understand the Arctic market. Simultaneously, the Arctic businesses’ ability to receive venture capital needs to be improved. In terms of investments, building connectivity in the region provides good opportunities for collaboration between the public sector and the industry.