The AEC HQ has two senior advisors from two Arctic states; Russia and Norway. Based in Tromsø, Norway, they operate across time zones with the over 40 members of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC).

AEC HQ was established in 2015 and is run by an international team of Arctic professionals. Inger Johnsen from Norway and Irina Zhilina from Russia are senior advisors at the AEC.

The pan-Arctic aspect of the job makes the AEC network unique and the work both interesting and challenging at times, says Inger Johnsen.

Senior advisors with Arctic hearts

Irina Zhilina joined the AEC office in April 2021. She is responsible for communication with all member companies of the AEC. She facilitates event organisation and project management.

Being originally from Murmansk, Irina has lived, studied, and worked in four Arctic countries, including Iceland and Finland. Since 2011 she has been closely engaged with various projects connected to economic development and international cooperation in the Arctic. Previously she worked at the University of Tromsø for a research project devoted to Russian-Norwegian collaboration in resource management. She has also worked in science communication and project management at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi.

– Tromsø is an international city and very accommodating to expats. University of Tromsø and the University Hospital of North Norway are among the biggest employers in region. Many organisations working with Arctic cooperation are based in Tromsø.  Apart from the Arctic Economic Council, there is also the Arctic Council, AMAP, Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, Arctic Mayors Forum, NAMMCO, and others, says Irina Zhilina.

Inger Johnsen is born and raised in Tromsø, Norway, and started to explore the world on her own at 16 when she moved to Argentina. After several years living, studying and working outside of the Arctic Inger moved back to Tromsø two years ago to focus full time on Arctic matters in the AEC. With Kven heritage on her fathers side and with countless summers spent at their cabin 70 degrees north, Inger has become acquainted with the history of the indigenous people of Norway.

– The north is home to me. I love the combination of wild nature and city life, where Tromsø is in a class of its own, she says.

International communication and working group management is key elements of Inger´s everyday work at the AEC. The AEC has five working groups; Investment and Infrastructure, Blue Economy, Maritime Transportation, Connectivity and Responsible Resource Development.

Working groups with key insight into Arctic business life

– The AEC working groups represent the great range of the Arctic business community, from fisheries, mining and shipping to oil and gas and renewable energy. It is a composition of representatives from small start-ups to multinational and indigenous corporations, says Johnsen.

In the working groups, experts within their fields collaborate, share experiences and work together on issues of common interest, that could be both policy work and to provide advice and business perspective to the work of the Arctic Council. E.g the working group on Investment and Infrastructure is in its final stage of a report on Sustainable Investment Opportunities in the Arctic (SIOA), where the working group has studied business cases from all Arctic states that comply with the Arctic Investment Protocol  – a tool for investors on how to do business in the Arctic. The final report consists of 25 projects that will serve as best business practices in the Arctic. The SIOA report is expected to be launched later this year.