Chairman of the AEC Heidar Gudjonsson

PRESS RELEASE: The AEC Welcomes New Chair, Signs MoU with Arctic Council

The delegates of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) convened in Rovaniemi, Finland for their fifth Annual Meeting since the establishment of the organization in 2014.

Heidar Guđjonsson of Iceland was welcomed as the new chair of the organization after a unanimous decision from AEC delegates. Guđjonsson takes over after Tero Vauraste (CEO, Mariadi Oy), as chairmanship of the organization shifts from the Finnish business community to the Icelandic businesses.

“Having worked with Arctic questions for years, I am excited and honored to take over the chairmanship of the AEC”, said AEC chair Guđjonsson. “The Finnish business community with Tero Vauraste as their appointed representative has done a tremendous work these past years to broaden the scope of the AEC’s work. I am thankful for their commitment and their drive.” As Icelandic business community takes over the Chairmanship, the AEC will continue on the path laid by the new strategic plan (2019-2021) created under the Finnish businesses’ chairmanship.

In addition to the transition of chairmanship, the AEC also elected a new Executive Committee, which will be led by Guđjonsson. Vauraste, Thomas Mack representing the Aleut International Association, and Evgeniy Ambrosov representing Russian businesses, will all continue in the roles of vice chairs. In addition, the AEC membership welcomed Geir Seljeseth from Norway as a new vice chair.

“The changes in demography and international living standards call for more resource utilization and increased need for infrastructure. The significant changes taking place will also speed up the Arctic development. The Icelandic business community sees connectivity, data transfer and blue economy as important themes during its chairmanship. Blue economy contains an untapped potential which can significantly contribute to diversifying the economy and creation of new jobs in Arctic communities as well as helping feed the world with high quality protein”, says Guđjonsson.

The AEC has endorsed the intent of the Arctic Investment Protocol (AIP), originally a product of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Arctic. The work on these responsible investment principles will be a key issue during the Icelandic businesses’ chairmanship. “I firmly believe that universally applicable investment principles promoted by the people of the Arctic and their businesses can help promote both local inclusion, local content and also help facilitate investments in our region”, Guđjonsson says.

During the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi earlier this week, the AEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Arctic Council. The aim of the Memorandum of Understanding is to provide a framework for cooperation and to facilitate collaboration between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council. This strengthens the AEC’s position as the Arctic Council’s preferred partner in issues related to responsible economic development. “This marks a significant development in our mutual relationship and I am thankful to the Finnish Arctic Council Chairmanship for the excellent collaboration during our chairmanships”, says Tero Vauraste.

“Being chair of the AEC has been an honor and privilege,” says outgoing AEC chair Vauraste. “The Finnish business community set out to strengthen the operations of the AEC and work on themes related to safe, competent and interconnected Arctic. During our chairmanship, we have also actively worked towards the global business community as linking the Arctic markets with the global ones is central for the development of our trade. We have also reacted to the recent development within international trade by actively promoting the need for freedom of trade,” says Vauraste. “I am excited to see the Icelandic business community taking the AEC’s work forward.”

During the AEC’s Annual Meeting, the organization’s Working Groups on Maritime Transportation and Responsible Resource Development issued their reports. The AEC Maritime Transportation Working Group has worked under the leadership of Chairman Mikko Niini (Navidom). Their report “The State of the Maritime Transportation in the Arctic” provides an overview of the current status of maritime transportation in the Arctic and discusses challenges related to further development of the sector. The full report is available here.

The Responsible Resource Development Working Group’s report titled “Mineral Development in the Arctic” provides insights and an exchange of ideas around mineral development projects in the Arctic. The report is a consolidation of insights from a wide spectrum of Arctic stakeholders with a specific focus on mining in the North American Arctic. It includes feedback from companies that have developed Arctic mining projects and what made them successful, as well as from other stakeholders representing Indigenous groups, potential Arctic investors and government entities. The Working Group is co-chaired by Ms. Lillian Hvatum-Brewster (ATCO Group, Canada) and Mr. Bruce Harland (Crowley Maritime, USA) The report was formally launched at the Arctic Business Forum event on May 8.

The first event of the Icelandic AEC chairmanship takes place in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2019. Please visit the AEC website for more information on the event titled “Doing Business in the Arctic”.