Foreign Policy Blogs

Denmark Creates New Arctic Ambassadorship

Arctic Ambassador Klavs Holm

Earlier this month, Denmark appointed Klavs A. Holm as the new Arctic Ambassador, an office which will become permanent. At the same time, Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal announced the closure of the embassies in Iraq, Benin, and Zambia. This move gives a strong signal that Denmark is putting forth a more visible diplomatic presence in the circumpolar north while refocusing its priorities in the Global South, where it will open embassies in Myanmar and Libya. Ambassador Holm will represent all three parts of the Danish Commonwealth: Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. He will also coordinate the implementation of the government’s Arctic strategy, released last August.

Holm previously served as the Danish Ambassador in London, Paris, and Singapore. He also represented Denmark to the EU, in Brussels, where he worked on Arctic issues. The current ambassador for Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have his work cut out for him, as Foreign Minister Søvndal made clear when he visited Thule Air Force Base last December. When asked what assignments the new Arctic Ambassador would have, he responded, “If you ask for specific tasks, we can name climate change, which means that shipping in the Arctic is increasing in scope. There are very specific tasks to perform in relation to search and rescue in these remote areas. The area is large, and first and foremost, we must prepare the new agreements.” Specifically, he added, “It is clear that we need the Americans to not block civilian usage of Thule. Now, there will be a negotiation process to clarify how far we can go” (translated from the Danish). Search and rescue will thus be an important topic for Holm, as will mining and indigenous peoples – two issues which overlap heavily in Greenland. China has lately expressed strong interest in investing in Greenland’s mineral deposits, the Wall Street Journal reports, which might be cause for Holm to visit Beijing.

Denmark can now be added to the short list of countries which have Arctic ambassadors, which includes Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The United States and Canada are noticeably absent from this list, though there have been calls in the latter country to bring back the position (see here and here). Canada had an Arctic Ambassador from 1994 to 2006, but the role was abolished, as former Foreign Minister Peter McKay then stated, “We didn’t feel we were getting good value for money from that position.”

News Links

“New Danish Arctic Ambassador,” IPS

“Søvndal udnævner ambassadør for det aller nordligste,” Politiken (in Danish)

 
  • Andreas Forrest

    Short correction: There is no such thing as a Danish Commonwealth, it is still defined as the Kingdom of Denmark, even though both countries enjoy extended home rule/are self governing.

    • Mia Bennett

      Thanks, Andreas. I’ve read that Danish diplomats occasionally use this term loosely, but not to mean a formal political organization.

Author

Mia Bennett
Mia Bennett

Mia Bennett is pursuing a PhD in Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She received her MPhil (with Distinction) in Polar Studies from the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, where she was a Gates Scholar.

Mia examines how climate change is reshaping the geopolitics of the Arctic through an investigation of scientific endeavors, transportation and trade networks, governance, and natural resource development. Her masters dissertation investigated the extent of an Asian-Arctic region, focusing on the activities of Korea, China, and Japan in the circumpolar north. Mia's work has appeared in ReNew Canada, Water Canada, FACTA, and Baltic Rim Economies, among other publications.

She speaks French, Swedish, and is learning Russian.

Follow her on Twitter @miageografia

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