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Every year the Arctic ice-cap loses an area the size of Austria. This is opening new commercial routes and arousing the appetite of major economic powers. In 2017, Switzerland became a member of the Arctic Council with observer status. Today Switzerland is being affected by global warming more than other countries. Since it ratified the Paris climate agreement and signed up to the sustainable development goals, it is its responsibility to follow what is happening in the Arctic. It has years of experience and a long tradition in the exploration of the cryosphere.
Switzerland can act at various levels with respect to the Arctic. Given its expertise in Alpine and glacial environments, it can promote the creation of a new working group centred on sustainable development of infrastructure. It can also provide its good offices facilitating peaceful resolution of conflicts and encouraging dialogue between governments, experts and civil society. Geneva as the international cooperation centre could organise meetings to have constructive dialogue on native populations, preserving cultural heritage and resource management.
Finally, in the area of scientific diplomacy, the Swiss government could promote a common declaration on the impact of climate change in the Arctic.
That said, it needs to be emphasised that Switzerland is still in the process of “discovering” the Arctic. The goal of this vision is to bring about discussions in the mid-to long-term and make the players more aware of the different options available.