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Arctic Circle

Collaborative Solutions for Arctic Challenges

H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco: Keynote speech
at the Arctic Circle Berlin Forum 2024

I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak here today.

And above all, I am delighted that this Arctic Circle meeting is being held despite these times of uncertainty.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all the organisers: the Arctic Circle leaders of course, but also the German and Berlin authorities who are welcoming us today.

It is indeed essential that we continue to show collective concern with regard to the future of the Arctic, in spite of the prevailing circumstances – and I would even say: especially due to the prevailing circumstances.

I will not dwell on how current geopolitical tensions are interfering with the usual issues related to the Arctic. This has been discussed, explained and debated at great length I believe. The challenges we face are part of the existing data regarding the issue. And I even believe that they are part of the eternal data regarding the issue, even though they take on specific significance and shape at the moment.

There is no need to return to a very distant past: memories of the Cold War are enough to remind us that the Arctic has very often been at the core of the world’s greatest tensions. Because it is located at a meeting point between East and West. Because it represents a border and at the same time a link. Because it embodies an essentially untamed, even hostile, world in which the sovereignty of humankind still remains uncertain, and consequently can always be relativised.

What is really new and distinguishes our era from the Cold War is the emergence of information that was then ignored.

What is really new and distinguishes our era from the Cold War is the emergence of information that was then ignored: The need to preserve an environment that we once believed immutable, and which we now know is fragile. And awareness of the importance of these northern ecosystems which are so special for the entire planet, its climate, its biodiversity and its natural balance.

This emergence of the environmental issue is not only an additional part of the Arctic equation; it radically changes the game. Because with these new challenges, the Arctic ceases to be the exclusive concern of the bordering States and the people of which it is composed. It becomes a challenge for the entire human race, for its future, for the future of each one of us.

I believe that is why so many representatives of States, institutions, think tanks, laboratories and companies have joined us today. They are all taking action for the Arctic, for our Planet and its preservation.

Over and above the strategic issues we are familiar with, I think that the challenge before us therefore is to link these matters with broader environmental issues.

And that also means, and above all of course, finding ways of progressing in this specific context.

In this respect, I would like to take this opportunity to make three observations, which outline three ways of addressing this situation:

The first is that the geopolitical challenges encountered by the Arctic since February 2022 are not the only complications faced by environmentalists. Other regions of the world, equally fragile, are caught up in tension and violence. And the majority of the most vulnerable ecosystems are located in countries and regions which, if not at war, suffer from serious social and economic difficulties.

Ecological issues are never “chemically” pure; nearly always they go hand in hand with other difficulties. This should never deter us from moving forward. Action is always possible, even if fragmented, even if restricted. And it is always beneficial. That is why we need to take action wherever we can, however we can. Protecting certain areas against harmful activities, safeguarding a few ecosystems, and limiting the human footprint, if only in certain areas: this is clearly not enough given the magnitude of the issues, but it is always preferable to inaction.

Likewise, we need to continue to support the work carried out by scientists. This is another way to continue to progress, for actions we are implementing today, as well as for actions - hopefully more ambitious - that we will be able to initiate in the future in a peaceful climate. And most importantly, we must remain committed to continuing what is undoubtedly the top priority to ensure an acceptable future for the region: action against global climate change. It is up to each of us, according to his or her own ability, to continue working to this end, because we know that global warming is the greatest threat to the Arctic.

The second observation I would like to make concerns the Indigenous Peoples, who fortunately are represented here, but sadly are not always invited to the fora where the fate of their land is being decided. Yet these people are an essential part of the region’s future. Due to their history and due to the rights they have over it, of course. But also due to their knowledge and their ability to coexist with challenging ecosystems. And also due to the power they need to be given in the future to develop the sound and sustainable management of Arctic resources.

Finally, these people represent a form of continuity which is particularly needed in these troubled times. Continuity beyond borders and the vicissitudes of history, as bloody as that history may be, as closed as these borders may currently be. And continuity between human affairs and the management of natural resources, of which they have deep awareness and knowledge.

That is why it is vital to involve them in international talks concerning the Arctic more often, and to place them at the heart of our discussions whenever they are related to these regions. And that is why, whatever the situation, we need to continue to stand by them, to listen to them, to support them and to help them reclaim the place that always must be theirs.

The third observation I would like to put forward concerns the role that can be played by environmental projects in the current context of this region. And it also concerns the role that these projects could play in view of a resolution of these tensions.

Thanks to the objectivity and comprehensiveness of their work, scientists today represent a unique capacity for dialogue. They are capable of speaking to everyone, and of bearing truths that also concern everyone. Whatever our situation, we are all subject to the same environmental constraints. The war against global warming, against pollution and against species extinction will have no winner if we do not triumph together. That is why, even if it seems complicated sometimes, we have to continue to give a chance to science, to the environment, to these seemingly insignificant struggles that bring us together.

Germany knows how sustainable peace is built through concrete cooperation projects, sometimes small-scale but full of potential.

In the Arctic and elsewhere, this ability to move forward together on concrete projects that serve the common good is a quality which needs to be developed. Germany knows how sustainable peace is built through concrete cooperation projects, sometimes small-scale but full of potential.

Once the guns fell silent, the belligerents of the Second World War learnt to live together again through projects focused firstly on energy, trade and industry. They thus began to build a peaceful Europe. Tomorrow, we have to be able to build lasting peace, which will also be achieved through cooperation, local or otherwise, with the promise of a new capacity for dialogue. More importantly with the promise of a common future.

When the guns fall silent, these projects must be ready, capable of uniting yesterday’s enemies and offering them a path along which they can move forward together. That is also why we need to continue to move forward on environmental issues. Each of these projects, each of these ambitions, will be useful tomorrow for peace, for the region, for the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Taking action despite the challenges; standing close to those who are the Arctic; creating ways of cooperating and building together a better environment: these are three ways that will enable us to move forward despite the challenges and not give up in our efforts to save the Arctic.

It is a necessity for us ourselves and a necessity for future generations, who will be so greatly affected by what we are doing today.

In other times, in other places, quite a few of us were invited to engage in a discussion on the Arctic as a territory of dialogue. Those who invited us at the time have removed themselves from the dialogue. But it is important that we meet, to find solutions together, for a world in which war is not the only horizon, any more than environmental degradation.

It is up to us to prove it and is hopefully what we will achieve together. Thank you.

See below the full speech on our YouTube channel.

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

Albert II, Prince of Monaco is the Sovereign Prince of Monaco and current head of the Princely House of Grimaldi. An Olympian, having competed in the bobsleigh at a number of Games in his youth, Prince Albert is also noted for his philanthropic engagements. He has a longstanding interest in the Arctic and Polar regions: in 2009, he became the first incumbent head of state to have visited both Poles, and has also visited Svalbard, Norway, and 26 scientific outposts in Antarctica. Prince Albert continues to support environmentalist and conservationist causes across the world, and in 2006 founded the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation which has, in turn, donated millions of Euros to environmental causes.