U.N. Secretary General to Visit Arctic

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Ban in Antarctica, 2007. © BBC.

At the end of August, United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon will visit Svalbard on a fact-finding mission to learn about the effects of global warming in the Arctic. He will travel to the northerly Norwegian island accompanied by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Ban will also stop by a joint Norwegian and Korean research station on Ny Alesund and see the Global Seed Vault during his visit.

Stoltenberg remarked, “The fact that Ban’s first visit to Norway as UN Secretary-General focuses on climate challenges is of special importance now, when the world society is preparing to gather on a new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December.”

Ban has personally called for a “New Green Deal,” believing that it is imperative the world reach a global consensus on sustainable development before it is too late. In that regard, he has gone on several missions and tours to better understand the linkages between humans and the environment. This is not the first time that Ban has traveled to the ends of the earth to learn more about global warming. In October 2007, the Secretary General visited Antarctica to examine melting ice first-hand, making him the first UN head to visit the continent at the bottom of the earth.

The United Nations as a whole has also been concerned with the effects of global warming on the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. In March 2009, UNESCO held a four-day meeting in Monaco where the U.N. organ discussed how to pursue a strategy of sustainable development in the Arctic in order to meet the needs of local people. Among other measures, the meeting recommended establishing “a working/advisory group to develop dialogue and strategy on the challenges of climate change for circumpolar indigenous peoples, including safeguarding intangible heritage and building synergies between indigenous and scientific knowledge.”

While there are no indigenous people living on Svalbard, Ban’s visit confirms that the U.N. is increasingly concerned with Arctic affairs at large, whether related to social, environmental, or political domains.

News links

Norwegian Foreign Ministry Press Release (in Norwegian)
“UN Secretary-General on climate trip to Norway and Svalbard,” Barents Observer

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