Scientific Consulting

5th Anniversary of the German Arctic Office

This year, the Alfred Wegener Institute’s competence centre for information and political consulting on all aspects of the Arctic is celebrating its fifth anniversary
[16. June 2022] 

The Arctic as a hotspot of climate change has become a topic of growing geopolitical and commercial interest over the past several years. What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic – the effects of changes taking place near the North Pole can be felt around the globe. This also extends to the political and economic level: the retreating ice offers unprecedented access to the region for tourism, trade and natural resource exploration, raising new geopolitical and geostrategic questions, while also necessitating action and cooperation. The German Arctic Office helps the actors involved find answers to these questions and promotes communication between basic research and political decision-makers. This year, the Office is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Germany is one of the leading nations in terms of Arctic research, and the region also holds considerable political importance for the Federal Republic. “In order to identify the right approaches to environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic, the federal government requires a wealth of science-based consulting and support – which is what we’re here to provide,” says Dr Volker Rachold. Since 2017, the geochemist has coordinated the German Arctic Office, founded and financed by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), at the AWI’s Potsdam facilities.

The Office advises federal ministers, federal authorities and the German business sector on questions concerning all aspects of the Arctic, helping them to develop important political positions – e.g. for the Second Arctic Science Ministerial, a conference held in 2018 in Berlin. Here, on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Office organised the Arctic Science Forum, at which 250 international participants prepared the scientific basis for the subsequent meeting of the ministers. A further milestone in the Office’s history: Germany’s Arctic Policy Guidelines, released by the federal government in 2019, which the Office contributed to via the “Arctic Dialogue”. The Guidelines underscore the mutual responsibility of all actors and are intended to promote a sustainable approach to shaping the region’s future.

“The Arctic is changing at a tremendous pace, especially due to climate change, with its effects on the environment, Arctic biodiversity and the region’s socioeconomic development. We need to bring together all available knowledge and take part – also internationally – in the dialogue on the risks entailed by current developments, but also on new opportunities for collaboration, adopting a systemic perspective to do so,” says Prof Antje Boetius, Director of the AWI.

With regard to German participation in the activities of the Arctic Council, the Office works in close collaboration with the Federal Foreign Office. The Arctic Council is the leading international forum on the Arctic and promotes collaboration between the Arctic States, the indigenous population and other residents of the Arctic, particularly with regard to the region’s sustainable use. Accordingly, the German Arctic Office is in close contact with the ambassadors of the Arctic States in Berlin. In order to present and discuss the latest topics in German and international research and politics in the North Pole region, twice a year the Office hosts the “Arctic Dialogue”. Participants include representatives of Germany’s federal ministries, federal authorities, scientific institutes and foundations. The 19th Arctic Dialogue will he held this year.

In the context of providing information and preparing events, the Arctic Office can draw on the lessons learned from 40 years of Arctic research: for decades, the AWI’s experts have been investigating the ocean, the ecosystem and the atmosphere of the North Pole region in order to better understand their functions in our climate system.


Further information:

Website of the German Arctic Office

Video: “5th Anniversary of the Arctic Office”





Volker Rachold


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The Institute

The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in the polar regions and the oceans of mid and high latitudes. As one of the 18 centres of the Helmholtz Association it coordinates polar research in Germany and provides ships like the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations for the international scientific community.