Meet the Icelandic Chairmanship Team

Einar Gunnarsson

Ambassador Arctic Affairs
Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials

Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson has been working with MFA's Arctic Affairs Division since August 2018 preparing for Iceland's Chairmanship. Prior to that he served as Iceland's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from 2015 where he, amongst other responsibilities, chaired the Third Committee of the General Assembly during its 72nd session.

Mr. Gunnarsson was the Permanent Secretary of State of the MFA from 2009 until 2014, dealing with the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008. Before serving as Permanent Secretary of State Mr. Gunnarsson held various positions in the Icelandic Foreign Service, such as Director of International Trade Negotiations, Director of Personnel, Deputy Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Geneva, Counsellor at the Mission of Iceland to the EU in Brussels, Counsellor in the External Trade Department and Legal Advisor in the Defence Department in the MFA.

After finishing his law studies from the University of Iceland in 1992 Mr. Gunnarsson worked as a lawyer and a District Court Advocate at a private law firm in Reykjavik until he joined the Foreign Service in 1996.

Tel: +354 545 9915 Mail: eg@mfa.is

Bryndís Kjartansdóttir

Senior Arctic Official for Iceland
Director of Arctic Affairs

Read the interview that Bryndís gave upon becoming Iceland‘s Senior Arctic Official here

Ms. Bryndís Kjartansdóttir has been the Icelandic SAO since January 2018 and the MFA’s Director for Arctic Affairs from the same time. She joined the MFA in 1998 and has since worked on EU relations and the EEA Agreement, UNESCO and the UN sustainable development agenda, Arctic issues and Nordic cooperation, trade and export services and EU Accession Negotiations. She has been posted in Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Previously, before joining the MFA and after graduating from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, she worked in the EFTA Surveillance Authority in Brussels as an expert in free movement of goods.

Tel: +354 545 8973 Mail: bk@mfa.is

Contact the Icelandic Chairmanship Team

Aðalheiður Inga Þorsteinsdóttir

Aðalheiður Inga Þorsteinsdóttir

Counsellor, Arctic Affairs; Deputy SAO & SDWG Head of Delegation

+(354) 545-7971
ath@mfa.is

Sólrún Svandal

Sólrún Svandal

Senior Adviser, Arctic Affairs

+354 545 7331
sss@mfa.is

Magnús Jóhannesson

Magnús Jóhannesson

Special Adviser for Arctic Affairs

+354 545 9965
magnus@mfa.is

 Jóna Sólveig Elínardóttir

Jóna Sólveig Elínardóttir

Senior Adviser, Arctic Affairs

+354 545 7985
jonasolveig@mfa.is

Iris Dager

Iris Dager

Temporary Officer

+354 545 7421
iris.dager@mfa.is

Stefán Skjaldarson

Stefán Skjaldarson

Ambassador; Chair of the Arctic Council SDWG

+354 545 9933
stefans@mfa.is

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Icelandic Chairmanship News

  • Arctic Council to host side event at the 2019 Our Ocean Conference

    The Arctic Council will host a side event at this year’s Our Ocean conference in Oslo on 23 October. The side event is themed “A Cleaner Arctic Marine Environment – Battling Marine Debris in the Arctic” and is organized jointly with the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs and two of the Council’s Working Groups: the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme and the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group.

  • First joint meeting between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council

    The Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council hold their first joint meeting in Reykjavik today, 9 October 2019, bringing together government representatives of the eight Arctic States, business representatives, as well as representatives of the indigenous Permanent Participants, and the Councils’ respective Working Groups. The meeting is a step towards enhancing cooperation and collaboration between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding the secretariats of both Councils signed last May. The discussions in Reykjavik will focus on subject areas of common interest, such as marine transportation and blue economy, telecommunications connectivity, responsible resource development and mainstreaming biodiversity, as well as on responsible investments and corporate social responsibility.

  • Arctic Circle Assembly: Arctic Council Working Groups’ and Permanent Participants’ panels, breakout sessions and events

    Several Arctic Council Working Groups and Indigenous peoples organizations holding Permanent Participant status in the Council are hosting side events at this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik. See an overview below.

  • Building knowledge and confidence in the Arctic

    Editorial by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials


    As we learn more about the challenges we face in the Arctic, it becomes clearer by the day that collaboration with partners outside the region is needed in order to effectively tackle them. What is more, non-Arctic states around the globe are waking up to the fact that what happens in and to the Arctic has direct and widespread effects on them.

  • Planning for a greener Arctic future

    The Arctic Community Energy Planning and Implementation Toolkit

    Arctic winters tend to be long and, in many places, extremely cold. Energy use in Arctic communities therefore can be very high, making reliable and affordable electricity and heating a priority. Today, many Arctic communities rely almost exclusively on fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation. These fuels can come from local sources or be shipped in by land, sea, or air – and those transportation methods bring still more challenges and costs. Thus, there is a growing need, desire, and opportunity for communities to develop clean energy projects.

  • Increased warming pushing Arctic freshwater ecosystems to the brink

    The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group has released the first circumpolar assessment of freshwater biodiversity across the Arctic. The State of the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Report, which was presented to Ministers at the Rovaniemi Ministerial meeting in May 2019, provides a synthesis of the state of knowledge about biodiversity in Arctic freshwater ecosystems (e.g., lakes, rivers, and associated wetlands). It finds that Arctic lakes and rivers are losing the ability to sustain their current level and diversity of Arctic freshwater species.

  • PAME releases first ‘plastic in a bottle’

    The Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group launched the first bottle equipped with a GPS transmitter into the Atlantic on 12 September 2019. Called “plastic in a bottle”, the capsule will simulate how marine litter and plastics travel far distances into and out of Arctic waters. The collected data will serve as an outreach tool to create awareness around the growing concerns on marine litter in the Arctic. This first plastic in a bottle was sent off from the Reykjanes peninsula by Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources from the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Thor in conjunction with the PAME Working Group meeting in Reykjavík. Iceland currently holds the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council until 2021 and places a special focus on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic.

  • A source for Arctic optimism: The Blue Bioeconomy

    Editorial by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials


    The blue bioeconomy is and will be a major contributor to achieving sustainable development in the Arctic and beyond. The term “blue bioeconomy” refers to innovation potentials in utilizing and creating new marine products with the help of new unconventional processing methods. It is therefore also one of today’s main sources for great optimism for our region, especially given the Arctic Council’s specific focus on sustainable development and environmental protection.

  • Put into reality: EPPR looks into the VIKING SKY incident

    At its first Working Group meeting during the Icelandic Chairmanship, the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) Working Group held a workshop on the VIKING SKY incident – a cruise liner that got into distress off the Southern Norwegian coast. Authorities involved in the rescue operation in March 2019 shared their experiences and lessons learned with EPPR delegates. Quickly the questions arose: How would this incident have played out in the high Arctic?

  • Interview with Magnús Jóhannesson, the Special Coordinator on Plastics

    Magnús Jóhannesson is the Council’s designated special coordinator on plastics, marine litter. In this interview, the former Director of the Arctic Council Secretariat speaks about the plastics issue in the Arctic, the Arctic Council’s efforts to tackle the issue and his new role within the Icelandic Chairmanship team.

  • Interview with SDWG Chair Stefán Skjaldarson

    Stefán Skjaldarson is the new Chair of the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). Growing up in one of the most remote parts of northeast Iceland, he got to know the scarcities of an Arctic childhood until education and eventually his work in the Foreign Service of Iceland drew him out into the world. Chairing SDWG is a return to the Arctic Council for Stefán Skjaldarson. He was involved in the Rovaniemi Process – a forerunner of today’s Council – and took part in the preparatory meetings for establishing the Arctic Council. In this brief interview, he speaks about experiences and inspiration guiding his work for SDWG over the coming years.

  • First meeting during Iceland's Arctic Council Chairmanship

    On 18-19 June 2019, Arctic Council delegates gathered in Reykjanesbær, Iceland, for the first Senior Arctic Officials’ executive meeting during the Chairmanship of Iceland (2019-2021). Amongst other things, the Senior Arctic Officials, joined by the Permanent Participants and representatives of the Council’s Working Groups, discussed initiatives falling under Iceland’s priority themes.

  • Towards an international symposium on plastics in the Arctic

    In April 2020, the Icelandic government and the Nordic Council of Ministers will host an International Symposium on the Threat of Plastics to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Marine Environment. The aim of the symposium is to gather the best available knowledge on plastics in the Arctic and to find solutions for tackling the issue. Registration is already possible and the call for abstracts will open on 1 July 2019.

  • Arctic Council Ministers meet, pass Chairmanship from Finland to Iceland, Arctic States conclude Arctic Council Ministerial meeting by signing a joint statement

    At the 11th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, Ministers of the eight Arctic States, leaders from the six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations and the Chairs of the six Working Groups of the Arctic Council met to mark the passing of the Chairmanship from Finland to Iceland. In the Rovaniemi Joint Ministerial Statement, the Arctic States reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to maintain the Arctic as a region of peace, stability and constructive cooperation. Additionally, Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini released a Chair’s statement, summarizing the Council’s achievements and giving guidance for the next two years. The International Maritime Organization was accredited as a new Observer.