Svalbard’s Local Island Politics

Svalbard became an official territory of Norway in 1925, as a result of the Svalbard Treaty of February 9, 1920. It is now administered by the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice through a governor living in Longyearbyen. There are no elections, as Norway’s monarchy is hereditary, with Harald V the current king. The governor and assistant governor are responsible to the Polar Department.

The Svalbard Treaty gave Norway the right to administer the islands. Part of the treaty, however, gives all signatories—of which there are currently more than 40—equal rights to run commercial activities. Those commercial activities have primarily been limited to coal mining (though fishing and hunting fall under the category as well); currently only Norway and Russia are operating mines on Svalbard.