Svalbard is administered by Norway, as stipulated in the 1920 Svalbard Treaty. To accomplish this task, the position of “Sysselmannen” was created in 1925 and expanded over time. The administration is headed by the Governor, who is appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and confirmed by the King of Norway. Since the duration of the position is limited to a maximum of six years, a replacement for the previous governor had to be found. The government has now appointed a new person.
The management of the administration was transferred to the 56-year-old Lars Fause. The former prosecutor of the Troms and Finnmark region already served as assistant governor on Svalbard between 2008 and 2010, so he knows both the region and the administration. The Norwegian Minister of Justice, Monica Mæland, whose department is responsible for the election of the governor, writes in a press release: “Fause’s background makes him extremely qualified for the role as the new governor. (…) He has a good insight into the tasks of the governor, the communities on Svalbard and Svalbard politics, and has a good foundation to be able to develop the administration.” He will take up his post in rotation on July 1, 2021.
Fause will take over from Kjerstin Askholt, who must step down after six years as governor, as required by Norway’s Svalbard Act of 1925. Lars Fause will take charge of a team of 45 people and serve as governor for an initial three-year term. Thereafter, there is the possibility of an extension of a further three years. Kjerstin Askholt was only the second woman in the position as governor in the 96-year history of the Sysselmannen. Fause, on the other hand, is the twentieth man to head the administration of Svalbard. He takes over the position in a time of change and there are some big tasks waiting for him, as he knows. “These are pretty big shoes to fill, and no one in Norway has as much knowledge about them as she (Kjerstin Askholt, editor’s note),” Lars Fause tells local newspaper Svalbardposten. At the same time as the new governor is appointed, the administration is given a new name: “Sysselmannen” is changed to the gender-neutral “Sysselmester”.
Born in 1965, the lawyer has had an impressive career. After graduating from the University of Tromsø as a lawyer in 1991, he first worked for the police in Oslo and Tromsø before making a career as a prosecutor in the Troms and Finnmark region. He served as the region’s top prosecutor from 2011 until his appointment as governor. Fause beat out 59 competitors in the search process for the position. Originally, a total of 68 applicants had applied for this position, including exotic-looking applications from Serbia, the USA, France and even India. Due to the special situation in which Svalbard finds itself, the position of governor is in principle not an official civil service position and is therefore handled differently from administrative units in the rest of Norway. This includes, among other things, a tenure employment. Although the Ministry of Justice is responsible of filling the position of the governor, the person also performs tasks for other ministries and departments on Svalbard.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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