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Map of Arctic Council national members in dark blue. Observer nations in light blue

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum which addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and people living in the Arctic region.


History of the Arctic CouncilEdit

The first step towards the formation of the Council occurred in 1991 when eight Arctic countries signed the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS). The Ottawa Declaration of 1996 formally established the Arctic Council as a high level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The Ottawa Declaration named eight members of the Arctic Council: Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United States, Sweden and Finland.

Arctic Council membershipEdit

Member statesEdit

The member states consist of the following:[1]

Observer countriesEdit

Observer states consist of the following (2017):[2]


From 2017 to 2019, Finland is serving as Chair of the Council.[3] Chairmanship of the Council rotates every two years among the eight national members. Canada (1996-1998, 2013-2015)[4] served as first Chair of the Arctic Council, followed by the United States (1998-2000, 2015-2017)[5], Finland (2000-2002), Iceland (2002-2004), Russia (2004-2006), Norway (2006-spring 2009)[6], Denmark (2009-2011), [7] and Sweden (2011-2013)[8]. Norway, Denmark and Sweden have agreed on a set of common priorities for the three chairmanships. They also agreed to a shared secretariat 2009-2013.[9]

Permanent participantsEdit

Six Arctic indigenous communities have the status of Permanent Participants on the Council.[10] These groups are represented by the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami Council. They are assisted by the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat.

Observers to the Arctic CouncilEdit

In addition, there are a number of officially sanctioned Observers to the Arctic Council, among them six non-Arctic nations - France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom (notably the most northerly country not to have territory North of the Arctic Circle); several international organizations - Arctic Parliamentarians,[11] International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Red Cross Federation, the Nordic Council, the Northern Forum,[12] United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Development Programme; and a handful of non-governmental organizations such as the Association of World Reindeer Herders,[13] the University of the Arctic and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Arctic Programme.

Meetings of the Arctic CouncilEdit

The Arctic Council convenes approximately every six months at a site within the host Chair's nation for a Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) meeting. SAO's are high level representatives of each of the eight member nations - sometimes Ambassadors, often just senior foreign ministry officials entrusted with staff-level coordination. Representatives of the six Permanent Participants and the official Observers also are in attendance.

At the end of the two-year cycle, the Chair hosts a Ministerial-level meeting, which is the culmination of the Council's work for that period. Most of the eight member nations are represented by a Minister from their Foreign Affairs, Northern Affairs or Environment Ministry.

A formal, though non-binding, "Declaration", named for the town in which the Ministerial meeting is held, is announced, which generally sums up the past accomplishments and the future work of the Council. These Declarations cover the main topical areas that the Council is concerned with, including climate change, sustainable development, Arctic monitoring and assessment, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other contaminants in the Arctic, and the work of the five Working Groups of the Council. The last Ministerial meeting took place May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska, United States.[14]

Coordinating the work of the Arctic CouncilEdit

Each rotating Chair nation accepts responsibility for creating a Secretariat, which handles overall coordination of Council activity, which includes organizing the semi-annual meetings, hosting the Council website, and distribution of the various reports and documents pertinent to the work of the Council. Most of the member nations would like to establish a permanent Secretariat, but this idea has been consistently vetoed by the United States since the inception of the Council.

Working GroupsEdit

The real work within the Arctic Council is done in cooperative fashion within five Working Groups and three Programs & Action Plans:

Working GroupsEdit

  • Arctic Monitoring & Assessment Programme[15] (AMAP)
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora & Fauna[16] (CAFF)
  • Emergency Prevention, Preparedness & Response[17] (EPPR)
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment[18][19] (PAME)
  • Sustainable Development Working Group[20] (SDWG)

Programs and Action PlansEdit

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit