The High North

The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the most important multilateral forum for Arctic issues. Since its establishment in 1996, the Council has been a key arena for cooperation on matters of common interest to the Arctic states, with a particular focus on the environment, climate change and sustainable economic development.

Member states and permanent participants

The Arctic Council consists of the eight Arctic states (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US) and six permanent participants (indigenous peoples’ organisations). The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates between the eight member states. It is the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Meeting that approves the work plans and projects to be carried out under the Council. The Ministerial Meeting is held every other year, and decisions are made by consensus. Norway will take over the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2023.

Indigenous peoples represent an important voice on the Arctic Council, through the participation of the six indigenous peoples’ organisations as permanent participants. It is crucial that the various perspectives of the indigenous peoples are consistently included in discussions and projects carried out under the Council. Close cooperation with the Saami Council and the other five permanent participants is vital for ensuring effective dialogue within the Arctic Council.

Currently, 13 states have observer status on the Arctic Council.

Effective cooperation on priority issues

The work of the Arctic Council has been strengthened considerably over the years. The assessments produced by the Arctic Council’s working groups on climate change and pollutants in the Arctic in particular have gained broad recognition and have been an important contribution to the efforts to develop international environmental conventions. Key priorities in the work of the Council include safeguarding Arctic biodiversity, integrated ocean management, emergency preparedness and response, and pilot projects aimed at reducing pollution in the Arctic, including marine litter. The Arctic states have also used the Arctic Council as an arena for developing legally binding international agreements, for example on search and rescue, and on oil spill preparedness and response in the Arctic.

The work of the Arctic Council is organised under the following six working groups:

  • Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP)
  • Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF)
  • Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR)
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME)
  • Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)

Norway participates actively in all of the working groups and plays a leading role in a range of priority projects, including those on marine litter and on climate change impacts in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council Secretariat is located in Tromsø. 

The Arctic in a changing climate

The temperature in the Arctic is rising four times faster than the global annual average, and the snow and ice are melting at an increasingly rapid pace.

The impacts of climate change are particularly pronounced in the Arctic, but the causes can often be traced to activities outside the region. This is why it is so important to promote increased awareness at the global level of the changes taking place in the Arctic and to incorporate Arctic issues into global frameworks and conventions.

The changes occurring in the Arctic have various impacts on the people who live in the region. Arctic communities are already contending with challenges as a result of climate change. There is a clear need for measures that can enhance adaptability and facilitate the green transition. At the same time, the Arctic offers opportunities for sustainable economic development that can provide benefits for local communities as well as opportunities for innovation that will have positive spin-off effects far beyond the region’s geographical boundaries.

Cooperation in the Arctic Council following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Following Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, all official meetings of the Arctic Council were temporarily paused.

In June 2022, Arctic Council projects not involving the participation of the Russian Federation were resumed.