Arctic Council celebrates 20 years of northern cooperation

Arctic Council meeting delegates at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus during an Arctic Council meeting held March 16-17. This year, the international forum celebrates its 20th anniversary. (Linnea Nordström/Arctic Council Secretariat)
Arctic Council meeting delegates at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus during an Arctic Council meeting held March 16-17. This year, the international forum celebrates its 20th anniversary. (Linnea Nordström/Arctic Council Secretariat)
The Arctic Council, an international forum made up of the world’s eight circumpolar nations, is celebrating its 20th anniversary today.

“Arctic cooperation encompasses all aspects of life and activity in the region,” said a news release issued on Monday and signed by the foreign ministers of the member nations.

“The Arctic Council is at the forefront of this cooperation and has become the most important body for promoting a positive agenda and coordinating joint action on all vital issues in the region.”

The foreign ministers also stressed the prominent role of  Arctic indigenous Peoples, which have permanent participant status in the forum.

“The success of the Arctic Council can also be attributed to the active participation of the indigenous Permanent Participants,” the statement said.

Arctic Council – Quick Facts

Year formed: 1996

Arctic Council Members: Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, United States

Permanent Participants: Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Saami Council

Current Chair: United States (2015-2017)

Next Chair: Finland (2017-2019)

Canadian roots

The Arctic Council was established on September 19, 1996. On that date, the world’s circumpolar nations signed the Ottawa Declaration that outlined the new forum’s focus: sustainable development and environmental protection.

Since that time, the Council has produced two legally-binding Arctic agreements.

The Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arcticsigned by Council member states in 2011, outlines the responsibilities of the Arctic states in case of a disaster in their regions.

The Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, signed by Council member states in 2013, follows along similar lines, establishing the kind of cooperation and coordination efforts to be undertaken by the circumpolar nations in case of an oil spill in the Far North.

The gavel used by the Chairman of Senior Arctic Officials at Arctic Council meetings. (Linnea Nordström/Arctic Council Secretariat)
The gavel used by the Chairman of Senior Arctic Officials at Arctic Council meetings. (Linnea Nordström/Arctic Council Secretariat)

In their statement on Monday, the Council pledged to continue their work and cooperation.

“On this twentieth anniversary of the Arctic Council, we the Arctic States reaffirm our commitment to the principles of the Ottawa Declaration, to work together and with the indigenous Permanent Participants, and to promote prosperity, development, and environmental sustainability for the benefit of generations to come.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from the North:

Canada:  How much does the Arctic Council cost?, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Norway:  Arctic Council aims to boost business, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Russia invites Arctic Council on icebreaker tour, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:   Arctic Council – From looking out to looking in, Blog by Mia Bennett, Cryopolitics

United States:  The US-led Arctic Council – Still trying to get Americans to care about Arctic, Alaska Dispatch News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying an culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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