1 What is the Arctic Council?

The Arctic Council is a high-level forum for political discussions on common issues to the governments of the Arctic States and its inhabitants. The Arctic Council is the only circumpolar forum for political discussions on Arctic issues, involving all the Arctic states, and with the active participation of its Indigenous Peoples.

2 How and when was the Arctic Council established?

In September 1989, on the initiative of the government of Finland, officials from the eight Arctic countries met in Rovaniemi, Finland, to discuss cooperative measures to protect the Arctic environment. The initiative resulted in numerous technical and scientific reports being prepared, culminating in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (June 1991) - a declaration on the protection of Arctic environment. Through this cooperation the Arctic Council formed with the signing of the Ottawa Declaration on 19 September 1996 in Ottawa, Canada.

3 Who are the partners of the Arctic Council?

The Governments of the eight member states (see question 5), the Permanent Participants (PPs), the Working Groups and the Observers.

4 Which countries are members of the Arctic Council?

The Arctic council member states are

5 What is a SAO?

The SAO, or Senior Arctic Official, is appointed by an Arctic state to manage its interests in the Arctic Council. The SAO is thus a government representative, usually from a member states' Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The SAO guides and monitors Arctic Council activities in accordance with the decisions and instructions of the Arctic Council Foreign Ministers.

6 Who are the Permanent Participants (PPs)?

Permanent Participants is a common term for organizations that represent indigenous peoples in the Arctic Council; either by representing a) a single Indigenous People resident in more than one Arctic State; or, b) more than one Arctic Indigenous People resident in a single Arctic State. The PPs participate actively and are fully consulted in all deliberations and activities of the Arctic Council. The Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) in Copenhagen, Denmark, serves the six Permanent Participant organizations:

7 What is a Chairmanship?

A Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is the term used for any of the eight Arctic States leading the Arctic Council during a specified time. The chairmanship rotates every two years among the eight Arctic States. Read about the current U.S. 2015-2017 Chairmanship, or read more about past chairmanships.

8 Who are the AC working groups, and what do they do?

The six Arctic Council working groups engage in scientific-oriented studies on issues concerning the Arctic environment and its inhabitants. These include: monitoring, assessing and preventing pollution in the Arctic, climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, emergency preparedness and prevention; as well as, living conditions of Arctic residents, studies on oil and gas and on Arctic shipping. The  reports provide advice and recommendations to the Arctic Council. Click to read more about each working group, its work and publications:

9  What does the Arctic Council do?

The Arctic Council is the only circumpolar forum for political discussions on Arctic issues, involving all the Arctic states and with the participation of its Indigenous Peoples. The Arctic Council Working Groups engage in issues such as monitoring, assessing and preventing pollution in the Arctic, climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, emergency preparedness and prevention, as well as living conditions of Arctic residents etc. The scientific reports provide knowledge, advice and recommendations to the Arctic Council. Senior Arctic Officials and PPs meet at least twice a year, while all partners meet at Ministerial Meetings held every two years in the country holding the Chairmanship. With the increasing international focus on climate change and Arctic issues, the political importance of the Arctic Council has also increased. All Arctic Council decisions require consensus.

10 Who are the Observers?

Under certain conditions, Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to:

a) Non-arctic states; (there you will also find contact details of the national representatives)
b) inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional;
c) non-governmental organizations

11 Does the Arctic Council sponsor projects?

All contributions to the work of the Arctic Council is on a voluntary, project by project basis and is largely provided in the form of people, expertise, scientific data and/or financial resources to implement specific projects in the Working Groups. Thus, the Arctic Council does not sponsor private/university/research projects.

12 How is the Arctic Council connected to the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat?

The Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) supports the Indigenous Peoples' organizations that are Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council.

13 What is the role of the Arctic Council Secretariat (ASC)

The Arctic Council Secretariat is an administrative office that works under the direction of the Arctic Council Chairmanship. The Secretariat manages logistics related to the biennial member states' meetings and the more frequent SAO meetings. The Secretariat, located at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway, is also responsible for maintaining the Arctic Council website.

14 Are there employment opportunities at the Arctic Council Secretariat?

When relevant, the Secretariat posts available vacancies on the Arctic Council website.

15 Can I get an internship within the Arctic Council Secretariat?

It is possible to get an internship lasting from two to six months. The ASC gives priority to students from the Arctic states enrolled in a Master's Arctic-related program or other relevant programs. High proficiency in English is a must. Open positions for interns will be announced on the AC website.

16 Where can I find a specific document? Ex. The Tromsø Declaration.

Visit the Documents page, where you can perform a simple search for all of our documents which are archived in the public Arctic Council Open Access Repository, or visit the Repository homepage directly for more search options. 

17 Where can I find more information about a specific country or region?

Under each member state you can find information and additional links to the country in question. Find out more about the member states.

18 Ministerial meetings

The Arctic Council Ministerial meetings take place biennially and mark the transition from one chairmanship to the next. In addition, Deputy Ministers' meetings have been held biennially by the Danish and Swedish chairmanships in 2010 and 2012.

The next Ministerial Meeting will be held spring 2015.

List of past Ministerial Meetings:

  • 24 April 2015
    Ministerial Meeting, Iqaluit, Canada

  • 15 May 2013
    Ministerial Meeting, Kiruna, Sweden
  • 15 May 2012
    Deputy Ministers' Meeting, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • 12 May 2011
    Ministerial Meeting, Nuuk, Greenland.
  • 27 May 2010
    Deputy Ministers' Meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  • 29 April 2009
    Ministerial Meeting, Tromsø, Norway.
  • 26 October 2006
    Ministerial Meeting, Salekhard, Russian Federation.

  • 24 November 2004
    Ministerial Meeting, Reykjavik, Iceland.

  • 10 October 2002
    Ministerial Meeting, Inari, Finland.

  • 13 October 2000
    Ministerial Meeting, Barrow, Alaska, USA.

  • 17-18 September 1998
    Ministerial Meeting, Iqaluit, Canada.