18 November 2015

Arctic Futures Initiative and the Arctic Council Chairmanships

AFI representative Dr. Anni Reissell attended a closed roundtable meeting on the upcoming AC Finnish Chairmanship (2017-2019) organized by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland. 

© kts | Dreamstime

© kts | Dreamstime

Finland will take over the Arctic Council Chairmanship from United States in April 2017. The Finnish chairmanship program is being prepared through wide range of consultations with stakeholder groups. The program is expected to reflect continuity within the AC chairmanships, paying attention to the Finnish Arctic Strategy, the previous Finnish chairmanship period and its achievements, and the views of the indigenous peoples. The program will be presented at the October 2016 Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) meeting in Portland, Maine.

Economy, environment and use of natural resource, climate and global change, biodiversity, Arctic societies, and connections to global developments (such as the global Sustainable Development Goals) have been highlighted in the Finnish Arctic policy. To highlight the current know-how, Finnish businesses have sent propositions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The AFI and WWF representatives have stressed the importance of scientific approaches and methodology that can study complex and large entities, of utmost importance to obtain a holistic view of the Arctic and its development also on relation to global developments.  

The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses primarily environmental protection and sustainable development issues in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council commissions assessments carried out mainly by the six permanent Working Groups in collaboration with task forces and expert groups.

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. They agreed to work towards a meeting of circumpolar Ministers responsible for Arctic environmental issues.

The Arctic Council’s work is based on the co-operation of government officials, scientists and indigenous peoples. The structure was initially introduced by the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (Rovaniemi Declaration, 1991), and established in the Declaration of Establishment of the Arctic Council (Ottawa Declaration, 1996).

The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is rotated for a 2-year period. The United States chairmanship is 2015-2017, Finland 2017-2019. Canada was the first chair state (1996–1998), followed in the order by United States, Finland, Iceland, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. All decisions of the Arctic Council and its subsidiary bodies are by consensus of the eight Arctic Member States.


Ministerial Meetings by the Arctic Council Ministers coordinate Council activities and oversee the work of the six Working Groups. The ministerial level meetings take place every two years in the chairmanship country, in the end of the chairmanship term. The last ministerial meeting was organized in Canada in May 2015. Only member countries and indigenous permanent participants can speak at the ministerial meetings. Senior Arctic Officials prepare the Ministerial Meetings.


Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) from each member state meet more frequently to oversee Council operations between Ministerial meetings. SAOs (Arctic ambassadors or senior ministerial officials of foreign affairs) are high-level reps from the eight Arctic member countries. Permanent Participants (consisting six indigenous groups) and observers also attend the SAO meetings. 



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Last edited: 26 June 2019

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