Arctic Council

In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev in his Murmansk speech proposed greater cooperation among Arctic countries. This encouraged Finland to pursue such cooperation on a formal level as a means of addressing, along with other issues, environmental problems caused by Soviet mining operations close to Finnish Lapland. The result was the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), adopted by declaration in 1991 at a ministerial conference of the eight Arctic countries held in Rovaniemi, Finland. (The AEPS would form the origins of what would become the Arctic Council five years later.) The Rovaniemi Declaration established AEPS's objectives, which can be summarized as follows: protection of the Arctic ecosystem (including humans); restoration of environmental quality and the sustainable utilization of natural resources; recognition of the traditional and cultural needs, values, and practices of indigenous peoples; regular review of the state of the Arctic environment; and reduction and elimination of sources of pollution.

While the AEPS provided a means to address issues of environmental protection, some of the eight countries thought that more formal arrangements were needed to facilitate international cooperation in the Arctic and to promote sustainable development of the region. Following two years of negotiations, the Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council was signed by the eight Arctic countries (Canada, Finland, Denmark/Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States) at a ministerial conference in Ottawa, Canada, in September 1996. Article I of the Declaration states that:

The Arctic Council is established as a high-level forum to:

(a) 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;

(b) oversee and coordinate the programs established under the AEPS on the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP); Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF); Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); and Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR);

(c) adopt terms of reference for, and oversee and coordinate a sustainable development program; and

(d) disseminate information, encourage education, and promote interest in Arctic-related issues.

The chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates for terms of two years. Canada served as chair of the Arctic Council from 1996 to 1998, followed by the United States, Finland, and Iceland (2002-2004), with Russia assuming the chairmanship in 2004. Between Council meetings, senior Arctic officials meet twice a year to oversee the activities of the various programs of the Council.

The four working groups associated with the four programs mentioned in point (b) above have continued under the Arctic Council. A fifth working group on Sustainable Development and Utilization had been established, but was replaced by the Council's own Sustainable Development Working Group. Terms of reference for this group were the subject of lengthy negotiation, but following the Council meeting in 1998, several projects have been undertaken on topics such as telemedicine, ecotourism, and the management of coastal fisheries in the Saami region. Finland, during its chairmanship of the Council from 2000 to 2002, examined options to restructure the working groups for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Recognizing the great significance of Arctic Council issues to indigenous groups in the region, the Arctic countries gave three indigenous peoples' organizations Permanent Participant status within the Council. These groups are the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), the Saami Council, and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON). At the Council meeting in 1998, the Aleut International Association was added, and at the 2000 meeting, the Gwich'in Council International and Arctic Athabascan Council brought the number of Permanent Participants to six. The category of Permanent Participant provides for the active participation and full consultation with the Arctic indigenous representatives within the Arctic Council.

Observers, including non-Arctic nations, intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and nongovernment organizations such as the International Arctic Science Committee, are allowed to attend ministerial conferences, senior Arctic officials meetings, and working group meetings.

To date, the AEPS and Arctic Council have carried out several major projects. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) working group published a comprehensive assessment of environmental contaminants in the Arctic, both as a scientific volume and as a plain-language summary report. These reports are updated on a regular basis. They also led to the establishment of the Arctic Council Action Plan to Eliminate Pollution of the Arctic. The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group developed conservation strategies for murres (Uria spp.) and eiders (Somateria spp. and Polysticta fischeri), established the Circumpolar Protected Areas Network, and completed a book-length report on the status of Arctic flora and fauna in 2001.

The Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group reviewed legal instruments for pollution prevention and control, established guidelines for oil and gas development in the Arctic, and developed a Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities. The Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (EPPR) working group has conducted several emergency exercises and has prepared a map of sites in the Arctic that are particularly vulnerable to an environmental emergency such as an oil spill. In addition, the Council has sponsored an Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) for delivery in 2004.

Henry P. Huntington

See also Aleut International Association; Arctic Athabascan Council; Capacity Building; Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment (1991); Gwich'in Council International; Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC); Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON); Saami Council

Further Reading

Arctic Council website: html

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme website:

http://www. AMAP, Arctic Pollution Issues: A State of the Arctic

Environment Report, Oslo: AMAP, 1997 AMAP, The AMAP Assessment Report: Arctic Pollution Issues,

Oslo: AMAP, 1998 AMAP, Arctic Pollution 2002, Oslo: AMAP, 2002

Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) website: CAFF, Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation,

Helsinki: Edita, 2001 Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (EPPRl): Huntington, Henry P., The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy and the Arctic Council: A Review of United States Participation and Suggestions for Future Involvement, Bethesda, Maryland: Marine Mammal Commission, 1997 Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) website: Russell, Bruce A., "The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy and the new Arctic Council." Arctic Research of the United States, 10 (1996): 2-10 Tennberg, Monica, The Arctic Council: A Study in Governmentality, Rovaniemi, Finland: University of Lapland, 1998

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