20 years of the Arctic Council

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Svalbard. Photo: Bjarne Riesto

Norway and Canada celebrate the Arctic forum for cooperation on environment, research and sustainable development in the Arctic

What is the Arctic Council?
The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Their cooperation is based on common recognition of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

20 years Anniversary
During its first 20 years, the Arctic Council focused much of its work on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Since its establishment, it has produced cutting-edge analyses to inform decisions at many levels by producing many landmark studies on topics important in this unique region, including climate change, environmental pollutants, shipping, tourism, safety and search-and-rescue, pollution response, human health, indigenous languages and much more. The Council has also established a permanent secretariat in Tromsø, Norway, and has built, and continue to build lasting partnerships with an impressive array of other bodies, including the newly established Arctic Economic Council.

Additionally, the Council has served as a forum for the negotiation of two binding international agreements among the Arctic states on search and rescue, and marine oil pollution preparedness and response. The Council is likely to produce a third such agreement on scientific cooperation by 2017. The Council has thus contributed to a growing set of rules and norms for governing the Arctic.

Challenges ahead
As we celebrate the Council’s anniversary and its evolution, there remain challenges and questions about how it may change further when meeting new and emerging issues of the Arctic region. The Council has so far helped maintaining the Arctic as a zone of peace and stability, continuing to encourage strong and constructive cooperation in the Arctic will be key for the future of the region, especially considering the people living there who are the most important resource.

Watch the video “20 years of the Arctic Council in photos” here.

Read more about the Arctic Council, its success story so far and the challenges ahead that reflects the importance of such a forum in the UArctic magazine’s 2016 special issue.