Established by the Ottawa Declaration in 1996, the Arctic Council is the preeminent intergovernmental forum for addressing issues related to the Arctic Region. The members of the Arctic Council include the eight Arctic States (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Russian Federation, and the United States). The Arctic Council is not a treaty-based international organization but rather an international forum that operates on the basis of consensus, echoing the peaceful and cooperative nature of the Arctic Region. The Council focuses its work on matters related to sustainable development, the environmental protection; its mandate explicitly excludes military security. Traditionally, the Council is chaired by the foreign minister of the country holding the chairmanship. Its day-to-day work is carried out by the eight Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) and six PP representatives, with input from working groups, expert groups, and task forces. To learn more about the Arctic Council, please visit their website at: www.arctic-council.org.
The United States held the rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 1998-2000 and 2015-2017. More information on the 2015-2017 U.S. Chairmanship and 10th Ministerial Meeting can be found here.
Arctic Science Agreement (2017)
In May 2017, the eight Arctic States signed the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation during the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial in Fairbanks, Alaska. This is the third legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The agreement facilitates access by scientists of the eight Arctic States to Arctic areas that each State has identified, including entry and exit of persons, equipment, and materials; access to research infrastructure and facilities; and access to research areas. The agreement also calls for the parties to promote education and training of scientists working on Arctic matters.
The geographic area, as defined by the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, covered by this agreement in the United States includes territory north of the Arctic Circle and north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; the Aleutian chain; and adjacent marine areas in the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas.
Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response Agreement (2013)
In May 2013, the eight Arctic States signed the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic during the 9th Arctic Council Ministerial in Kiruna, Sweden. This is the second legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The agreement strengthens cooperation, coordination, and mutual assistance among Arctic nations on oil pollution preparedness and response in the region to protect the marine environment. The agreement is helping to forge strong partnerships in advance of an oil spill so that Arctic countries can quickly and cooperatively respond before it endangers lives and threatens fragile ecosystems.
Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Agreement (2011)
In May 2011, the eight Arctic States signed the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic during the 8th Arctic Council Ministerial in Nuuk, Greenland (Denmark). This is the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. It coordinates life-saving international maritime and aeronautical SAR coverage and response among the Arctic States across an area of about 13 million square miles in the Arctic. The SAR Agreement will improve search and rescue response in the Arctic by committing all Parties to coordinate appropriate assistance to those in distress and to cooperate with each other in undertaking SAR operations. For each Party, the Agreement defines an area of the Arctic in which it will have lead responsibility in organizing responses to SAR incidents, both large and small. Parties to the Agreement commit to provide SAR assistance regardless of the nationality or status of persons who may need it.