Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years. The position is currently held by the Russian Federation (2021-2023). Canada was the first country to chair the Arctic Council (1996-1998); it was followed by the United States, Finland, Iceland, the Russian Federation, Norway, the Kingdom of Denmark, and Sweden, in that order. The second cycle of two-year chairmanships began in 2013 and is set to end in 2029 with Sweden at the helm.
Arctic Council chairmanships give countries the opportunity to undertake important initiatives to forward the Council’s broader agenda. The Arctic Human Development Report – the first comprehensive attempt to assess the welfare of Arctic inhabitants – was approved in 2002 under Iceland’s leadership of the Arctic Council to optimise the use of resources in Arctic research. The Nuuk Declaration (2011), which, amongst other achievements, delineated criteria for the admissions of new Observers and set up a task force for preventing and managing oil spills in the Arctic, was adopted during Denmark’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2009-2011. During this period, Arctic Council members also signed the Council’s first legally binding treaty – the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement. The standing Arctic Council Secretariat was set up in Tromsø, Norway under Sweden’s chairmanship in 2011-2013, which also saw the adoption of the Arctic Council Communication Strategy to relate the Council’s achievements to the public. Finally, Finland’s 2017-2019 chairmanship sought to enhance the participation of Observers in the Arctic Council’s undertakings by giving them the opportunity to present information and share expertise during Senior Arctic Officials’ plenary meetings.
Russia’s current chairmanship has four areas of focus: 1) the people of the Arctic (including indigenous populations), 2) socioeconomic development, 3) environmental protection, and 4) strengthening the Arctic Council. During its chairmanship, Russia is focused on implementing sustainable investment projects in the Arctic, an endeavour that will ultimately determine the region’s development, the well-being of its inhabitants, and its job market in the long run. Amongst Russia’s priorities are the development of the Northern Sea Route, port and rescue infrastructure, and satellite monitoring and communications systems. Environmental protection is of the utmost importance and all development is undertaken with a strong commitment to preserving both biodiversity and Arctic ecosystems.