The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum dedicated to discussions on sustainable development, the environment, the well-being of Arctic inhabitants and the protection of traditional lifestyles, and questions of circumpolar cooperation, including in scientific research. Established on 19 September 1996 by the Ottawa Declaration, the council consists of member states, Permanent Participants, and Observers. The Arctic Council does not confer on military issues or questions of security.
Membership is limited to the eight states with territories above the Arctic Circle, namely Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America. Arctic Indigenous communities are represented by six Permanent Participants, namely The Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwic’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami Council
Decisions are made on the basis of consensus between member states and Permanent Participants as opposed to ratified agreements. Council chairmanship rotates every two years and ministerial meetings take place twice a year and are hosted by the chair country.
The council’s six working groups, namely the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), the Arctic Contaminants Action Programme (ACAP), the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR), and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), meet regularly throughout the year, publishing research reports that are subsequently used by The Arctic Governance Project to determine critical governance questions.
Arctic Council Observers include 13 non-Arctic states, namely China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, 13 intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary organisations (including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), the Standing Committee of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (SCPAR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and others), and 12 NGOs. NGOs are represented by the Association of World Reindeer Herders (AWRH), the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), and others. While Observers do not play a role in decision-making, they are permitted to propose projects through member states and Permanent Participants and participate in Working Groups, as well as make statements, submit documents, and otherwise offer points of view at the discretion of chair countries once member states and Permanent Participants have communicated an official position. An Observer’s financial contribution to a project may not exceed contributions from Arctic States unless an exception is made by senior officials.