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Arctic Council


In 1987 Mikael Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, delivered a speech in Murmansk in which he proposed that the circumpolar Arctic become a zone of peace and co-operation. Reflecting glasnost (opennes) and perestroika (reconstruction), at roughly the same time data was published in the west revealing significant pollution and environmental destruction in northern portions of the Soviet Union. This prompted Finland to sponsor negotiation of a circumpolar Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), signed by the eight Arctic states in 1991. Canada was prominent in these negotiations which is why the AEPS is very similar to Canada's national Green Plan announced in 1990. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), Saami Council and the recently established Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) wished to be active in the AEPS, and in 1993 AEPS Ministers endorsed the principle that they be admitted to all AEPS meetings. Recognizing the limited scope of the AEPS and reflecting the advocacy of ICC, the Ottawa-based Arms Control Centre, and the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Canada proposed an Arctic Council to expand circumpolar co-operation and to address sustainable development as well as environmental protection. The Arctic Council was duly established through a political declaration signed in Ottawa in 1996 (see

The Structure of the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a "high level forum" of the eight Arctic states (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States of America). ICC, Saami Council and RAIPON were admitted to the council as "permanent participants", enabling them to operate in the council under the same rules and procedures as states. Room was made for up to four additional permanent participants, and for state and non-state observers. AAC became a permanent participant to the council in 2000. The Ottawa Declaration says the council is to:

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 issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic ... disseminate information, encourage education and promote interest in Arctic-related issues.

The declaration formally excludes "matters related to military security", and decisions of the council are by consensus of the members. Projects undertaken by the council reflect the principle of "volunteerism". Formal rules of procedure for the council were adopted in 1998. The council operates at three levels: working groups, Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) and Ministers. Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet every two years, SAOs every six months, and working groups as needed. The council has six expert working groups:

  •     Arctic Contaminants Action Programme (ACAP);
  •     Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP);
  •     Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF);
  •     Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR);
  •     Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); and
  •     Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG).

The working groups have conducted first class technical assessments of issues that fall within their area of responsibility.


Arctic Athabaskan Council


Arctic Athabaskan Council
300 Range Rd, PO Box 39
Whitehorse STN C S C
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 5X9
Phone: +1 867 335 6030

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