The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum through which Canada advances its Arctic foreign policy and promotes Canadian Arctic interests internationally. It was established in Ottawa in 1996 with the Ottawa Declaration.
It is a consensus-based, high level intergovernmental forum that works to promote the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development in the Arctic region.
The Arctic Council comprises the eight Arctic States: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.
Canada assumed the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Sweden on May 15, 2013. Canada was the first Chair of the Arctic Council from 1996 to 1998. The Chair of the Council rotates among the member countries every two years.
A unique feature of the Arctic Council is the involvement of six international Indigenous peoples’ organizations as Permanent Participants:
- Aleut International Association (AIA);
- Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC);
- Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC);
- Gwich’in Council International (GCI);
- Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON); and
- Saami Council.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, through the Canadian International Arctic Fund, provides funding to the Permanent Participants with Canadian membership so that they may participate in Arctic Council activities.
The Arctic Council has successfully developed a common agenda among Arctic states and Indigenous Permanent Participants, which serves as a foundation for strong, responsible and cooperative governance of the region.
Canada’s Involvement in the Arctic Council
The work of the Arctic Council is supervised and directed by ministers of the Arctic states, who are supported by the Senior Arctic Officials.
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, is Canada’s Minister for the Arctic Council and Susan Harper is Canada's Senior Arctic Official.
Canada actively participates in the work of the Arctic Council. This work is carried out in six expert working groups:
- Arctic Contaminants Action Program Working Group (ACAP): provides information on remedial and preventive actions relating to contaminants;
- Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group (AMAP): focuses on monitoring, assessing and preventing pollution in the Arctic;
- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF): focuses on biodiversity conservation and sustainability;
- Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group (EPPR): focuses on prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies;
- Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME): focuses on policy and pollution prevention and control measures related to the protection of the Arctic marine environment.
- Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG): focuses on the living conditions of Arctic residents.
The work of the Council is also completed in ad hoc task forces that are established from time to time to deal with specific issues. For example, the Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response (2011-2013), led to a legally-binding Agreement on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response by Arctic states, which was signed by Arctic state ministers in May 2013.
Similarly, the Task Force on Search and Rescue (2009-2011) led to the legally-binding Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, which was signed by Arctic state ministers in May 2011.
Other completed task forces include:
- Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Prevention
- Task Force on Black Carbon and Methane
- Task Force to Facilitate the Circumpolar Business Forum
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