The Arctic States reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to maintain a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Arctic region during the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting – the first in-person meeting held by the Arctic Council since the onset of the pandemic.
Today, at the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland and online, Ministers of the eight Arctic States and leaders from the six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations convened and marked the passing of the two-year Chairmanship from Iceland to the Russian Federation for the next two years (2021 – 2023).
The eight Foreign Ministers signed the Reykjavik Declaration, reaffirming the Council’s commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic region, emphasizing Arctic States’ unique position to promote responsible governance in the region, and asserting the importance of immediately addressing climate change in the Arctic. In recognition of the Council’s 25th anniversary, the Ministers adopted Council’s first ever Strategic Plan that reflects the shared values, goals and joint aspirations of the Arctic States and Indigenous Permanent Participants. It will guide the Council’s work for the next decade.
“Let’s just say that our Chairmanship has been everything but ordinary! The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt as well as our Chairmanship plans at half term,” said Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórðarson. “I am extremely proud that our Senior Arctic Officials have been able to agree on the first ever Strategic Plan for the Arctic Council. Through the Strategic Plan, we will for the first time be able to give long term guidance to the work of the Council.”
During its Chairmanship, Iceland emphasized work on the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions, people and communities in the Arctic, and strengthening the Arctic Council. The accomplishments of the Council during the Icelandic Chairmanship include deliverables that strengthen the knowledgebase on Arctic shipping and enhance emergency response in Arctic waters, assess climate impacts on Arctic ecosystems, reduce pollution, promote the wellbeing of Arctic inhabitants, and much more.
Major reports adopted at the Ministerial meeting include the Arctic Climate Change Update 2021, the State of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Report, a Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in the Arctic, Gender Equality in the Arctic report, the Summary of Progress and Recommendations from the Council’s Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane, to name a few. All deliverables will shortly be available via the Arctic Council’s open archive.
The incoming Chairmanship of the Russian Federation will continue to support many ongoing activities of the Council’s Working Groups and other subsidiary bodies, while introducing a number of new projects and initiatives. Sustainable development will be the main overarching priority of the Russian Chairmanship, with the human dimension, the environment and sustainable economic growth as key areas.
“Today, the Arctic is steadily establishing itself on the international agenda as a region of fruitful cooperation. Responsible Arctic governance is only possible on the basis of a genuine partnership of countries that bear special responsibility for its fate,” stated the Russian Federation’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. “I am delighted to note that this engagement is largely possible due to the work of the Arctic Council. We hope that the Russian Chairmanship will serve to further strengthen regional cooperation. Meeting the challenges we face in high latitudes today requires approaches that are truly collective.”
The Foreign Ministers of all eight Arctic States were in attendance in Reykjavik, and were joined by leaders of the six Permanent Participant organizations both in person and online. Representatives of the Council’s six Working Groups and Observers were invited to attend the meeting virtually. The meeting was the first to be held in-person under the auspices of the Arctic Council since the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to such gatherings in early 2020.
The Heads of Delegation for Arctic States in attendance included:
- Canada: Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau
- Kingdom of Denmark: Minister for Foreign Affairs Jeppe Kofod; Minister for Foreign Affairs for Greenland Pele Broberg; and Prime Minister for the Faroe Islands Bárður á Steig Nielsen
- Finland: Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto
- Iceland: Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson
- Norway: Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide
- Sweden: Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde
- Russia: Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov
- United States: Secretary of State Antony Blinken
The Heads of Delegation for Permanent Participants in attendance included:
- Aleut International Association: Liza Mack (virtual)
- Arctic Athabaskan Council: Chief Bill Erasmus
- Gwich’In Council International: Edward Alexander
- Inuit Circumpolar Council: James Stotts (virtual)
- RAIPON: Grigorii Ledkov (virtual)
- Saami Council: Christina Henriksen
The Arctic Council’s activities are conducted in its six Working Groups, which cover a broad range of subjects from the effects of climate change to emergency response to the human dimension. The Working Groups presented their work, assessments and recommendations to the Ministers in Reykjavik today.
The first executive meeting of Senior Arctic Officials during the Russian Chairmanship will take place in June in Moscow as well as online.