The signing of the Ottawa Declaration, establishing the Council in 1996.
The signing of the Ottawa Declaration, establishing the Council in 1996.

The history of the Arctic Council


Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS)

A non-binding agreement between the 8 Arctic States and Indigenous peoples organizations representing Inuit, Sami, and Russian Indigenous peoples.


3 Indigenous Peoples' Organizations are the first Permanent Participants

Recognizing the special relationship of Indigenous Peoples to the Arctic region, the Arctic States assigned the special status of Permanent Participants (PPs) in the AEPS to the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Saami Council and Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON).


Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)

Created to monitor and assess pollution and climate change issues in the Arctic.


Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF)

Established as a forum for scientists, Indigenous Peoples and conservation managers to exchange data and information on issues such as shared species and habitats and to collaborate for more effective research, sustainable utilization and conservation.


Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR)

Established as a network for information on Arctic accidents and to provide a framework for future cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with involvement of Indigenous Peoples and other Arctic residents in responding to threats of environmental emergencies in the Arctic.


Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME)

Created to address policy and non-emergency response measures related to the protection of the marine environment from land and sea-based activities.


Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS)

Established to represent the Indigenous Permanent Participants in the AEPS. Today, IPS supports all six Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council.


The Ottawa Declaration marks the creation of the Arctic Council

On September 19, 1996 in Ottawa, the Arctic Council was established as a high-level intergovernmental forum to enhance cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States with the active involvement of Arctic Indigenous Peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues.


The Aleut International Association

admitted as a Permanent Participant of the Arctic Council.


Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)

Established to enhance the environment, economies, culture and health of Indigenous peoples and Arctic communities.


New Observers accredited
  • Germany
  • The Netherlands
  • Poland
  • United Kingdom
  • Standing Committee of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (SCPAR)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • International Arctic Science Committee (IASC)
  • International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH)
  • Northern Forum (NF)
  • World Wide Fund for Nature, Arctic Programme (WWF)


Dangers of mercury recognized

In the Barrow Declaration, the Council noted that "releases of mercury have harmful effects on human health and may damage ecosystems of environmental and economic importance, including in the Arctic" and called on the UN to initiate a global assessment of mercury.


Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC)

admitted as a Permanent Participant of the Arctic Council


Gwich'in Council International (GGI)

admitted as Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council


New Observers accredited
  • France
  • International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM)
  • North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO)
  • Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS)
  • Association of World Reindeer Herders (AWRH)
  • Circumpolar Conservation Union (CCU)
  • International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA)


Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants signed

The 2001 Stockholm Convention on POPs was catalyzed by Arctic Council research.


New Observers accredited
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
  • University of the Arctic (UArctic)


Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA)

The first comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessment of the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.


The Arctic Human Development Report

The Council released the first comprehensive circumpolar assessment on the welfare of Arctic peoples.


Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP)

The first AMSP set the Council's vision for the Arctic marine environment:
"A healthy and productive Arctic Ocean and coasts that support environmental, economic and sociocultural values for current and future generations."


New Observers accredited
  • Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO)
  • Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) (as: Arctic Circumpolar Route)


Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP)

CAFF officially launched the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) in September 2005. The Indigenous People’s Secretariat and Permanent Participants have been involved in this program since its launch, and a main component of the CBMP is community-based monitoring. Results from the CBMP directly connect with efforts toward sustainable development in the Arctic. The findings will be presented in a form tailored to address the needs of the Indigenous People, and assist policy makers on management of the Arctic’s living resources. A major product of this program was the 2010 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment.


Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) Working Group

Created to prevent and reduce pollution and environmental risks in the Arctic.


Economy of the North (ECONOR)

The first ECONOR report, led by the Sustainable Development Working Group, showed that rapid changes in the Arctic could have significant social, cultural and economic impacts on living conditions for the residents of the Arctic.


Focus on sustainable development

The Russian Chairmanship held a workshop in advancing sustainable development in the Arctic in Salekhard, the first of its kind in the Council's history. It resulted in an overall assessment of the corresponding activities and recommendations in further work on economic and social dimensions of sustainable development.


The Arctic Council Secretariat

An Arctic Council Secretariat was set up in Tromsø for the three Scandinavian Chairmanships: Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The Secretariat later became permanent, and remains in Tromsø today.


Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium

The symposium brought together Indigenous Peoples from throughout the circumpolar region to build on each other's knowledge and experience in protecting and revitalizing Indigenous languages.


Melting Ice: Regional Dramas, Global Wake-Up Call

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore, foreign ministers and climate change scientists met on 28 April 2009 in Tromsø, Norway to discuss the impacts of melting ice in the Polar and mountain areas worldwide. The conference took place the day before the Arctic Council’s annual Ministerial meeting. A number of foreign ministers from states affected by melting ice and snow attended.


Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA)

Recommendations from AMSA were developed to provide to guide the Council's work on Arctic shipping with a focus on:
Enhancing Arctic Marine Safety
Protecting Arctic People and the Environment
Building Arctic Marine Infrastructure.


Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic

AMAP’s assessment of the impacts of climate change on Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) brought together the latest scientific knowledge about the changing state of each component of the Arctic ‘cryosphere’, examining how these changes will impact both the Arctic as a whole and people living within the Arctic and elsewhere in the world.


Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic

The first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council coordinates search and rescue response in the region.


Short-lived climate forcers

An Arctic Council report on short-lived climate forcers enhanced understanding black carbon, spurring additional Council work on black carbon and methane.


Enhancing oil spill response

The Council's EPPR Working Group compiled knowledge and expertise on the behaviour of hazardous substances in Arctic waters to promote the development and use of technologies and working methods that improve the ability to respond to accidents.


Vision for the Arctic

A future vision for the Arctic was agreed upon by the Arctic States together with the 6 permanent Arctic Indigenous people's organizations within the Arctic Council, in Kiruna, Sweden.


Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic

The second legally-binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council, this agreement strengthens cooperation, coordination and mutual assistance among Arctic States on oil pollution preparedness and response.


Arctic Biodiversity Assessment released

The ABA synthesized and assessed the status and trends of biological diversity in the Arctic.


New Observers accredited
  • Italian Republic
  • Japan
  • People's Republic of China
  • Republic of India
  • Republic of Korea
  • Republic of Singapore


Arctic Economic Council launched

This independent forum provides a key venue for business-to-business cooperation and informs the work of the Council by providing a circumpolar business perspective.


Focus on mental health

The Circumpolar Mental Health Symposium in Iqaluit, Canada in March 2015 brought together a variety stakeholders to facilitate the knowledge transfer and sharing of evidence attained by researchers and communities.


A marine plan for the future

The Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025 provides a framework to guide its actions to protect Arctic marine and coastal ecosystems and to promote sustainable development.


The Arctic Council celebrates 20 years

The Foreign Ministers of the Arctic States issued a Joint Statement highlighting the 20 years of cooperation and achievement that the Arctic Council has made possible.


Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat moves to Tromsø

The IPS moved from Copenhagen to join the Arctic Council Secretariat in Tromsø, Norway.


Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017

The latest SWIPA report makes it clear that the Arctic as we know it is being replaced by a warmer, wetter, and more variable environment. This transformation has profound implications for people, resources, and ecosystems worldwide.


Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation

The third binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council provides concrete support for Arctic scientific activities by facilitating access to research areas for marine and airborne data collection, supporting full and open access to scientific data, and promoting education and career development for students and early career scientists.


New Observers accredited
  • Switzerland
  • International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
  • OSPAR Commission
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  • West Nordic Council (WNC)
  • Oceana


An update on the state of the Arctic

Drawing and building on the findings of AMAP’s Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017 assessment, the 2019 update provided observations, information from other recent assessments, and conclusions from the latest reviews of Arctic trends and indicators. The pace of change in the Arctic is so rapid that new records are being set annually, and each additional year of data strengthens the already compelling evidence of a rapidly changing Arctic.


Recognized for impact assessment

The Arctic Council received the 2019 Global Award of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA). IAIA is an international association of professionals involved in environmental and social impact assessments, which annually awards a leading individual or institution that has contributed to the practice of environmental assessment, management or policy on a global scale.


State of freshwater biodiversity

Arctic Council Working Group CAFF released a status report on the flora and fauna of the Arctic's freshwater.


New Observers accredited
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO)


Heavy fuel in the Arctic

PAME's Arctic Shipping Status Report provides information on fuels used by ships in the Arctic in 2019 with a focus on heavy fuel oils (HFO). The Report shows that 10% of ships in Arctic waters as defined by the International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code burned HFO as fuel.


A toolbox for comprehensive plastics monitoring in the Arctic

AMAP’s Expert Group on Litter and Microplastics is developing the first monitoring plan that is looking for plastics in the entire ecosystem


Covid-19 in the Arctic

The Council's brief on Covid-19 in the Arctic provided insight into the complex and intricate ways the pandemic affects Arctic peoples and communities.