About the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. It was formally established in 1996.

The members of the Arctic Council are the eight Arctic States and the six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations. There are six Working Groups within the Arctic Council, each of which focuses on a particular set of issues for the Arctic Council. In addition, the Arctic Council has more than 35 Observer states and organizations.

All Arctic Council decisions and statements require consensus of the eight Arctic States.

Permanent participants

The Permanent Participants are organizations that represent Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic Council; either by representing a) a single Indigenous People resident in more than one Arctic State; or, b) more than one Arctic Indigenous People resident in a single Arctic State. The PPs participate actively and are fully consulted in all deliberations and activities of the Arctic Council. The Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat (IPS) serves the six Permanent Participant organizations.

Aleut International Association

The Aleut International Association (AIA) is a not-for-profit corporation that represents Indigenous peoples of Aleut descent in the United States and the Russian Federation.

Arctic Athabaskan Council

The Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC) is an international treaty organization that represents approximately 45,000 Indigenous peoples of Athabaskan descent spanning 76 communities in Alaska, US, Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada.

Gwich'in Council International

Gwich'in Council International (GCI) represents the Gwich'in in Canada and USA.

Inuit Circumpolar Council

The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is an international Indigenous Peoples Organization that was founded in 1977 by the late Eben Hopson, Sr. of Utqiagvik, Alaska.

Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North

The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) represents 40 Indigenous Peoples that live in the North of the Russian Federation.

Saami Council

The Saami Council is a non-governmental organization that represents between 50,000 to 80,000 Saami that live in Finland, the Russian Federation, Norway and Sweden. The Saami Council has nine member organizations: three in Norway, three in Sweden, two in the Russian Federation and one in Finland.

Working Groups

Research, monitoring and the other work of the Council is primarily carried out by Working Groups.

Arctic Contaminants Action Program

ACAP’s mission is to contribute to the efforts to reduce environmental risks and prevent pollution of the Arctic environment. ACAP acts as a strengthening and supporting mechanism of the Arctic Council, encouraging national actions to reduce emissions and releases of pollutants and to reduce environmental, human health and socio-economic risks.

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme

The mission of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group (AMAP) is to monitor and assess pollution and climate change issues in the Arctic. AMAP produces independent, science-based and peer-reviewed assessments of the status of pollution and climate change in the Arctic in order to provide the basis for sound policy- and decision-making.

Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna

CAFF is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council and consists of National Representatives assigned by each of the eight Arctic Council Member States, representatives of Indigenous Peoples' organizations that are Permanent Participants to the Council, and Arctic Council observer countries and organizations. The CAFF Working Group operates by the Arctic Council Rules of Procedures.

Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response

The Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) Working Group is mandated to contribute to the prevention, preparedness and response to environmental and other emergencies, accidents and search and rescue (SAR). While not an operational response organization, EPPR conducts projects to address gaps, prepare strategies, share information, collect data, and collaborate with relevant partners on capabilities and research needs that exist in the Arctic.

Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment

The PAME Working Group is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment.

Sustainable Development Working Group

The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) focuses on the human dimensions of the Arctic. It works to protect and enhance the environment, economy, social conditions and health of Indigenous peoples and Arctic inhabitants.


Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to non-Arctic states, along with inter-governmental, inter-parliamentary, global, regional and non-governmental organizations that the Council determines can contribute to its work.

Non-Arctic states

Thirteen Non-arctic States have been approved as Observers to the Arctic Council:

Intergovernmental and interparliamentary organizations

Intergovernmental and Inter-Parliamentary Organizations with an approved observer status.

Non-governmental organizations

Twelve Non-governmental Organizations are approved Observers in the Arctic Council.

Other subsidary bodies

The Council may also establish Task Forces or Expert Groups to carry out specific work.

How and when was the Arctic Council established?

The Arctic Council was established on 19 September 1996 when the governments of Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States signed the Ottawa Declaration. The establishment of the Arctic Council was preceded by the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (June 1991), a declaration on the protection of the Arctic environment.

What are some Arctic Council accomplishments?

The Arctic Council regularly produces comprehensive, cutting-edge environmental, ecological and social assessments through its Working Groups.

The Council has also provided a forum for the negotiation of three important legally binding agreements among the eight Arctic States:

  1. Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (2011)
  2. Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (2013)
  3. Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation (2017)

Who chairs the Arctic Council?

The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years among the Arctic States. The first country to chair the Arctic Council was Canada (1996-1998), followed by the United States, Finland, Iceland, the Russian Federation, Norway, the Kingdom of Denmark, and Sweden. The second cycle of Chairmanships began in 2013.

The Russian Federation chairs from 2021 to 2023.

What is a Senior Arctic Official (SAO)?

Each Arctic State appoints a Senior Arctic Official (SAO) to manage its interests in the Arctic Council. Each SAO is thus a government representative, usually from an Arctic State's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The SAOs guide and monitor the Arctic Council's activities in accordance with the decisions and instructions of the Foreign Ministers of the Arctic States. That guidance is usually provided in the form of Ministerial Declarations, which are produced roughly every two years when the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates.

When and where does the Arctic Council meet?

SAOs and Permanent Participants meet at least twice a year, while all partners meet at Ministerial Meetings held every two years. These meetings are typically held in the Arctic State that holds the Chairmanship at the time of the meeting. Working Groups and Task Forces hold additional meetings in other locations and at other times.

What is the role of the Arctic Council Secretariat (ACS)?

The Arctic Council Secretariat is an administrative office that works under the direction of the Senior Arctic Officials and the Arctic Council Chairmanship. Any available vacancies at the Arctic Council Secretariat are posted on the Arctic Council website.

What doesn’t the Arctic Council do?

The Arctic Council is a forum; it has no programming budget. All projects or initiatives are sponsored by one or more Arctic States. Some projects also receive support from other entities.

The Arctic Council does not and cannot implement or enforce its guidelines, assessments or recommendations. That responsibility belongs to individual Arctic States or international bodies.

The Arctic Council’s mandate, as articulated in the Ottawa Declaration, explicitly excludes military security.

The Arctic Council Quick Guide

A handy introduction to the Arctic Council, its participants, work and accomplishments.