Quick Facts

Arctic Territory
Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Arctic Maritime Area
1,500,000 square kilometers

Arctic Population
490,000

Arctic Indigenous Peoples
Saami

Norway and the Arctic Region

Nearly half of Norway’s land mass is Arctic territory, consisting of the two counties Nordland and the combined county of Troms and Finnmark on the mainland, the Svalbard archipelago and the island of Jan Mayen. Norway’s Arctic territory is home to around 490,000 people – one tenth of the Norwegian population. The country’s Arctic maritime area is approximately 1,500,000 square kilometers, corresponding to the combined land area of France, Germany and Spain.

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. About half the land is ice-covered. The largest island of the archipelago is called Spitsbergen, and until 1925 this name was used for the whole archipelago. The administrative center of Longyearbyen and the other inhabited areas of the archipelago are located on this island. Svalbard’s main industries today are coal mining, tourism and research.

Norway houses the world’s northernmost university, the Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø. It is also home to NORD university in Bodø and the FRAM High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment, where 500 scientists from 20 different institutions are engaged in research in the fields of natural science, technology and social sciences.

Fishing and marine resources, in addition to livestock husbandry, has for centuries been the cornerstone of the economy in Northern Norway. Today’s economy is much more diversified. Today’s key industries include:

  • Fisheries and aquaculture: This remains the largest export-sector in Norwegian Arctic region. Nordland county is Norway’s third largest exporter of marine fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Tourism: Norway’s broad Arctic region attracts a growing number of tourists, who come to experience dramatic scenery and largely untouched wilderness.
  • Sustainable energy: Norway is Europe’s biggest producer of hydropower, and one of the country’s largest hydroelectric power station in terms of annual production is located in Meløy. Raggovidda wind farm located on the Barents Sea coast in Berlevåg municipality is one of the world’s most efficient producers of wind power.
  • Power: In Hammerfest, Equinor operates a processing plant for liquefied natural gas from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea.
  • Mining and transit: Narvik is an important port for the export of iron ore from Swedish mines. One of Svalbard’s main industries today also includes coal mining.

Indigenous Peoples

The Saami are an Indigenous people who live in Sápmi, an area that stretches across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Estimates of the Saami population vary between 50,000 and 80,000, with the most concentrated settlements in North Norway. Since 1989, the Saami in Norway have had their own elected assembly – the Sámediggi – which acts as a consultative body for the Norwegian government authorities.

Norway in the Arctic Council

Norway held the country’s first Arctic Council chairmanship from 2007-2009. Throughout the chairmanship, Norway’s priorities included:

  • Integrated resource management in sectors including fisheries, mining, maritime transport, petroleum and economies
  • Climate change monitoring and assessment
  • Reviewing the structure of the Arctic Council to ensure effectiveness and efficiency
  • Monitoring the long-range transportation of pollution
  • Preventing pollution and reducing releases of hazardous substances
  • Protection of the marine environment
  • Conservation of biological diversity
  • Social, human health and economic development with due regard for the interests of Arctic Indigenous Peoples

In the third decade of Arctic cooperation, Norway is – in addition to dealing with pollution and climate change – turning its attention to adaptation. In May 2011, the member states signed the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The agreement establishes a binding framework for search and rescue cooperation between the member States of the Arctic Council.

Key accomplishments

Norway serves as the host country for the standing secretariat of the Council, located in Tromsø, which includes the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat since 2016. The secretariat of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme is co-located with the Council.

Morten Høglund
Senior Arctic Official

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