The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that provides a mechanism to address the common concerns and challenges faced by the Arctic governments and the people of the Arctic.


The members of the Council are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America. The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Saami Council, the Aleutian International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council and Gwich'in Council International are Permanent Participants in the Council. There is provision for non-arctic states, inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations and non-governmental organizations to become involved as observers.


The main activities of the Council focus on the protection of the Arctic environment and sustainable development as a means of improving the economic, social and cultural well-being of the north. The Council meets at the ministerial level biennially. The Chair and Secretariat of the Council rotates every two years among the eight Arctic States, beginning with Canada in 1996. At the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Tromsø in April 2009, the chairmanship of the Council passed from Norway to Denmark. At the end of its term in 2011, Denmark passed its turn to Sweden, which then took the suite of Scandinavian Arctic Council Chairs to its completion in 2013.

From 2013-2015 it was held by Canada and from 2015 by the USA. When Canada embarked on a second cycle of chairmanships in 2013, it appointed federal Minister for the Environment and Northern Economic Development, Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk from Nunavut, as Minister for the Arctic Council.

IWGIA's involvement

In 2002 IWGIA gained observer status to the Arctic Council. Between the ministerial meetings, IWGIA participates in Senior Arctic Officials' meetings and the meetings of the Sustainable Development Working Group. Apart from that, IWGIA attends specific conferences and other events, such as a conference on gender equality and women in the Arctic in 2002 and a capacity building workshop in 2001. Jens Dahl, former director of IWGIA, has been nominated to the steering committee of the Arctic Human Development Report, a project under the Sustainable Development Working Group. Together with Else Grete Broderstad from the University of Tromsø he is the lead author of the chapter on Arctic Political Systems. IWGIA hopes to contribute even more in the future to the work of the Arctic Council with our own expereinces with Arctic issues, as well as on a global and human rights level.

Visit the website of the Arctic Council:

Read the interview with Rune Fjellheim, former Head of the Artic and Environment Unit of the Saami Council