The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities 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.

Permanent participants

Permanent Participants are organizations representing Arctic Indigenous peoples in the Council. They are supported by the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat.


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.

Other subsidary bodies

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

The Arctic Council Secretariat

The Arctic Council Secretariat (ACS) supports the Chair of the Arctic Council. At the Nuuk Ministerial Meeting May 2011 Arctic Ministers decided to establish the Standing Arctic Council Secretariat at the Fram Centre in Tromsø. The Standing Secretariat became operational 1 June 2013.

According to the Terms of Reference of the Arctic Council Secretariat the ACS is to perform the following functions:

  • Administrative and organizational support, including: arranging and servicing meetings as required; transmitting reports to and from Arctic states, Permanent Participants, Working Groups and Task Forces, other subsidiary bodies and Observers; assisting the Chair in drafting meeting documents including final reports; providing services to Permanent Participants and Working Groups without a secretariat; administrative services concerning general correspondence; and archiving of records.
  • Communication and outreach, including: operating the Arctic Council website, including web pages of those Working Groups without a secretariat; facilitating and improving the quality and availability of information on the Arctic Council; recording, maintaining and posting, as appropriate, the records of the Arctic Council; facilitating the exchange of information among the Arctic states, Permanent Participants and Observers; and, at the request of SAOs and Permanent Participants, developing strategic communication and outreach plans and other documents under the direct supervision of the Chair, in support of the Arctic Council.

Contact the ACS

See ACS documents

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, Russia, Norway, the Kingdom of Denmark, and Sweden. The second cycle of Chairmanships began in 2013.

Iceland chairs the Arctic Council from 2019 to 2021, and the Russia Federation chairs from 2021 to 2023.

What doesn’t it 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 each individual Arctic State.

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